Wednesday, January 11, 2012

AvantGuard Dolls by Jason Wu for Integrity Toys

Jason Wu is an extraordinary young American fashion designer.  He was designing for Integrity Toys when he was the same age as my oldest son (14).  Fans of Project Runway might be interested to know that Mr. Wu is a graduate of the Parson's School of Design in New York.  Fans of First Lady Michelle Obama's style will know that Jason Wu is the talented man who designed her beautiful inauguration gown.  For dolls lovers, Jason Wu is probably best known for his incredibly popular Fashion Royalty line of 12" fashion dolls.  Soon, Jason Wu's fashion influence will be even more far-reaching, as he has just unveiled a line of affordable clothing for Target stores.

I have been a fan of Jason Wu's work from a distance for several years.  I have tried on a few occasions to buy a Fashion Royalty doll, but I am often too slow with the keyboard to pre-order the one I want (they sell out very quickly).  Furthermore, I tend to lean more towards the 16" fashion dolls like Tonner dollsSybarites, and Jamieshow dolls, and have never really gotten into Barbie or any of the other smaller scale dolls.

When Integrity first announced their new line of 16" AvantGuard dolls in 2008, I really wanted to buy one.  They are pricey, though, at around $250, and the first few sold out quickly.  Some of the newer dolls have not been as well-received, and these ended up lingering on shelves and eventually going on clearance for a more reasonable price.  A recent store credit at Angelic Dreamz (and an unbeatable sale price) pushed me to take the plunge and buy my first AvantGuard dolls:

"On Edge" and "Hot Trot"
Obviously, these girls are already out of their boxes, but let me show you the presentation, because it is very nice.  The doll box comes inside a plain, sturdy brown shipper. The doll box is also enclosed inside a plastic bag.  This is a nice touch because not only does the bag protect against moisture, it makes it really easy to pull the inner box out of the shipper.

The white sleeve slides off and there is a black box inside of that:

The box opens to reveal labeled tissue paper and a stylish ribbon closure:

Inside the box is the doll (tied with ribbons), a stand (also tied with ribbons) and a little black box:

Inside the little black box are extra feet, extra hands, gloves and some jewelry.

The stand has a nice, heavy black base and a telescoping saddle.  The telescoping part is a bit awkward for me because it is always moving up and down when I am trying to position a doll, but I think it is necessary to have this kind of stand for a doll who can be posed either flat-footed or in crazy-high heels (see below).  

This is a neat idea--the extra feet are articulated and can be flat or more like a fashion foot:

The extra hands are also articulated:

When this pair of dolls first came out, it was Hot Trot's promotional pictures that caught my attention.  I love her short red hair, and I like the orange feathers under her dress.  I was never sure if I would like the severe faces of the AvantGuard dolls in person, but I have to say I really like hers:

The dress is a little odd.  I am no guru of high fashion, that's for sure, but this dress isn't something I would wear.  Maybe it is the asymmetry that bugs me?  Perhaps the plunging back is meant to be balanced by the lifted hemline in front?  I'm just guessing here.  I think I'd like it better if it was a short party dress with the black fabric stopping at the same level as the orange...or maybe even slightly above it.  In any case, the feathers seem like enough of a fashion statement without the added complexity of asymmetry. 

Look at the hand tag that she has on her right wrist in the picture above.  The tag is held on with the tiniest ball chain I have ever seen.  It actually clasps and unclasps just like the larger ball chains do!  Awesome.  

The splash of orange in her skirt goes really well with her face and hair:

That wig is difficult.  It was hard to put on and then it is hard to get it to lay down nicely and stay on.  

She reminds me of Angelina Jolie for some reason.
There's a bit of a color difference between her head and her neck.
The best way I could figure to get the wig on was to turn it completely inside out and then turn it back inside right by rolling it out over her head:

I don't have a lot of wigs in her size (4/5), but I tried on the Tonner Cami wigs that I have.  They are a bit big and would need some help staying on (a wig cap from Facets?).

This one emphasizes her masculine features...and it's not a great quality wig
Much better look for her!
This is nice.  I might have to explore blonde wigs for her.
The shoes on this doll look pretty sweet from a distance:

But oh, my word, are they hard to get on.  Those little laces are very difficult to get straight and then you have these longs ends that you have to wrap around or tie or something.  Let me search out a picture from someone who did this better than I did.  Ok, here you go.  That's what they should look like.  Not this:

I was very curious about the articulation of these dolls.  I read that they were designed to be like ball jointed dolls made in vinyl.  I love that concept.

The first thing I noticed was that Hot Trot's left wrist was stiff right out of the box.  I had to bite the bullet and really push and pull on it hard before the joint freed up.  Now it is great, but you might notice in some of the earlier pictures that she looks stiff in one hand.

I tried the extra hands to see what they were like, and I am not sure I love the look of them...they're a bit claw-like.
But she can grab things really well with that palm joint!

Here's the naked body so that you can see all of the different joints.  She's wearing the extra feet for these shots:

The hip joints look a bit funny, but they are very effective!

She can strike a bunch of different poses, and those extra feet are actually really fun and add quite a few options.  My only complaint is that she has very little mobility in her neck.  This particular doll can't look up or down at all.  This might be a fluke because On Edge can move her head more.

That brings me to On Edge.  I got her as an afterthought, and I have to say, she's the winner.  Her shoes are fabulous, and they slide on and off easily:

Her little black dress is stylish and simple and very flattering:

I was worried about her open mouth, but I really like it in person...especially with that short black wig, heavy blue eyeshadow and red lips.  Killer.

She's a dream to photograph!

She likes the occasional Cosmopolitan...

She comes with this pink feathered accessory.  I am not positive what it's for.

A cape?
A skirt?
Hot Trot had fun wearing all of the feathers...

Maybe I should explore pink wigs for her!
Artsy shot fail
Hmm...I think I like them both better without those pink feathers!  I let them each model for me for a while.  Here are some of their best shots:

On Edge:

Bottom line?  I am so glad I finally have them.  I am also glad I didn't pay $250 for them...but I might have to keep my eye on any new dolls in this line in the future.  I am delighted to have an example of Jason Wu's work.  I find On Edge more fun to photograph.  Her outfit (minus the feathers) is much more versatile than Hot Trot's and lends itself to more poses.  On Edge's shoes are so much easier to handle, and I think they look great.  I like Hot Trot's bright red wig, but in the end it is On Edge's slightly open mouth and black bob that really stand out to me, both on the shelf and from behind the camera.  They are a fun, fierce pair.


Age Level
10 and up
I got them on a big sale.  I’d say they’re an excellent value for $150-$200.  $250 is a bit high.
Very good.  Highly jointed doll, beautiful designer clothes, lots of detail.
Great.  Visually artful.  Almost everything is cardboard and ribbon.
The dolls have very high-fashion faces, which might limit their character versatility.  They can share clothes with Madame Alexander "Alex" and some Sybarite and Tonner clothes.  Wigs are changeable. 
Recommended...especially On Edge.


  1. Great review/pics! I have one AvantGuard (Goldmine) and I think she's beautiful. I like the Tonner wigs I've used on her, and I've been hoarding wigs from other AG dolls. The silicone wig caps from Facets are great, and do make a difference on how the Tonner wigs fit.


    1. Thank you, Tom! I am really glad to hear that the wig caps help, because there are so many great wigs out there and I want to be sure I can get them to fit these gals before I buy. Goldmine is amazing--she's a good one to have.

  2. I loved your review! I was a Fashion Royalty collector and bought Lush when she first came out. I love that doll! She is very easy to photograph as you say. The plastic has a microscopic pebble finish that diffuses the light so no shine shows on her face or body! It is very effective! The clothes are very high quality and the shoes are always sought after by collectors! These dolls are fantastic for a entry level or experienced BJD collector!
    Your pictures make me want to play with my doll!

    1. Oh, wow! That is so neat about the finish on the plastic. I did notice that shine wasn't a problem when I was photographing them. I have to say, after resisting these dolls for so many years, I can't believe how much fun I have with them! The poses they can strike are really great. Now I want Androgyny and probably Lush, too...sigh. ;)
      Thank you so much for your nice comment--I hope you have fun playing!

  3. Awesome photos! In the naked shots, the shoulders look really slouchy. Stand up straight, dolls!

  4. "on edge" kinda looks like dr. frank-n-furter to me XD