Meet Henri Launay, the 90-Year-Old French 'Doll Doctor'airport_transferbarbathtubbusiness_facilitieschild_activitieschildcareconnecting_roomcribsfree_wifigymhot_tubinternetkitchennon_smokingpetpoolresturantski_in_outski_shuttleski_storagesmoking_areaspastar

Meet Henri Launay, the 90-Year-Old French 'Doll Doctor'

Henry Launay has worked since 1964 as a 'doll doctor' 
Henry Launay has worked since 1964 as a 'doll doctor'  | | © Bony / SIPA / REX / Shutterstock
Henri Launay is a 90-year-old French ‘doll doctor’ based in Paris, who’s been fixing broken dolls and dearly cherished toys since 1964. With a passion for helping restore people’s fondest childhood memories, Henri tends to each toy with heartfelt affection, incredible attention to detail and the patience of a saint.

Henri Launay is one of a kind, with the most heartwarming job in the world. He is a ‘doll doctor’, working in a tiny atelier tucked away in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. He fixes broken dolls and fraying stuffed animals in order to bring people’s childhood memories back to life.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Bony/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock (9210665aa) Henry Launay has worked since 1964 as a doll doctor in the Xieme District of Paris. This 'Doll doctor' is a self-taught surgeon of French porcelin dolls, always dressed in his white uniform where he gives a second life to the memories of childhood. At 90 nothing prevents him from having a good time. Originally graduated in electricity, Henri then repairs leather goods and umbrellas. He is at the request of his clients that he is interested in toys. 'I did not know dolls. At home we are four boys. We have never had a doll. He repairs the dolls of collections, but also the stuffed animals. These are often entrusted to him by 'gentlemen of 50, 60 years, who have done their military service and took everywhere their stuffed'. So, they are all used, rapees.'Customers come to tell him memories, that he notes to tell them in turn. Like this little girl, thrown with her mother and her little brother on the roads of the exodus. A German tank arrives and in panic, the child drops his doll. A soldier comes down from the tank, picks up the doll and hands it to the child, who, over 70 years later, has not forgotten anything. Or that of this girl who fell ill because her doll was casse, and who finds her gaiety when 'Monsieur Henri' repairs the toy. Magazines like the International Herald Tribune, the New York Times, talk about this doll doctor, but also Italian, Chinese, Korean or Japanese magazines. 'I'm not the only one, but I'm exclusive. Henri Launay the Doll Doctor, Paris, France - 06 Nov 2017 © Bony/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

There’s no denying the steady-handed artistic skill of his delicate restorations. But what’s even more impressive is the fact that he is a completely self-taught surgeon. Henri originally studied electricity before extending his talent for repairs to leather goods, umbrellas, and eventually, dolls.

As you will see when you step into his workshop, or surgery should we say, Henri fully embraces the self-styled title of surgeon by dressing in a smart, white doctor’s uniform. The role-play makes his work that bit more enjoyable.

Henry Launay has worked since 1964 as a 'doll doctor'  | © Bony / SIPA / REX / Shutterstock

This might seem like a peculiar occupation, especially for a man of 90 years of age, and he never had dolls when he was growing up, as he had three brothers. But he admits that what keeps him going is the heartwarming delight he feels when helping to restore people’s fondest memories. Many of the treasured toys are entrusted to him by elderly people who have carried the object of sentimental value with them everywhere. He’s mended teddy bears belonging to former soldiers from World War II, who took the toy as a comfort with them during military service.

Hospital for sick dolls, Paris, France © Bony/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

One French lady brought her childhood doll to be repaired, with a poignant tale to share. She recalls dropping the porcelain toy in panic when a German tank arrived in her street during the occupation of Paris by the Nazis in World War II. But the doll was then handed back to her by the German soldier in an unexpected act of kindness. The lady has never forgotten his smile to this day.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Bony/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock (9210665u) Henry Launay has worked since 1964 as a doll doctor in the Xieme District of Paris. This 'Doll doctor' is a self-taught surgeon of French porcelin dolls, always dressed in his white uniform where he gives a second life to the memories of childhood. At 90 nothing prevents him from having a good time. Originally graduated in electricity, Henri then repairs leather goods and umbrellas. He is at the request of his clients that he is interested in toys. 'I did not know dolls. At home we are four boys. We have never had a doll. He repairs the dolls of collections, but also the stuffed animals. These are often entrusted to him by 'gentlemen of 50, 60 years, who have done their military service and took everywhere their stuffed'. So, they are all used, rapees.'Customers come to tell him memories, that he notes to tell them in turn. Like this little girl, thrown with her mother and her little brother on the roads of the exodus. A German tank arrives and in panic, the child drops his doll. A soldier comes down from the tank, picks up the doll and hands it to the child, who, over 70 years later, has not forgotten anything. Or that of this girl who fell ill because her doll was casse, and who finds her gaiety when 'Monsieur Henri' repairs the toy. Magazines like the International Herald Tribune, the New York Times, talk about this doll doctor, but also Italian, Chinese, Korean or Japanese magazines. 'I'm not the only one, but I'm exclusive. Henri Launay the Doll Doctor, Paris, France - 06 Nov 2017 © Bony/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

The dolls are so old, crafted at the hands of early 20th century French manufacturers such as Bella, Gégé and Raynal, that many have been out of manufacture since the 1960s. Before the dolls were taken off the shop shelves however, Henri managed to secure enough supplies and ‘spare parts’ to keep him fixing for more than 50 years. It’s thanks to the abundance of ancient relics of doll parts that clutter his atelier, that Henri has been able to mend the nation’s most treasured childhood comforts, and some might say, even mend their hearts!

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Sipa Press/REX/Shutterstock (727831q) Henri Launay Hospital for sick dolls, Paris, France - 23 Jan 2008 Since 1964, 81-year-old Henri Launay has been fixing, stripping, gluing together and repainting dolls which have become collectors' items in the US and Japan. These are dolls made by French manufacturers Bella, Gege and Raynal which went out of business in the 1960s. Launay brought "spare parts" from these companies in time, and has hundreds of dolls' arms, eyes, wigs, and heads in stock. Restoring old dolls made by Jumeau or Bau (considered the Rolls-Royce by doll collectors), with dolls' heads made out of biscuit (earthenware or porcelain that has been fired but not glazed) is another of Launay's passions. © Sipa Press/REX/Shutterstock

Not only does Henri demonstrate an incredible skill, but he works with an impeccable attention to detail and admirable patience, spending hours tending to these toys. He’s a perfectionist and repaints the toys back to life, so authentically that they’ve now become collectors’ items, worth quite a lot of money.