Mattel’s newest dolls can be boys, girls, neither or both

Matt Townsend
Bloomberg News

Mattel Inc. unveiled a doll line on Wednesday that doesn’t come with a designated gender. The toymaker has left that for kids to decide.

Each doll in the Creatable World brand comes with gender-neutral descriptions like “black straight hair” and can be customized with different hair lengths and wardrobe options, including skirts, pants, purses and sports jerseys. They sell for $30.

“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,” Kim Culmone, senior vice president of Mattel’s fashion doll design, said in a statement. “Through research, we heard that kids don’t want their toys dictated by gender norms.”

Mattel launches gender inclusive doll line inviting all kids to play.

The release comes more than three years after Mattel shook up its iconic Barbie brand by adding dolls with curvy and petite bodies, helping rebut years of criticism that the franchise reinforced unrealistic body proportions because of the doll’s skinny waist and large bosom. The Creatable World models only come in one shape and size.

It’s also another example of a big brand willingly pushing into a controversial subject, following Nike Inc.’s embrace of Colin Kaepernick. Nike’s move appeared to help, rather than hurt, sales. Mattel’s foray will be debuting online at Inc., Walmart Inc. and Target Corp.

Mattel, which is in the midst of a years-long turnaround, is coming off its best quarter in some time, with sales topping expectations, as Barbie’s growth remained strong. But there is concern the brand will take a hit from the release of “Frozen 2” in November. Rival Hasbro Inc. has the master toy license, and the release of the first film in 2013 turned Frozen into one of the industry’s biggest toy franchises, including taking market share from Barbie.