Playing Dress Up With The Dolls

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levis_lp_thedollsPhotographed by Winnie Au


Everybody always be talkin' about The Dolls. No, for real. Even before they had a formal band name, the unlikely pairing of downtown darling DJ Mia Moretti and violinist Margot (who you'd know as Caitlin Moe) had almost everyone from the most exclusive party promoters to The New York freaking Times gabbing up a wicked storm. Even years later, after the launch of their first-ever full-fledged single, "Summer of 93," the buzz remains constant — impressive considering the scene's fickle tastes and the very nature of the band.

We mean, would you think that a DJ plus a violinist would be anything other than a formula for flash-in-the-pan novelty? Admit it, you wouldn't. And, yet, within a few short years, The Dolls have evolved into something of an institution for those in the know. Honestly, it can sometimes be hard to attend Fashion Week, an international art show, or plain ol' weekend get-together in any major style capital without somehow hearing about their next set. Even though they still have that new-band smell, The Dolls seems to be hanging around for the duration.
001_MargotMoe_MiaMoretti03_182_drop1Photographed by Winnie Au.

And how exactly did that happen? Simple — they saw something that had never been done before (in this case, combining DJing with live string accompaniment) and hammered away at it, caring more about getting it right for themselves than what the community would think. In that, they fit right in with our other Double Vision subjects (Immaculate Infatuation and Bib + Tuck) along with the many other collaborators our partner, Levi's®, has been celebrating all season long in a series of ambitious initiatives (including Station to Station a public art project made possible by Levi’s) with today's pioneering creatives. To catch up with these amazing efforts both online and off, discover what moves these new explorers, and more, follow #MakeOurMark and #GoForth on Twitter and Instagram.

In the meantime, kick back, click forward, and hear how these dolls work, cavort, and play dress-up between club sets.

Both The Dolls are wearing Levi's 550™ Men's Relaxed Fit Jeans in Black, $44, available at levi.com.

Hair by Marcos Diaz, Makeup by Andrew Colvin, Styled by Jennifer Steele
002_MargotMoe_MiaMoretti01_006_drop1Photographed by Winnie Au.
The Mashup
Moretti: “We met at a venue in the East Village, where I was DJing and Margot was booked as a special performance.”

Margot: “At the time, I honestly wasn’t that familiar with dance music or DJs, having grown up in a classical world. But I remember being intrigued when I first saw Mia doing her thing.”

Moretti: “And as soon as I heard her play, I was entranced by how beautiful the strings sounded. Watching her play gave me so many ideas, but because I had never seen a DJ and violinist perform together before, I wasn’t exactly sure what would come of it. Nonetheless, we decided to get together to go through music and just chat and see if we were on the same page creatively.”

Margot: “Yeah, when we got together at Mia’s house, she played me all sorts of dance and disco and motown and pop records.”
003_MargotMoe_MiaMoretti04_035_dropPhotographed by Winnie Au.

Moretti: “We would go through them and try to figure out where strings would fit, where they would complement the music, where they would stand out. From there, our duo developed pretty organically.”

Margot: “I don’t think either of us knew what to expect playing together, each performance was an experiment to see where the strings worked and where they didn’t.”

Moretti: “From there, we just took it day by day, and eventually creating original music was part of our evolution.”

Margot: “Let me put it this way: One of my favorite experiences has been opening for both Janet Jackson and Diana Ross at the I.M. Pei's Louvre Pyramid. The greatest thing about our duo is how neither of us ever expected anything to come from it. There wasn’t a model or platform for us to build our show on. So, going from years of experimenting to opening up for those icons has been pretty incredible."
004_MargotMoe_MiaMoretti04_080_drop1Photographed by Winnie Au.
The Single Life
Margot: “All this trial and error and performing at different venues and events lead us quite naturally toward the realm of experimenting with our own original music. Like any band, the more you play together and tour, the more comfortable you feel diving into the studio. You just have a better idea of what sort of sound you’re going for.”

Moretti: “We started writing that single, ‘Summer of ’93,’ on one of our long flights returning from Europe to New York. It’s a love song, but without the happy ending. We were going for something nostalgic, but honest, too — something that touched on the fine line between memory and reality. Then, we came across a sample that really fit the story we were writing, and Margot laid down some violin and piano over it in GarageBand.”
005_MargotMoe_MiaMoretti02_064_drop1Photographed by Winnie Au.

Margot: “Yeah, it was an Arthur Russell sample, actually. When we we got home, we added violin, piano, and the chorus vocals, pretty quickly, but for months, only played in our sets as an instrumental track. Every once in a while, though, someone would come up and ask what the song was. So, we decided to finish writing the verses, and before we knew it, we had our first Dolls song!”

Moretti: “I’d say our first day in the actual studio as ‘The Dolls’ was a lot of just piecing together the puzzle. Thing is, we seem to work best that way. Like now, we’re just finishing up our next single, 'Southern Swing,' featuring one of our favorite groups, The Original Pinettes (they're the only all-female brass band in the country...maybe the world). Our whole EP will have guest musicians that we admire. For us, inspiration is everywhere.”
006_MargotMoe_MiaMoretti01_295_drop1Photographed by Winnie Au
Clothing Swap
Margot: “Mia is one of those people who can make anything work — a classic beauty who mixes prints, patterns, and accessories. She even dresses depending on where we are in the world. Whether it's New York or New Orleans, Paris or Tokyo, Tangier or Istanbul, Jamaica or Miami, she captures the essence of the town we're in with her outfits.”

Moretti: “I love that Margot dresses like a girl who just discovered Lisa Loeb and No Doubt, but still hops the fence to get into the orchestra for free. I'd describe her style as ‘orchestrated orchestral opulence.’ When she wears all black with a black lip, it juxtaposes so well against her sweet demeanor.”
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Margot: “Yeah, lately I've been wearing a lot of nightgowns and slips and dressing them up with a heel or platform, some necklaces, and a dark lip (it's easier getting out of bed knowing you already have your look on). I’m also all about a slightly high-waisted ‘90s baggy jeans. You can wear them with crop tops in summer and sweaters in winter. Denim on denim is another favorite of mine.”

Moretti: “Kind of unlike me, Margot really takes on a character when she gets dressed. You can see her transform. I think I use clothes to help me transform my mood, rather than my character. A good denim piece allows you to create whatever mood you want. Margot's style is a little darker than mine as well…a little more girly, too.”

Margot: “I'd say Mia tends to choose more beautiful, sophisticated Yoko Ono-inspired pieces, whereas I still haven't fully outgrown my teen angst. Then again, it's hard to tell when you literally share everything! We don't even know whose is whose anymore!”
008_MargotMoe_MiaMoretti06_348_drop1Photographed by Winnie Au
Sister Act
Moretti: “We’re together so much of the time that we’re able throw ideas back and forth whenever we get inspired by something. There’s no hard line of who does what.”

Margot: “Well, I can’t DJ! Hah. No, I mean that both of us have rather defined roles in that neither of us can do what the other does. Because of that, our partnership isn’t about delegating who does what. It all just happens naturally. I think we both know our strengths and act on them, taking charge in the areas we need to. It makes it pretty easy to work together. And, it’s like, I always trust Mia’s instincts when it comes to reading a room and knowing if we need to switch up our set and adapt to who we’re performing for. I think that comes naturally, having been a DJ for years and growing up watching DJs perform. You know the phrase, ‘turning nothing into something’? That’s Mia’s essence! She’s like one big magic trick. I’ve never seen someone transform a room — make it dance ‘til the last song — or transform someone’s mood the way she does. She’s a real-life magical fairy.”

Moretti: “And, I love what the violin adds to our music. Margot has this uncanny ability to bring a new feeling to familiar tracks. When we’re in the studio working on original music, it’s incredible collaborating with Margot, because her talent for writing amazing melodies comes to life. Those strings! Margot is like no other. The combination of her classical training mixed with her creativity and musical style is impossible to replace. Besides, I wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else! We truly enjoy each other's company, which is probably why we have so many slumber parties, late-night whiskies, and weekend trips to Jamaica.”

Margot: “Totally! What’s the point of going through life as a Doll if you don’t have another Doll to go through it with? See, when you’re thrown on tour together 24/7, you get to know someone very fast. Now,
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Mia’s my sis. I see her every day (even on our ‘off days’). There’s hardly any difference between our work hours and play hours.”

Moretti: “It helps that we’re very much the same person, which makes working together so easy and carefree…but also very productive.”

Margot: “See, we both grew up in small, relaxed environments and are both very spontaneous. We try to keep things stress-free (which probably has something to do with all those close-call missed flights…), and I actually don’t think we’ve ever been in an argument of any sort.”

Moretti: “Well, Margot is also the most kind, thoughtful, and generous person I know. If anyone couldn’t get along with her, it would be pretty astounding.”

Margot: “I just think it’s important to be flexible when you’re working and performing together. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Get the same kind of behind-the-scenes skinny on the food-blog boys of Immaculate Infatuation, the BFF bosses from the clothes-swapping site Bib + Tuck, and the co-founders of Neon Gold Records and, while you're at it, hear more from other creatives who are breaking molds and taking names, follow #MakeOurMark on Twitter and Instagram.