Home Articles Spotlight Blog Toy Fair 2017: Mattel Steps Up with Anime, Gabby Douglas, Yves Saint Laurent & You!
Toy Fair 2017: Mattel Steps Up with Anime, Gabby Douglas, Yves Saint Laurent & You!
Written by Stephanie Finnegan   
Thursday, 02 March 2017 22:30

KuuKuuVersion ofGwenStefani
(The KuuKuu HaraJuku version of Gwen Stefani, unveiled at Toy Fair 2017.)

One of the hardest parts of going to Toy Fair, and then filing reports, is figuring out what to chat about, when to display it, and in which particular order. Luckily for me, I have the blog — which is weekly, so keep checking it for more and more reveals — plus DOLLS magazine will publish the printed version of the event. So, for this second outing of what was new at Javits Center, I am going to unveil some of what I saw at Mattel.

Mattel is a collectable behemoth. There's no other way to describe it. At Toy Fair, its invitation-only showroom is enormous and a tad overwhelming. It is bursting with pink and purple and magenta and red overtones, and its dark, rich colors seem otherworldly. How perfect, then, that before a writer even begins her tour, she's already steeped in a cartoonish, kind of psychedelic environment. Just perfect, I think, for seeing the new Mattel and Gwen Stefani collaboration — the dolls of KuuKuu HaraJuku.

(Gwen Stefani in real life — well, as real as she wants to get, that is.)

Stefani, the former lead singer of No Doubt, an on again/off again judge on "The Voice," a solo recording superstar and a fashion designer — plus the main squeeze of country music stud Blake Shelton — has clout on top of clout. Her connection to Japan and its anime culture and animated lifestyle choices is well known, and the new Mattel KuuKuu HaraJuku dolls blend Stefani's wardrobe sensibilities, her rock-star makeup and coiffure, as well as the Japanese society's appreciation for all things cute, petite, quirky, and gleefully silly.

KuKuHara Jukucharacterdolls
(KuuKuu HaraJuku Character Dolls are cu-cu-cuter in person.)

These dolls and their cartoon series (which was a big hit in Australia and Asia) are absolutely adorable. Whether a collector even knows how to pronounce the brand — Kuu Kuu Say What? — or is just responding to the big-eyed features and the little-girl leggings and togs, these dolls are simply engaging. I wanted to scoop up a couple of handfuls and bring them on home with me. No doubt, other collectors will feel the same way. (You knew I had to make that No Doubt reference, didn't you?)

(Gwen is surrounded by cartoon alter egos.)

Gwen Stefani has been feted for her work as a designer for her own L.A.M.B. label and then for her blockbuster HaraJuku Lovers brand. She's immersed in fashion, and with her stunning good looks and girl-next-door demeanor, despite her pop-music connection and birth date of 1969 (yep, she's 47), Gwen is like a living Barbie doll in many ways. Mattel has always had a soft spot in its heart for those real-life women who live the Barbie Motto: YOU CAN BE ANYTHING. At the showroom, the 2017 lineup of Barbie's careers was on hand.

(New Careers for Barbie in 2017!)

True to their principles, the design team furnished the perennially teenage doll with a bevvy of professional options. Barbie is on hand as a skateboarder, farmer, pastry chef, soccer star, country western musician, and hardhat construction worker/sandhog. (Yeah, I agree, that last one really seems far-fetched. Somehow I can't picture Barbie, Midge, Francie, and Teresa congregating on a corner, leaning against scaffolding, and catcalling Ken and Alan as they pass by. "Hey, dreamboats, how about taking us for a spin? I've got a Barbie car and I bet you can make its engine rev! Show us what kind of vinyl you're made of!!!!")

(Gabby Douglas brought her one-of-a-kind likeness to Rio's Olympics.)

The lineup of doll occupations ran the gamut from medical to athletic, super educated to unbelievably agile. In addition to the encouraging effigies, there were also dolls of actual women whom Mattel has honored with doll likenesses. Some were created to be collected (like ballerina Misty Copeland and director Ava DuVernay, part of the Shero line, which I've blogged about in 2016). Others were done as one-of-a-kind replicas that were presented to "friends of Barbie." Two of these unique dolls were displayed prominently: Olympic medalist Gabby Douglas and model Ashley Graham. Douglas brought her Barbie doppelganger to Brazil with her, and had her "mini me" watching her as she practiced and competed.

(Ashley Graham insisted on "no thigh gap.")

Graham, who is termed a "plus-size model" because she wears a size-14 dress, was given her Barbie at a GLAMOUR magazine luncheon honoring her for her "body positivity." The tour guide at the Mattel showroom pointed out that Graham had two requests when the doll was made in her curvaceous image: "She wanted there to be no gap between the thighs, and she hoped we could make some cellulite. We couldn't do that, but we did make sure the thighs touched."

(Mattel is standing behind the credo: The Doll Evolves.)

The "body positivity" was a big part of Mattel's launches for 2016, and it carries onward in 2017. Under the banner of THE DOLL EVOLVES, the new crop of Fashionistas were revealed. Last year's versions garnered huge press attention and great consumer reaction. The original 2016 line went on to win the Doll of the Year award from the Toy Industry Association and top honor from Doctor Toy. The Mattel designers hope their lucky streak continues with the new batch.

(Fashionistas represent more realistic women.)

Just like last year's innovative, physically more relatable body types, this year's dolls have hips and thighs, larger waists or flatter bosoms. Their heights vary; their assumed weights (and distribution of flesh) fluctuate; their skin tone, hair color, eye color, and ethnicity also reflect modern-day America, and the rest of the planet that we all inhabit. It's a fantastic step forward in doll democracy!

(Ethnic diversity and body positivity are displayed with 2017's Fashionistas.)

Even the real-world designers that Mattel saluted this year have a more down-to-earth flair to them. Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) and Tommy Hilfiger had five dolls on hand decked out in their ensembles. It's not surprising that Hilfiger, who is known for his preppy and outdoorsy looks, is responsible for Barbie dolls that approximate a collegiate, wholesome style.

(Barbie is an ideal Tommy Hilfiger model.)

In addition to his relaxed leisuretime wear, Hilfiger's fashion empire also conjures up comfortable and contemporary dresses. The Hilfiger Barbie, clad in a cute geometric number, had a very modern and approachable look to her. Mattel is collaborating with and ushering forth looks that seem to be attainable.

(Barbie shows off a Hilfiger dress.)

The YSL dolls are, of course, glamorous, but they don't appear unapproachable. These are just about the most ordinary extraordinary haute couture you'll ever see.

(YSL Doll in a casual couture getup?)

That's it for this installment of Mattel's Showroom Spectacular. Come back next week and see what else is unlocked from the halls of Toy Fair! Keep collecting; keep playing; keep reading!

(A duo of Barbies garbed in YSL designs.)


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