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Thursday, 21 July 2011

Dominique Berger - France's last natural latex inflatable doll maker

France has a reputation for producing expensive high-quality products from foie gras to champagne, jewellery, perfume, fashion and so the list continues.

But a little-known area in which one particular man is struggling to keep the Tricolore flying is in the manufacture of high-calibre inflatable dolls.

Dominique Berger and "Kelly" (screenshot from France 3 report)

It really is summer in France - even though the weather in many parts of the country and the rest of Europe come to that, might indicate otherwise.

But that's another story.

Proof of which season we're in is provided by the seemingly traditional attempt by the media, in all its guises, to scrabble around for just about anything to fill the column inches, airwaves, bulletins or whatever.

You know the sort of thing; the normally "And finally" stories that might appear at the end of TV news bulletins throughout the year but which seem to be the bread and butter of journalists during the slower summer months.

As the weekly New Yorker magazine wrote in an article last year, in the summer journalists "Fall back on old standbys like animals, folk heroes, strange crimes, the gruesome quirks of the elderly, overly obsessive coverage of celebrity weddings, and, of course, mass hysteria of a non-life-threatening nature."

The more off-the-wall the better, and if there's a smidgeon of sex involved...well, bingo!

And that's exactly what television viewers in France were treated to during the evening news on France 3 television on Tuesday with an item looking at one man's struggle to manufacture a top-quality product in the face of cheaper, lower-grade competition, primarily from China.

Inflatable dolls.

Yes, according to the report, the international market for the modern-day "dame de voyage" as they were apparently known in the 17th century, is dominated by the Chinese (did you know that?)

But a former baker from the north of France is reportedly putting up a valiant struggle.

Dominique Berger gave up kneading the dough to pursue a career in inflatable dolls eight years ago.

As the French website Rue89 reports, Berger used his savings to buy out a company that had closed its doors because of falling orders and decided to aim for the high-end of the market with his all-latex "Kelly".

"Kelly" in production (screenshot from France 3 report)

And he's apparently the only person left in Europe, let alone France, manufacturing Domax inflatable dolls made of natural latex.

"If you look closely you can see there are no seams," Berger proudly told France 3.

"Dolls made in Asia on the other hand have seams on the side and are made of plastic," he continued.

"And that means it resembles more a woman than it does a plastic buoy (yes, he really said that)."

At between €250 and €690 depending on the model, Berger's dolls aren't exactly cheap when compared to the apparently average-priced €40 of the Chinese-made competitor.

And while business isn't exactly booming with 80-90 latex dolls produced each month, Berger, who works alone and prefers it that way, says he can make a living and he believes in his product.

"I could double production by working twice as hard, but I prefer not to," he said.

"I'm self financing and work to order."

So there you have it. Not the first, and certainly not the last, in a long line of silly summer stories.


Anonymous said...

Well keep up the good work that's what I say. I once bought a ... private gadget which I discovered later was manufactured in China. But only after it had left me with burning sensations and skin rashes. I was quite embarrassed when my hustband asked about it but we had a good laugh, he's such a dear!

Debbie from Dordogne

France Today said...

Debbie, thank you for sharing - I think. Clearly you and your husband have a very healthy relationship.

Back to the post though, and it'll be interesting to see whether M. Berger has an increase in business after the recent "free" publicity.

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