Gabriel, the teacher from Bilbao who dresses the most stylish traveling doll on Instagram

  • By:karen-millen




In the 17th century, when fashion magazines had not been invented and the internet was something unimaginable, there were some dolls called Pandora that toured Europe dressed in their best clothes, in order to publicize the palatial trends of the moment. They did not skimp on rich and delicate details, and they achieved such success that no noble lady wanted to do without having one of these little mannequins in her possession. Taking a generational leap and placing our focus on Bilbao, we find another doll, more stylized but just as traveler, whose mission is also to travel the world showing the latest trends on a miniature scale. Her name is Sindy and she was born in England in 1963, although she was "rescued" by Gabriel Azkoitia from Bilbao at a Barcelona market back in the 1980s. Since then, they have been inseparable. «It was the typical doll that I wanted when I was very little and they never bought me. I had that thorn left, but years later I found it. I brought out that child inside me. I started dressing her up and taking her on trips », she confesses.

It became her most personal entertainment, but, by popular demand, she began sharing her adventures on her own Instagram profile. “She has more followers than me!” she assures. In her photographs, you can see such a careful staging and such a select wardrobe background that nothing has to envy the profile of any recognized flesh and blood 'influencer'. "It was very funny to me to recreate with Sindy the stereotype of those people who go on trips and take pictures or take 'selfies' in beautiful places," she tells us. Her last stop before the pandemic was Marrakech, but this childish-looking doll with sweet features has also posed in such emblematic places as the Lotus Temple in New Delhi, the Parthenon in Athens or the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. “I take it everywhere. It costs me more to pack her suitcase than mine », Azkoitia jokes.

This Bilbao native had already dressed all kinds of women, from models for campaigns to private clients, so taking up the art of sewing again for this new colleague who did not raise more than a foot off the ground was not complicated for him. Neither was he, recreating real-world settings in miniature with a meticulousness worthy of admiration. "I really enjoy it, the fans are priceless." And it is that everything that Azkoitia has achieved throughout his professional career is faithfully reflected in this curious pastime.

Gabriel, el profesor bilbaíno que viste a la muñeca viajera más estilosa de Instagram

From a very young age, Bilbao was too small for him and he expanded his horizons between Madrid and Barcelona, ​​although it was Barcelona that trapped him with its cosmopolitan charms for more than 20 years. Restless and curious by nature, he was seduced by different creative disciplines throughout these two decades. He began in his native land making his first steps as a designer, and in the meantime he touched styles such as dance or decoration. Already in Barcelona he studied set design and specialized in costumes for film, television, shows and opera, which allowed him to have his first contract with the famous Peris Costumes house. Thanks to one of those caroms that fate provides, he had the opportunity to work as a fashion stylist and learn from great design totems such as Purificación García.

A friend invited him to give some talks at Felicidad Duce and that helped him get his itch for teaching. "I discovered that I loved teaching." The wheel kept turning and continued in this direction until a nostalgic revival brought him back to his life in Bilbao. Now he is dedicated to motivating, teaching and shaping the future of fashion in our country, teaching at the UPV, Javier Barroeta or INEDI. He tries, from his extensive personal experience, to awaken the mind and polish the talent of each one of his students. And this was 10 years ago. Between class and class, he is dedicated to renewing the wardrobe of his large collection of dolls. «It was start and not stop. Now I have about 20 and they all have their own personality », he notes.

Some elegant, other alternatives, others more youthful and some "a little posh", as Gabriel's friends think. His dolls do not have specific codes, or specific records, Sindy has always gone free. “His hair is characteristic of the 70s, but sometimes I mold them a bit. Depending on the photo and the location, I give them one air or another », she explains. As a good defender of quality fashion, Azkoitia tries to make every detail of his outfits himself before launching himself into that parallel universe of doll clothes that he has discovered on platforms like Etsy. The furniture, crockery and books in his miniature houses are also molded by the prodigious hands of this multifaceted Bilbao native.

The healing power of fashion dolls

Fashion taken to its minimum expression is a way of making art that, incredible as it may seem, has been the lifeline of the sector in times of difficulty. The most recent example is the doll show that Jeremy Scott created for Moschino in the midst of the pandemic, when the industry had to reinvent itself to carry out its collections in the midst of chaos. His spring-summer 2021 proposals turned out to be exact replicas of the real collection on a minuscule scale, defended by puppets that paraded and applauded under the watchful eyes of Hamish Bowles or Anna Wintour herself, who also became puppets for a day. At the end of World War II and when the big fashion houses were surviving almost on assisted breathing, the so-called 'Fashion Theatres' were devised with the sole purpose of not letting Parisian Haute Couture die in the hands of the German dictatorship. To do this, the best 'couturiers' and artists of the time recreated dolls, dresses and scale scenarios to make the magic and dreams of fashion prevail in a world that had faded to black.

For Gabriel Azkoitia, bringing his dolls to life is also something that heals, especially "in those moments when one doesn't know what to hold on to." "Having a hobby is therapeutic," he repeats like a mantra. In times of restrictions he has not been able to travel with his dolls outside of Bizkaia, but they have had the opportunity to turn Bilbao into the best backdrop for his scenography. As long as he does not lift the veto, he will continue to show all the corners of his city with Sindy to bring a smile to the thousands of followers who follow in his footsteps from different parts of the world. Because it is not only a therapy for him, but for all those who value his work. And this is just one more example of the resilience of fashion and its innate ability to grow in the face of adversity.


Gabriel, the teacher from Bilbao who dresses the most stylish traveling doll on Instagram
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