A few years back, my mom and I stumbled upon some dolls without faces. We picked them up out of curiosity. These dressed dolls were from a short lived doll line called AvaStars.
AvaStars played on the concept of creating your own mini me fashion doll! Using 3D printing technology, customers would have their face scanned and then 3D printed onto a dressed fashion doll of their choosing, complete with your hair and eye color. The line was the brainchild of former Mattel CEO Jill Barad and Dan Lauer, the creator of Waterbabies. Jill and Dan brought in Heather Fonseca, as well as other designers, to create the looks for each of the dolls offered. Heather had a decade long career designing for America’s favorite fashion doll, Barbie. It looks like a designer Mario Gesualdi might also have worked on AvaStars. See some designs and extra information about faceplate fit here.
AvaStars operated through a ‘flagship’ kiosk in the Saint Louis Galleria (St. Louis, MO) and eventually added two ‘portal’ kiosks in Oakbrook Center (Oakbrook, IL) and Kenwood Towne Center (Cincinnati, OH). The St. Louis kiosk opened November of 2014 and was selling these customizable dolls with 3D printed faces at around $40.00 a piece.
Jill and Dan had high hopes for the line, with Dan saying he expected “a few hundred” kiosks to open up within two years of the launch. Additionally, Jill estimated at the time of AvaStars launch that the company would make $1 Million in sales annually. That, however, would not be the case.
Much like Makies, another 3D printed doll line that came out with a bang and disappeared with little more than a whimper, AvaStars closed their flagship and portal stores in June of 2015, a mere 7 months after launching. In fact, the Cincinnati location, the third AvaStars kiosk, had just opened in March of 2015, meaning they closed up shop less than six months into their run.
Jill said that while the launch had convincingly demonstrated the viability and appeal of the line, the line was “too costly to aggressively scale”, forcing them to rethink and restructure their venture. As far as I know, that was the end of AvaStars. Again like Makies, the company’s belongings were sold in an estate sale in a bit of a haphazardly manner. (Items from the Makies offices were famously being sold on eBay by the liquidators hired to clear out the offices, which apparently were left full of stuff, including prototype dolls and outfits from the failed Disney collaboration.)
Today, you’ll mostly find AvaStars as faceless boxed and dressed fashion dolls. I’m not going to lie to you– they can be a bit freaky looking at first glance. AvaStars made both male and female dolls in a variety of fashions. Below are the two dolls we picked up at a doll show a while back.
The fashions look pretty nice and I imagine they’ll fit other dolls just fine. As far as fixing their faces, I’m not sure how you’d go about that. These dolls are surprisingly easy to find for sale on the internet, so if you’re in the market for one, I don’t think you’ll have a problem finding one!
3D printed dolls may very well be the way the industry will go, but as we’ve seen with Makies and AvaStars, the technology isn’t at a place where it’s easy to make a successful and profitable line using it. Mattel hasn’t even figured it out, seeing as their 3D printer never saw the light of day.
What do you think of the AvaStars concept? Were you one of the few to buy an AvaStar yourself? What are your thoughts on the doll? Let us know in the comment area!