Stacey McBride-Irby is the doll designer of Tonner-One World, an emerging doll company focused on developing new doll and toy products that reflect the diversity of America. She developed the company’s Prettie Girls! doll collection, a line of multi-cultural fashion dolls that feature their own unique stories, styles and personalities.
Prior to creating the Prettie Girls! dolls, McBride-Irby spent 15 years at Mattel™ where she was a Project Designer responsible for the Disney Princess® Collection and countless fashions for the iconic Barbie® line. Most notably, McBride-Irby created the So In Style® dolls, the first African-American dolls by Mattel™ that aimed to more closely represent contemporary girls and young women in a diverse, dynamic world.
Stacey how long have you been in the doll industry?
I have been working in the doll industry for a little over 20 years now. Time flies when you’re having fun!
What would you say has been the most significant change you have seen in your years in the industry?
The most significant change that I’ve seen in the industry has happened within the past 5 years. Doll companies are trying to get more in tune with what society is requesting, more diversity. From Doc McStuffins, my Prettie Girls Doll line, to Mattel creating their line offering a variety of body types. These are all steps in the right direction.
With Disney introducing their first Latin princess, and doll makers getting more diverse (as your own doll line of The Prettie Girls) have we finally hit the goal of having enough choice for all cultures in the doll industry?
My thoughts are that we have not reached our goal but are definitely headed in the right direction. Our world is diverse and changing daily but hopefully with all of our (Toy Companies) efforts, we will get close to the target goal.
Do you have any plans for books or cartoons with the Prettie Girls line?
We would love to create books and cartoons of the Prettie Girls dolls, to offer a full experience for girls to get to know and relate to the positive stories behind the dolls that they visually respond to.
How do you compete with the larger doll companies? Tell us about the quality of The Prettie Girls line.
We compete with the larger doll companies because I’m a doll designer that is in tune with the needs of my community. I’ve learned from working for one of the best toy companies in the world, and poured that knowledge into our Prettie Girls dolls. The quality is top notch, produced by the same manufacturing plants that the larger doll companies use. My goal has been to provide quality dolls within a once forgotten market.
Tell us some stories of seeing girls playing with a doll that matches their culture for the first time that you may have witnessed.
It sometimes brings me to tears when I see girls connecting with my dolls that are a reflection of who they are. I am also impressed with parents thanking me for creating dolls that look like their daughters, and that I’m a role model for their life sized Prettie Girls.
Tell us about the upcoming The Prettie Girls NYC line.
The NYC line, unfortunately is on hold because we have many exciting projects underway. This is one of the challenges of being a smaller doll company, juggling all of our priorities.
Where do you think dolls need to go in the future? How do you feel about introducing voices and all sort of electronic play to doll? Does that hamper imagination or add to kids feeling like the dolls are real?
I feel that dolls can continue to progress in the path that they’ve been going in, possibly adding some technical playing patterns to them as we move forward with the times. But I have always been an old school thinker, let the child use their imagination. I also understand that voices and electronic options help sell the product. We have to find a balance.
If you could tell all the parents one thing about dolls what would it be?
Parents should let their child be a child. Let them choose the toy based on how they relate to the toy. My parents allowed me to play with stuffed animals, African American baby dolls, and Caucasian Barbie dolls. I sometimes wonder if they didn’t allow me to play with dolls that didn’t look like me, would I be the designer I am today.
Why should every girl have a doll in The Pretty Girls line?
Every girl should have a Prettie Girls doll because each doll has a positive, fun, adventourous story that girls can relate to. The dolls are uniquely designed with fashions, skin tones, quality materials, reflecting the desires of girls in today’s world.
Special thanks to Stacey McBride-Irby for taking the time out to talk about one of her passions!