News / Product Design

Barbie manufacturer Mattel launches a new range of gender-neutral dolls

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Creatable World dolls

Mattel, the US-based manufacturer behind Barbie, has released a range of gender-neutral dolls called Creatable World. The line features six gender-neutral dolls with a range of skin tones and hair types. Each doll comes with a short and long wig and a wide range of clothing and accessories, which allows children to style their doll “in a skirt, pants or both”. The new line will enable children to construct the gender of their doll however they wish, and to change their gender as desired.

Unlike Barbie and Ken, the dolls are styled on children rather than adults and have been “designed specifically to have a youthful gender-neutral appearance,” says Kim Culmone, senior vice president of Mattel Fashion Doll Design, in a statement about the new range.

“Toys are a reflection of culture and as the world continues to celebrate the positive impact of inclusivity, we felt it was time to create a doll line free of labels,” continues Culmone. “Through research, we heard that kids don’t want their toys dictated by gender norms. This line allows all kids to express themselves freely which is why it resonates so strongly with them.”

The research and design process took Mattel 18 months, working with gender identity experts, doctors and 250 families in the US with children of a range of gender identities. “We talked to them about what they had in dolls currently and what they were looking for,” Culmone tells The New York Times. “The kids didn’t want to be told that boys had to play with cars and girls had to play with dolls.”

The range launches with a campaign and the strapline “All welcome”, and features kids of a range of genders playing with dolls that resemble them. The new range follows a push from Mattel to be more representative in the products it offers. Earlier this year Barbie added two dolls with disabilities to its Fashionistas line, including one with a prosthetic limb and another that uses a wheelchair. The new launch also sits within in a much wider cultural move away from gendered toys. Many retailers (including Disney, Target and Amazon) have dropped gender-based toy categories and signage in the past few years.