If you know anything about Sindy dolls, you know that she’s been through more changes of image than David Bowie ever has. She started off in the sixties as a long-necked Tammy-a-like, and by the seventies she had evolved into her most famous sulky incarnation. In the eighties, Hasbro transformed her into a smirky elf and in the nineties she started to look suspiciously like Barbie. In 2003, a company called New Moon took up the mantle, and this was the result:
As far as I can tell, these little New Moon Sindys haven’t been welcomed anywhere with open arms. I have never seen these dolls for sale in the shops, and lot of collectors absolutely hate them. Maybe this isn’t surprising. If you’re talking about Bowie or Madonna, the chameleon-like reinvention is part of the appeal – too creative to be contained by one look or genre, yadda yadda yadda. When you’re talking about dolls, companies who decide to take a known and loved brand in a wildly different direction are obviously taking a big risk. The crazy thing about the New Moon approach is the way that they seem to have actively set out to annoy and alienate people who were fond of Sindy back in the day (or who still are):
Denise Deane, the head of design and development at New Moons, the new Sindy manufacturer, said, “She’s lost the big breasts and very long legs, and we’ve completely changed her face. She’s totally unrecognisable. Sindy’s still very popular, but she has been neglected over the last few years, and we don’t think people are identifying with that look. She’s going to look like a 15-year-old, and we’ve designed her to wear trainers.” (Quote from Wikipedia)
Take that, you old-fashioned Sindy fans. Anyhoo, based on this, I don’t think that Denise Dean and her colleagues believed that they were taking a big risk – in fact, I think they believed they were choosing the safest direction possible. Aren’t fashion dolls like Barbie constantly criticised for being overly sexualised, too tarty, too grown-up? I think that New Moon believed they were filling a niche in the market roughly compatible with Sindy’s long-standing reputation as “The Girl Next Door” – a niche that avoids putting Sindy in direct competition with the Platinum one. Its a tactic many, many doll manufacturers seem to be tempted by. After all, there’s a lot of parents out there who are vocal about being Barbie-averse.
Don’t get me wrong, this is fair enough. Of course there is a niche for child-dolls, dolls who are not all about the curves and the cleavage and the hundred-watt smile. Lalaloopsy is a great example. But Lalaloopsies are, in their own way, breathtakingly original and stylish. I am 38 and even I can see that Lalaloopsies are COOL.
New Moon, in their pastel pink chunky trainers and pastel blue sportswear? Not so much.
When Sindy was “The Girl Next Door” in the past, she was not the girl you got to play out until teatime with. She was the older girl who wore great clothes that you would not be allowed to wear and your parents could not afford to buy you anyway, the girl who was kind of nice to you but far too mature to hang round with you, the girl you wanted to be. Dolls are fantasy. For most people, fantasy does not involve trainers and sportswear resembling something your Mum might wear to walk the dog or go to the gym.
That said, you know what? I quite like these dolls myself. If I will try to source (or sew, if my hands improve) some new clothes for them at some point. Their faces are a little cheap-looking, but cute. I like their tiny size, which reminds me of the mini sulky Sindys called “Sarah Louise”. Its just such a shame that New Moon didn’t approach this project with a bit more courage and willingness to innovate.
(Starlight Sindy shows the New Moons how to fly the Sindy fashion flag in a 1980 Stylin Sindy maxidress)