Mattel presentation at NBCC

by Alison Rasmussen in


Mattel's presentation was today, July 30, 2015, brought to us by Lisa Delancy (?) and Bill Greening. As part of the recent update to Barbie Collector,  Vicky Cerrito (?) has been digitizing early Mattel commercials and other videos, including interviews with past employees. She's also digitizing boxes and historical artifacts, which I think will be a great addition.

We were treated to several vintage commercials, including several for Fashion Queen, Miss Barbie, licensed clothing (sized 7-14), which strangely were marketed more to mothers than children, in my opinion.

Not giving away any details, Bill mentioned the Francis and Casey 50th anniversary is coming soon, so fans might be on the lookout for new reproductions.

We got to preview one of Vicky's interviews with Kitty Black Perkins, who worked as a designer for Mattel for 27 years designer starting in 1976. Before Mattel, Kitty worked in fashion design for five years, and got the Mattel job by responding to a blind ad. Part of the interview included giving her a week to design an outfit for Barbie and include the pattern pieces, within a week. She ended up designing an entire line, and of course, got the job.

Kitty worked with Diana Troop (?) on clothing, dolls, lifestyle, concepts, and play patterns. Kitty mentioned Mattel encouraged design ideas through competiton, having designers compete to get their looks into the current collections. She considered her work Mattel to be a dream job. 

Kitty's favorite memory is designing a doll for the holiday line, working hard on her presentation, and then going blank during the actual presentation. So, she sang White Christmas in front of the group!

Kitty was the lead designer of the original 1979 Black Barbie. While she mentioned there was a lot of criticism from African American collectors because the doll looked so different than Barbie (short hair, a slimmer cut of dress), Kitty mentioned she argued for Barbie's name to add credibility to the design, and she styled the doll like she herself dressed at the time. Kitty also designed for Christie, Shani, and many other projects.

She feels like an idealist to me, and it was such a pleasure the watch the interview. The video will be online at Barbie Collector within the next few months.

The final video was an 11-minute clip of the original Japanese assembly line, taken in 1958. I noticed that the factory seemed staffed by older, more skilled workers than I expected, and of course, no one wore masks when working with plastic! That video was shown again at lunch, and will also be uploaded to Barbie Collector. 

Attendees were given a gift at the conclusion of the workshop: a cute Barbie ring in a gift box. I loved this presentation!