In Dare and Darius Moreno’s doll universe issues of classism and elitism won’t go unheard
Taking inspiration from their mother, Lil Kim’ and popular culture, the Moreno twins have created a series of doll characters and comics that tackle our present and future woes.
- Yaya Azariah Clarke
- 9 August 2023
Today, it’s not unusual to see dolls and their world being tied to a cause. From the new Barbie film being heralded for its feminist themes to the early-aughts staple Bratz being praised for their racial diversity, dolls rarely survive in our memories without a timeless edge. Set 27 years into the future, lies Dare Dollz, a new doll brand by Los-Angeles based twins Dare and Darius Moreno. The inspiration and design process for the clay dolls came after a visit to their grandmother – an avid collector of porcelain dolls – in 2018. It initially started as an opportunity for Dare and Darius to further bond with each other and their inner child, but quickly became a sensation boasting online fans who continue to push them to build on its universe, which comprises comics, illustrations and apparel.
Throughout the Dare Dollz universe there are themes of crime, classism, elitism and an overarching prevalence of humanity versus technology. “It’s placed in a technologically advanced future, so of course, there are many struggles our characters face when it comes to an over dependence on technology,” Dare tells us. In true doll fashion the characters are obsessed with fashion, wealth and fame, but they also have a knack for using their resources for good, as they are met by a not-so philanthropic antagonist, 8 Figga. “We wanted to highlight the destructive nature of crime and violence in our story because it dramatically affects our communities. Also, putting a magnifying glass on the gap between classes, and how poverty-ridden communities are in comparison to the wealthy was very important to us,” she adds.
Darius says his illustration and painting style “comes naturally” and it can be seen across numerous commercial and personal projects throughout the years. In 2017, he created his career-changing artwork for the rapper GoldLink’s album At What Cost and in 2019 he lent his style to a Miles Davis’ The Birth of Cool tribute artwork, lifting the previously monochrome cover with his colourful flair. With Dare Dollz though, it seems that the accentuated style, seen in everything from dolls’ wigs to their non-verbal gestures and stance, is a true homage to his and Dare’s childhood. “We grew up with a mother who wore big hoop earrings and a plethora of hairstyles. She also had Lil’ Kim CDs which led me to draw the rapper obsessively,” he tells us. “The mediums we use for creating are always very accessible. Magazines, movies, books and the references to pop culture icons from the 90s – our favourite era – all the things we reference shed a light on the adversities various women in Black and Brown communities face,” Dare adds.
One of the most striking dolls within the collection is the Demi Doll – created in 2020, and later revised with a “new look”. Darius is particularly drawn to the character for her facial features and sleek look. “I simplified her down and kept some of her original elements such as her hair colour, complexion and dramatic makeup,” he tells us. Dare points to their Dare Dollz for Puma project as a significant moment as it was the first time they received funding. “We loved working with Puma because we got complete creative freedom. We collaborated with two other artists to create real clothes and even 3D print the dolls, which was a world away from clay,” she says.
As they commit to a world full of cultural references that honours the visual culture and community they’ve been surrounded by their whole lives, it is clear Dare and Darius have every intention to make this universe huge. Working tirelessly toward a wide launch for their physical dolls next January, they are psyched to evolve and expand yet again. “Through trial and error we’ve learned that it’s impossible to please everyone. We want Dare Dollz to be a whole brand, and we’re committed to our message.”
Dare Dollz: Blazed Mag (Copyright © Dare Dollz, 2023)
About the Author
Yaya (they/them) is an editorial assistant at It's Nice That, with a particular interest in Black visual culture. They have previously written for publications such as WePresent, and worked as researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.