Monday, January 16, 2012

Harumika Fashion Design Toys by Bandai

Harumika is a line of fashion design toys that use real fabric but do not require any sewing.  Kids drape and arrange fabric swatches over a plastic dress form or a plastic mannequin and their design can be held in place by tucking the loose ends of fabric into slits on the back of the model.  That's Harumika in a nutshell, but to really give you an accurate idea of what this toy offers, I need to tell you more.

I first discovered Harumika during one of my aimless roaming missions in the Target toy department.  I think I was looking at the Moxie Teenz dolls, and Harumika was in that same aisle.  There were only a few sets on the shelves, and they weren't prominently displayed or anything, but the sparkling pink and black packages and unusual name caught my eye.  I read all of the boxes and peered inside them.  I found myself intrigued by the no-sew fashion design concept and also by all of the colorful fabrics that were included in the sets.  I bought a variety of sets for my eldest niece because she is passionate about fashion design and loves to watch Project Runway.

I can't find Harumika at my Target store anymore, but they do carry them at Toys R Us (not necessarily online, but in the stores there's a nice selection).  There's a good selection at Amazon, too, but I never trust those prices.  I have a mannequin to de-box and share with you so that you can get a better idea of what these toys are all about.  This one is "Victoria" and I think I got her for $17.99 at Target a while back:



Back of the box
The outer box is mostly plastic, and there's an inner cardboard insert that slides out very easily:


The doll detaches from the cardboard incredibly easily (it's just the very flexible clear rubber bands holding her in).  Those three pieces of trim on the upper left are held in with plastic ties, and they are the hardest things to get out.  The ties leave small holes in the ribbon.


I have some work to do before I can recycle that cardboard.
Here's what you get in the box: a 12" plastic mannequin with a detachable wig, a two-piece stand, a pair of shoes that can be mounted on the stand, a plastic stick for tucking in the fabric, three pieces of fabric and three pieces of trim.


Here's Victoria against a blue background so that you can see her body a bit better:


She is pure white with unpainted features.  The wig is awful.  I don't think it is possible to get it to stay on the head without glue.  Strong glue.  It looks unruly when it's on, too, so I don't see the point in gluing it.  Oh well--who needs it.  This toy is not about the wig!

She has textured boxer short underwear and an athletic style bra.
So, let's see what kind of designing is possible with the fabric and trim that comes with this set.


Here are the slits on the back of the mannequin:


Those holes in the plastic have rubber inside them that grabs and holds the fabric when it is pressed into the slit.  It works really well.  The slits on the arms and legs are more useful for the specially-cut fabric that is available for making pants and shirts.  The fabric in this set is just rectangular, so we'll see what can be done just with that.

You take a piece of fabric and wrap it around the model:


Then you push the ends of the fabric into the rubber-lined holes until everything stays put.


It even looks kinda cute in back--like ruching!
 Here is that very simple dress from the front:

Ta-da!  Fashion designer extraordinaire!
I can add some of the trim, too, and there is still room in the back to tuck it in:


Even better!
Let me show you some other things I made, again, just using the fabric that came with this set.  Remember, now, that I am neither patient nor a fashion guru, so this is just a tiny glimpse at what is possible:


This one is kind of messy in back...





If you don't have any Harumika yet, you probably need to spend around $15 to get a set that will have enough to get you started, but the really great thing is, you can use any fabric scrap with this toy.  So, if you have a seamstress in the house, or even just a fabric store nearby, you can get unlimited swatches of fabric and trim for free or cheap!

To make these next dresses, I just grabbed a rectangle of some purple coat liner I had laying around and added that to the mix:






At this point, I am starting to feel some serious fashion skills emerging from within!  I might have missed my calling!  But seriously, I think it is great how quickly you can get the hang of this toy and start to feel good at it.  It is very empowering.

I have given both of my nieces (ages 11 and 5) collections of Harumika as gifts and have had a blast doing some awesome designing with both girls.  These toys are accessible to that whole age range, but perhaps girls in the 6-10 age group will be the most excited about them.

Our extended family played a wonderful game with Harumika a few summers ago.  Two of us were chosen as judges and the rest were contestants in a Project Runway style challenge.  The judges would announce a category (ball gown, cocktail dress, most original design, etc) and then the contestants would take turns selecting a piece of fabric or trim from a big pile (this got pretty competitive!) until everyone had two or three pieces.  We'd then have 10 minutes to complete our looks before the judges would give their critiques and announce a winner.  It was so fun, even the boys (and men) joined in.  Here's a snapshot of a dress my niece made for one of the contests:

Isn't she talented?
You know how on Project Runway, they sometimes have to design clothes from groceries or garbage bags or something strange like that?  Well, for our final challenge in this game, the three finalists had to design a cocktail dress using only tissues and one piece of trim!  Turns out, Kleenex works pretty well with Harumika, too.  Here's the final lineup:

Who do you think should have won?
Bottom line?  This is a fantastic toy.  It is easy to use for a wide age range and is highly rewarding.  You can have a big fabric collection without purchasing tons of sets or spending lots of money.  If you are looking for even more variety, there are several add-on sets that will increase your designing options, like a party skirt attachment for the dress forms or a dog accessory pack.

When my kids were younger, I was always on the lookout for things we could do together that were fun for me and them.  This toy fits that bill.  I could play with it for hours, and if a child comes along who wants to play with me, that's even better.  It seems to be getting harder and harder to find, which I hope doesn't mean that it is being discontinued.  This is a toy I'd like to be able to pull out and and share with my grandkids.

Summary:

Age Level
From the box: 6 and up.  I think 6-10 is the ideal range but kids a bit younger and adults a lot older can also appreciate it!
Value
Good value, especially in terms of dollar per hour of contented play time.
Quality
Mannequin is plain plastic, with a horrible wig, but the fabrics and trims are very nice quality and the fabric-tucking system works really well.
Packaging
Lots of plastic garbage and very little recycling.  Easy to get everything out quickly.
Collectable?
No.  This is more like a craft project than a doll.
Versatility
Incredibly versatile.  You can keep adding new fabrics to this toy for endless design possibilities.  There are also add-on sets that increase your options.  You can make up family/party games or set individual design challenges.  
Overall
Highly Recommended


9 comments:

  1. I purchased the smaller kits, first at Targets or Toys R Us. Now i find them at Tuesday Morning. Not sure if they were a big hit when they first came out. My daughter is 10 and loved to design fashions. Problem is she doesn't seem interested it them. Love the fabric!

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    1. Ooh! We have a Tuesday Morning here, I'll need to add that store to my rounds. :) All Harumika is on sale at Toys R Us now, too.

      It's too bad your daughter isn't interested. I don't know what it is about this toy that it isn't hugely popular, but there does seem to be something about it that isn't appealing to many kids. You could try playing the kind of game I was talking about--where you set up a challenge and have limited materials and time available. I can't tell you how much fun we all had with that game. I should write up the rules we used so that everyone can try it. It helps if you've watched Project Runway, but I don't think it is essential.

      Anyway, thanks for the tip on where to buy!

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  2. I think this toy is not very popular because the ugly mannequin and this is a very old idea, kids have been playing this kind of fashion design game with their favourite dolls since the old times. Wrapping game can be done with any regular doll, and materials that the kids pick to use.

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  3. my granddaughter loved these at the Denver Art Museum for the Yves St. Laurant exhibit..now I am trying to find them to buy for her birthday - thanks for ideas for locating them. Great little write up too!

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  4. When these came out where I live, OMG it was so crazy, people were willing to kill eachother just to get a mannequin. It was insane, everyone wanted them. They were completely out in Toys'R'Us, Target, Walmart, etc etc!!! I was fortunate to find mine so quickly LOL.

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  5. I never knew about this toy until I was in a giant clearance section of Walmart 2 years ago and I picked up a bunch of these sets for $5 and less...gave a basic one to my daughter at Christmas last year and she loved it...will be giving her more sets for bday and Xmas soon....anytime there is a piece of clothing or sock that is damaged or going to be donated, if it is nice enough to use a piece for the fashion doll I will cut it up for her to use...I wonder if this toy suffered from poor marketing...I personally had never seen a doll with a slit in back to tuck fabric into so I think this is fantastic, I even enjoy creating designs with my daughter sometimes...sad to see this toy didn't catch on more...

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  6. Love this toy!!!!! My grandchild got 3 mannequins while in Asia. We want to add to her collection ---where did you get the basic mannequin without the arms, legs and head?????

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