27 Jun 2018

Lottie, Mia and Sammi by Arklu



This is a very long in waiting review omg.

Lottie first hit shelves way back in late 2012, a British doll made like so many, to make a statement. Unlike many who've come before and since, Lottie's marketing wasn't all about bashing Barbie and calling her a slut (cough cough, lammily cough) or such, but rather focused on what kids actually wanted to play with.
It was a simple idea, parents wanted more wholesome dolls and kids wanted a companion to go on adventures with.

The made Lottie small to better fit into the hands of the children she was made for, and of course it doesn't hurt that this also means she's far more portable and easy to take out and about.




Back when they first hit shelves I didn't pay that much attention, I wasn't the target market and 2012 was a year of hugely exciting things on shelves. But a year or so later i'd noticed these cute little dolls and remarked that they reminded me of Licca Chan a little bit.


In 2014 my husband bought me a Lottie doll for christmas, Pirate Queen Lottie, because I like pirates.

Now I hate to say it, but I wasn't overly impressed. She was literally the ONLY thing I got for christmas that year, from anyone, and while I know one should always be grateful for what they get, it made an already difficult time of year for me even harder. Made me feel really forgotten. So she was put into a cupboard until such a time as I felt more able to view her objectively and not just feel grumpy and invisible.

So she sat.. collecting dust. Year upon year September would roll around and i'd think "oo she'd be perfect for a talk like a pirate day review" but inevitably i'd get distracted and so I never opened her.

 Until 2018 when I got an email from Arklu. I joined their mailing list years ago, for reasons I cannot actually remember, curiosity probably, and this particular email was a good one. They were offering a whopping 50% off ALL Lottie products if you took a very brief survey. WOWZA.

Now the main reason i'd never really paid that close attention to Lottie was that she was just so dang expensive for what she was. A tiny 6 inch tall doll costing over £20 was just... a bit ridiculous to me. And I get WHY she's so expensive, Arklu are a tiny company who can't afford the same wholesale deals that big multinational companies like Mattel or Hasbro do, their mass production is on a far smaller scale and as a result their unit price is higher.
I think it's a testament to how well Arklu knew their audience that despite the high prices, they've managed to become very successful and popular.
It's a damn competitive market, one they struggled to even get dolls into with most stores outright refusing to take a risk. Even now they're only really available in big boutique stores and online. But that doesn't seem to have stopped them.

4 years on from recieving my first Lottie, they've introduced 4 new characters to the lineup as well. It was two of those who caught my attention.
Mia and Sammy.

 With their special offer it meant I could get two dolls for the price of one, making them just over £10 each. Bargain.

I decided to take the plunge. The newer boy dolls I liked the idea of (I support boy dolls massively, especially when they're boy dolls AIMED at boys like these Arklu boys were)
And besides, I like Arklu's message. It's hard not to appreciate a company who cares so much about their customers and their own staff. They're all about inclusion and equality and their dolls being gender neutral in their marketing is important to them, because boys and girls should play together after all.
They're a big supporter of the Let Toys Be Toys campaign, which i'm a very vocal supporter of myself (ooo hooo, they asked me to write an article once but I had to decline because I couldn't write something that wasn't sweary and rage filled ahahaha) and the Toy Like Me campaign, which is trying to get disabilities some representation in the toy aisles.

THIS is how you do a toy line with a message. You don't drag other brands down, you don't play the "we're better, we're different!" you just say "this is our philosophy" and that's that.


Curiously, despite ordering my dolls direct from Lottie's own website, they arrived via Amazon. They must be the distributor, which makes sense, may as well use their warehouse rather than pay for your own right?



 So it was finally time to get Pirate Queen Lottie down from the wardrobe.

Her box is a bit battered from years of sitting in storage. Poor doll. I feel bad.

We'll look at her first, she's one of the earlier wave Lotties when they were all called Lottie regardless of their skin and hair colour.


The box is erm.. house? shaped. It has an angled "roof" with what looks like stylised tiles in greens, yellows and browns, which is interesting as those aren't colours you often see on doll boxes. Most doll boxes are well.. pink or purple.

She has a pirate themed background going on around her with a fort and a pirate ship and treasure and a compass. it's cool. 

The box has a handle which I assume is for the child to carry the box around by, but i've seen them hung by these in stores too.

There's also a ribbon attached to the box. You can better see it on Mia's box:


I can't remember what Lottie's said but I believe it was also related to an award they'd won. They've picked up a few over the years.

The ribbon itself is green, white and purple which I didn't really think about till husband pointed out those were the suffragette colours.
I looked it up and sure enough, that's why the ribbon is those colours, the lottie website specifically mentions it.


The other side of the cardboard medal talks about why Lottie is special. Again i'm not sure how much of this blurb has changed as Lottie lost her medal long long ago.
I believe it was different as back then they hadn't run the "design a doll/outfit" contests yet. I think it just talked about their philosophy as a company, but I can't remember.


The back of her box has a super cute cartoon image and shows you the other dolls available in this wave. It also tells you what this particular doll's theme is. All the Lottie dolls exist on a fictional island called Branksea that seems to have a pretty active social calendar. In this doll's case, it's a pirate themed regatta.

The presence of a space to write your name suggests you're supposed to keep this box to store your doll in.


Anyway the box opens at the top or the bottom, the top felt more like the right place to open to me so that's where I opened the box. It's held closed with two strips of tape and then the whole backing card slides out.


Lottie is held in place with twistie ties, which made deboxing her very easy. No staples in the head (THANK YOU ARKLU!) and no annoying elastic indenting her limbs. All her accessories and her hat are packaged in their own little plastic baggies.


I love the backing card decoration. Gems, skulls and hearts. I want this as fabric! I want a whole dress made of this!


Here's everything that came in the box. Doll, hat, cutlas and some little cardboard pieces that tell you about Grace O'Malley, the pirate queen.
I actually expected this to be a little booklet or something, but it's just cardboard pieces, unprinted and grey on one side, printed with a brief bit of info on the other.


They are.. somewhat educational I suppose, but the last one feels a bit arbitrary. "she met the queen!" okay.. and... did what? It feels like there's a whole story missing there. I mean, a lot of people met the queen right? Several of whom probably then were thrown in prison rather than sitting down for a nice civilized tea.

I looked it up and the actual story is far more interesting. She met with the queen to ask for her brother and her two sons to be released from custody after being taken captive by an English governor (who also stole a bunch of her cattle and her lands so was a bit of a dick, stealing cows is like the ultimate crime in old Ireland if all the myths and legends are to be believed lol.). They came to an agreement eventually and Elisabeth removed this governor from Ireland with the understanding Grace and her family would stop supporting the Irish rebellion. Of course Elisabeth went back on the agreement and returned the governor so Grace went back to supporting the rebellion because screw you Queeny.

See, that's more interesting than just "she met with the queen". Also apparently she refused to bow to the queen because she refused to recognize her as queen of Ireland. HAH. Hardly tea and crumpets huh?

Yeah okay they're tiny cards but still, the last one bugs me okay?


Lottie's outfit is made up of multiple pieces, all very well sewn. There's real teensy buttons on teh pants and even the ribbon sash has a little velcro piece to keep it closed neatly.

Her pants are made of light cordoroy by the feel, as is her vest. Her top and leggings are cotton and her hat is felt.



For some reason her pirate decal is detatchable. I'm not totally sure why because the shirt looks strange with a velcro dot in the middle of it.


She can hold her little cutlass but her arms don't really bend so she can't really do dynamic poses with it. But you know, she's a toy aimed at small children, articulation isn't a neccisary consideration for young kids, being robust and able to withstand play IS.


Her hair is a lovely shade of coppery red but it's got some sort of styling product in it which makes it a bit crunchy. Hmm.
How much of that is because she's been in a box for 4 years though, i'm not sure.


She has a simple, child-like body. Her torso is hard plastic while her arms are slightly rubbery. Her legs are like old Barbie legs, rubbery with a clicky mechanism.


Her knees click and hold 3 times, but the vinyl of her leg buckles quite unsettlingly when you bend her legs and when the leg is straightened again the dent from bending it remains. Mmm, I don't think these legs would stand up to being repeatedly bent without some quite ugly buckling and creasing of the vinyl.


Can you see the indent? It's hard to photograph, it's just where her knee is on the leg closest to the camera.

That was after one single bend, after that I decided not to bend her legs again.


She CANNOT look up and down, her head is fixed on the knob. She can move her head around on the knob so she can look side to side, but she cannot look down and she cannot raise her head even a little.

Her limbs are all on these sort of ball shaped joints. Her arms can be twisted around and raised above her head or stick straight out in an airoplane pose (lol) so kinda like a Barbie doll in that respect.

Her legs are also on a ball which means she can sit like a champ. However, she cannot splay her legs outwards so she can't do the splits or pull her legs inward to sit slightly more lady-like.

It's very very simple articulation but it feels pretty strong. All the joints move without too much force but aren't floppy and the simplicity means there's less to break.

I am slightly concerned by the head joint purely because I just know kids will, as I always do, try to pull her head upward or downward so she can "LOOK" at stuff, and her neck is really quite slender and looks like it might snap if too much pressure is applied in frustration.

I dunno, as a kid i'd have liked my doll to be able to look up and down , it'd mean they could look down at their food or up at the sky like me.


Her back carries the copyright info, Arklu London (they've since moved to Ireland) and made in Shenzen, China. Interesting the province is mentioned, I don't think i've seen that before.


She has a goofy face. It's sort of squared off with this really big chin and huge hamster cheeks. Her eyes are huge and stylised with spikey lashes. They're a pretty shade of green.
Her lips are quite small and very very pink. As are her cheeks, this girl has VERY blushed cheeks, it's a bit weird I think. Looks overdone imo, and is totally the wrong shade of pink for her complexion. Blush shouldn't usually be LIGHTER than your skin tone you know?

She's cute in a sort of goofy way though. I wouldn't say she's a very pretty doll, but she has character in her face and is quite pleasant to hold and play with. She's a nice shape and size for carrying around actually. I have tiny child-sized hands so yeah... she's a good size for me hahah.


Here she is alongside a Barbie doll, for reference.


Her hat stays on her head well, her boots come on and off quite easily as they're nice soft squishy plastic and she can even stick her sword into her sash which I appreciate.

I still feel like her mouth should be just sllliiiiightly lower down her face lol. She has such a huge chin.

I think though, she's pretty relieved to be finally free of her box.


The boxes haven't changed much in 4 years. Same shape, same stylised tiles that in this case look like waves, same handle and same mostly card with very little actual plastic. I like these boxes, they're easy to open, they're attractive and they're recyclable. There's waaaaay too much plastic in a lot of modern doll boxes, it makes them a pain to open, you can't then save the box and it feels extremely wasteful.

Lottie's boxes are nice and show that you can make attractive doll boxes without making the whole thing a plastic clam shell.

Mia is a wildlife photographer apparently, so her box features a creek and otters and a very large frog.


The back of her box talks about Mia's love for photography. At the bottom there's the other dolls in the line, who are now almost all unique characters instead of Lottie with a new wig lol.

You can also see at the top their newer slogan. "Be Bold, Be Brave, Be you." This wasn't around back when Pirate Queen was purchased. Not a bad slogan.


I picked Mia for two reasons. One, she's a black doll with actual kinky hair (YAY) and two, she has a coclear implant!


Look!

How cool is that? It's made of soft squishy plastic and isn't actually attached to her scalp, it's held on like an earring and seems to have come a bit out of position. I kinda wish it was attached to her scalp but I guess that'd make it hard to do her hair or something. But it'd make it feel more sturdily attached.

Also she has a whole new face mold which I think is actually cuter than the standard Lottie face.


Her backing card is a sort of pale blue colour with butterflies, hearts and cameras. It's cute, but not as cool as pirate queen's.


She comes with a whole bunch of stuff. A hat, a satchel, even a camera.


She also comes with two pieces of paper. The first a double sided sheet that talks about the Toy Like Me campaign.


I'm not sure if this sheet is for the kid or the parent lol.


She also comes with a little newspaper that has several pages of real kid's photographs. These were a contest held by Arklu and the prize was getting your photograph IN a real doll prop. How cute is that?


Mia's face is cute and quirky. She has really big eyebrows, half circle eyes with the same jagged spike lashes of Lottie and a thin smiling mouth.


Unlike Lottie, Mia has a normal sized chin and her blush is more subtle and flattering. She also looks to have a slightly broader nose. Her whole face is lower down and seems a bit more... I dunno... cute rather than just weird.

I think she's way cuter to be honest.



Mia's hair is.. honestly a bit of a mess. Nice as it is to see properly kinky, or in this case crimped, hair, it's all different lengths and really coarse and frizzy at the bottom.


Her big thick hair makes it quite hard to get her hat to stay ON.

Her outfit has a shiny red mac with a lined hood. The main jacket isn't lined to save on bulk but I appreciate that they lined the hood at least, looks better.

It's a really nicely made coat, the plastic it's made from feels like the stuff they make real macs from. 


Under that she wears some high waisted jeans with aqua contrast stitching and a single white button.
they are full length trousers, tucked into her wellies which have white spots painted on them.

Her shirt is the same style as Pirate Lottie's, a fairly tight fitting long sleeved tee with striped sleeves and a ladybird on the front.


She also has a dark blue satchel that's fully lined and opens.

Sadly it's too small for her newspaper.



Unless you roll the paper up. Of course, doing this I managed to stab myself with the staple that holds it together. *sigh*


I ended up tying her hair back in a vain attempt to get it to fall like her artwork (where her hair is braided for some reason) but it's just too thick and the ends are just a ball of frizz.
I'm not entirely sure what I can do about her hair that won't defeat the whole point of her having textured hair in the first place though you know?

Maybe i'll cut it so it's at least straight.

She also comes with a camera but it's a disappointing accessory. She can't really hold it (it kept falling out of her hand before I could get a picture, this is the only one I managed)  and because it has no strap around it, she can't wear it around her neck (unlike her artwork which has a camera with a neck strap thing precisely for that purpose.)

I would have thought, as a wildlife photographer, having a strap for the camera would have been important, to stop you dropping it in a pond by accident you know?

This one oversight I find really quite disappointing as it means her camera has to stay in her bag and it's so small it's a piece kids will easily lose if it can't be worn.

I'd have loved it to have a strap and be forever around her neck


Sorta like Fizz here, my other photographer doll.

Her camera though is too big for Mia, it's twice the size and just dwarfs the poor doll.

Dangit Arklu, camera straps! Remember them next time okay?


She is a cute little doll though.

Like Lottie she has a very simple body, though it looks like they've made some minor tweaks since 2014. She still can't look up and down (terrible for a photographer lol) but the knee clicks only twice and feels more robust and the vinyl doesn't warp as easily on this doll.

I love the red and blue of her outfit, and the nice natural colours of her face. I think she's a more attractive doll than my Pirate Queen, but no less characterful. I love her giant sassy eyebrows and little smirky smile.

I also appreciate that her outfit is pretty gender neutral, most of it could be reused for a boy doll too.


Which moves us on the Sammi.

Sammy isn't a Lottie doll, he's a "Finn" doll. Same line, but I guess they wanted to differentiate the boys and girls so boys wouldn't be put off by the pink heart logo and girl's name of the original lol.

Finn was released a few years ago and was a doll I considered buying at the time, but much like Lottie, i found his face a little... gremlin-like and the price put me off.

But he has a guy buddy now, called Sammi (confusing spelling)

Sammi's a dark skinned doll like Mia, and like Mia he comes with a newspaper.

His box theme is a sports day, which they apparently hold by the beach... and at the top of a cliff. Okay then.

Like Mia the "tiles" look more like water now. Maybe they're supposed to be water? I dunno. 


I LOVE Sammi's art, he's such a cute little dude.
I kinda wish the dolls looked a bit more like their art because the art is adorable. The dolls are cute too but the art just feels that bit more polished and I think it's a shame they're stylistically quite different.

Anyway, Sammi's box talks about the sports day and how they do a lot of water based and beach based sports too. He's a wannabe reporter, so writing reports is his THING.


I think he and Finn might use the same face sculpt, a funny little squat faced sculpt with a smug smile lol.


His backing card is stars, notebooks and pens.

I wonder if that's the rule, 2 items that are character or theme related and then stars for the boys, hearts for the girls. Mia and Lottie both had hearts alongside their thematic symbols, and there's a heart in the Lottie logo. Sammi has a star and there's a star in the Finn logo... mmmm.
curious.


Like Mia, Sammy comes with a bunch of stuff.

He has a satchel, a newspaper, a pen and a notebook.


The newspaper is similar to Mia's but has the sports day image at the front instead of the wildlife.


Inside it has children's artwork, again from a contest Arklu ran.


the notebook is lined omg. It's a proper teensy tiny little note book! EVERY page is lined! EEEEEEK.

I love it.


And unlike Mia, Sammi can actually HOLD his accessory. His tiny little pen (which from some angles looks like a wand hahah) seems to slip onto his thumb like a ring. I mean it looks awkward, but at least he can hold it.


His outfit is all separates as well. Jeans, that same styled tee with the striped sleeves, a little beanie hat, some sneakers (but no socks lol) and a padded vest.


He uses the exact same body as Mia and Lottie, which means they can all share clothing.

His shirt is cut exactly the same as Mia's only his sleeves are made of some sort of satiny fabric instead of cotton.

His jeans look eerily familiar.


At first I thought they were identical but actually Mia's contrasting stitching is a darker shade of blue than Sammi's.

Still i'm pretty sure they're cut to the same pattern.


Their satchels are very similar as well, but while Mia's has a ribbon strap, Sammi's is the same fabric as the bag. Like her bag his is lined and too small to fit his newspaper without rolling it up. It fits his notebook and pen perfectly though.

I can't help but believe these two are brother and sister. Same eyebrows, same cheeky looks on their faces and very similar outfits all scream "siblings" to me. I don't think their relationship to one another has ever actually been established though, but to be fair I didn't really investigate much. Still, she's a photographer, he's a reporter, they're the perfect investigating pair!


Under Sammy's hat he has short cropped dark hair. I'm kinda sad it's not crimped like Mia's but I suppose that wasn't practical at short lengths.

He has no lip paint at all and faint blush on his cheeks. No lashes either, lashes are for girls remember lol.

His eyebrows are printed quite high which makes me think he's got them raised in a sort of "who? me?" expression. I find it endearing.


Poor Barbie now is a bit overwhelmed. Too many children! AIEE

Bottom line? Do I like my Lottie dolls? Well yeah, I do actually. Especially Mia and Sammi. They have cute, character filled little faces and their outfits feel like something actual kids would wear which is refreshing. They're a good size to take places in a handbag and I like Arklu's principles as a company.
I'm still not sure about Pirate Queen Lottie, I think I want to like her more than I actually like her. I love that she has a cutlas, I love her boots, but i'm just not convinced about her strange pinched in face. Also because she's in a costume she doesn't really fit in with the other two, she stands out as being dressed up while they're in normal clothing and I find it odd.

Maybe she needs more casual duds, but then what's the point in that? She's a pirate girl, she should stay a pirate girl! lol.

Arklu do sell fashion and accessory packs as well, including a pretty dang awesome looking clubhouse.  There's an astronaut outfit, a fishing set, even a brownies outfit which is seriously cute.
They even made a fossil hunter doll at one point, who came with an ammonite that wasn't glittery! (yeah i'm looking at you paleontology barbie)

But these are well made little dolls. Modern, aspiration without feeling overly preachy and varied. You can get pink frilly dolls if you want, but you can also get dolls wearing jeans and hiking boots. There's a Lottie for just about any kid and that's awesome.
The outfits are well made and because they're all individual pieces means they're totally mix and matchable.

They're also fairly easy to dress, the only problem I encountered was with Sammi's sleeves, trying to get his splayed thumb through his somewhat tight sleeves took a fair bit of wrangling. I suspect it's the silky fabric, because Mia's stretch cotton sleeves, which are just as tight, went on a lot easier.
Even the stockings, traditionally extremely awkward items to put on a doll go on pretty easy thanks to Lottie's short legs and the looser fit of the tights.


I'm glad I finally got Lottie out her box though, and i'm glad I got these two newer ones too.

Arklu really do involve the community a lot which is lovely to see. Several of their releases have been designed BY kids with outfits based on drawings which is all kinds of special. They're the only company I know of who listen to kids more than shareholders, and I think that's why they've got something quite special that's actually resonating with children and their parents.

YES they are expensive, a little too expensive for my tastes, but their prices have barely risen in 6 years and their quality has remained consistently good. That's more than you can say for most toy lines.

I admit, there's a part of me tempted to get a Finn just to complete the set <_<



7 comments:

  1. I have Fossil Hunter Lottie waiting to be reviewed, and her fossils are indeed sparkly. BUT...they're sparkly in a realistic way, like they've been pyritized or opalized. Your dolls are great; I had no idea Sammi and Mia even existed before reading this post. I advise you to look at pictures of Finn next to pictures of Licca's beau, Haruto-kun. They look very alike, and a couple of them are even dressed similarly.

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    1. oh man they made the fossil sparkly? Eugh. That's disappointing.
      At least it doesn't look bedazzled like the barbie one I suppose, but still, come on guys?

      I'm gonna have to look up Haruto now hahah, thanks!

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    2. I'd never heard of Lottie dolls till I found one in a charity shop several months ago, but when I saw her i was like 'that is NOT a common-or-garden barbie! Where do you get those?'. She's got the old face, brown hair, blue eyes and no makeup- she kinda looks like i did as a kid, even her hairstyle is the same! She has pink and white pyjamas, nice but not a patch on the other outfits.
      Like, a working miniature notepad?!?!? Bratz had textbooks with actual pages, but blank ones.
      The gender-neutral feel and detailed hobbies(fossil hunter? WANT) are brilliant, it makes no sense but I have to admit my favourite boxed Bratz is my 'Back to School' one...
      Yeah I gotta get the other variants myself, once i've ended my lunch break and gone back to spending today rearranging my tiny room to create space for the variants of EVERY OTHER DOLL BRAND...
      Anyway, hope you're having a great summer!

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  2. Oh Monkfish, today I saw PURE EVIL. In a sunny, child-filled charity shop, i saw...BRATZ BOYZ WITH NO FACES. AND WOMEN. AND CHILDREN. Tens of vintage Bratz with all their original clothes, shoes, hair not cut or knotted, even accessories like tiny binoculars...abandoned because someone removed their 20-odd original detailed faces and then couldn't be bothered to repaint any of them or even sell them to be repainted.
    Anyway there were 4 including 2 Boyz with their faces still at least so i got them and most of the clothes/ accesories,and also found a couple of fully articulated Kens with their original outfits/shoes(!) and a naked but mint reboot Draculaura.

    Shops actually had boxed things too- just one of each boy Club Shelly/Chelsea among the 15-odd girls, Fashionista 75 with the pinkish hair( not a fan of the identikit-faced plastic-haired static Kens), and Monster High Frightmares Bay Tidechaser and Aery Evenfall! Also the new Harry Potter dolls, too expensive at £26 each but great quality and attractive packaging.
    Never even seen a Frightmare before but they're pretty cute considering i'm not a MLP/toy horses/little plastic toys fan at all. In all a pretty great haul!! Oh and when I saw my poor mother later and told her/showed her a pic of the faceless Bratz she was traumatised lol.

    Anyway, hope you're doing OK in this heat with freed schoolkids everywhere and the mourning over the outcomes of the World Cup! And good luck with any shop finds and blog posts!

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    1. Eugh those poor bratz. Treechange has a lot to answer for. So many people went out and bought up all the bratz, butchered them, then when they couldn't sell them for megabucks or their kid recoiled at their crappy attempt to paint them, they ditched em. Poor dolls. Still, bratz faces are bloody hard to remove, if they were cheap enough i'd be tempted to get em just to rescue the poor things and give them new faces lol.

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