Ich Bin Kentishtowner: Alisha Lestrade, doll-maker, 34

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‘My nieces wanted dolls that looked like them so, having never made one before, I gave it a go to see how it’d work out’

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Alisha: ''
‘My favourite sound? When you pour that first glass of wine’. Photo by Stephen Emms

Kentish Town-born Alisha Lestrade was always “the creative kid making stuff out of other stuff”. She started sewing at a young age, turning scraps of fabric or old clothes, into hairbands: “You could say I was ahead of the game when it came to upcycling,” she says. After honing her crafting skills with help from playworkers at “Club” (aka The NW5 Play Project) she later became a member of staff, combining a love for arts and crafts with the fun of working with children. She started her Sugacandipop bespoke doll shop at Camden Lock Market in August 2012.

When were you happiest?
Kentish, Camden, I love it; everything is right on your doorstep. You can’t beat the feeling of having a drink and catch-up with mates in your local, or on Parliament Hill fields.

Where would you like to live?
In Hartland Road there used to be an adorable little house: it looked totally out of place, with whitewashed walls, blue window shutters, a slightly overgrown front garden and a round window in the front door. But it’s just been demolished.

What is your favourite sound or smell?
The lovely splosh you get when you pour that first glass of wine.

Alisha’s second home: The Abbey
What is your greatest life achievement?
Taking my geeky little hobby and turning it into a business that people appreciate.

Why start making dolls?
My nieces wanted dolls that looked like them so, having never made one before, I gave it a go to see how it’d work out. They loved them, so did their friends, and I started selling them at school fairs, and from the Lock Market in August 2012. Now the dolls come with the choice of five skin tones, fifteen basic hairstyles, a variety of hair colours and over 200 specially sourced fabrics for the dresses. I make dude dolls, baby cuddle dolls, denim dolls and bespoke custom-made one-off pieces.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
That hard work pays off; and that you can’t lick your elbow.

What makes you unhappy?
Not having enough time to spend with my nieces, bad customer service, and not managing to get tickets for Glastonbury.

What is your guilty pleasure?
The (ahem) occasional, snakebite-fuelled Friday night in The Underworld.

Where do you hang out?
When I manage to get a break from doll-making, at the shop, you’ll find me in the Abbey – my second home.

Who or what do you hate and why?
Hate is a strong word but I can’t bear rude, ignorant, or close-minded people.. or those who call Dolly – the 5ft 8 friendly doll that sits outside my shop – creepy!

‘I make dude dolls, baby cuddle dolls, denim dolls and bespoke custom-made one-off pieces’
What’s been your best experience in NW5?
Might sound geeky but I’d probably say my first sale of something that I’d made. It was a scrunchie hairband that I sold to my primary school head teacher (who is now the head at Eleanor Palmer school) when I was 11 at Kentish Town CofE. It taught me that if you make or do something, that you love, really well people will be happy to pay you for it. I made £2.50 that day – so proud.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
That I’m usually wearing a hundred layers of clothing to stay warm at the market – not so stylish.

What’s the worst thing anyone’s said to you?
When I was about 19 or 20 an old boss of mine told me, “you should know exactly what you want to do, with the rest of your life, by the time you are 24”. I believed her and it freaked me the hell out.

What has your career taught you?
My career, as a playworker with children in arts and crafts has taught me over the last ten years that I have way more patience than I thought. My crafting and doll-making has taught me that time really is money – and you can’t really afford to waste either.

What did you do today?
What didn’t I do? Finished off a special commissioned large doll, rushed round to my sister’s house because she asked me to double-check she hadn’t left her iron on, window-shopped for baby clothes online, opened the shop at 10am, worked on five more small Adoradolls, caught up with TV shows I missed last night, closed the shop at 2pm, rushed off to my other job at an after-school club, replied to some emails while on the bus, got home at 7, carried on sewing the Adoradolls I was working on earlier, had dinner and answered these questions while watching I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.

Phew. Tell us a secret.
I’m having a baby!

This is box title
Find Sugacandipop at Unit L6, Lower Dingwalls Gallery, off Camden Lock Place, London NW1 8AF

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  • Show Comments

  • Kitten

    HA! You’re awesome! Keep up the fantastic job you are doing but also remember to take it easy once in a while and spoil yourself, even if it’s just for the baby’s sake. 😉

  • Ella Phileas hog

    Lovely and nice to see a PROPER Kentishtowner on here! There are some of us left!