Hayley - Shooting Star of the Fashion Doll World
Hayley, a Gene clone, appeared on shelves
briefly in 1998
© 1998 by Kathryn E. Darden
On the horizon of the doll collecting world,
visible for a brief time, a small, bright star that quickly disappeared...
was it Haley's comet? No, just Hayley.
During the first couple of weeks of November
1998, doll collectors who haunt the aisles of toy stores noticed a new
girl on the shelves of a few select Toys ìRî Us stores. A
few inches taller than Barbie, manufactured by the Soft Luv company, Hayley
came in eight different outfits with three distinct facial styles. Those
of us who are Gene aficionados immediately recognized the similarities.
For those of you who have not been paying attention, Gene was created in
1991 by Mel Odom, an award-winning New York artist and illustrator. Ashton-Drake,
an affiliate of The Bradford Exchange, began marketing the Gene doll in
1995. Since then Gene's popularity has soared as she has won numerous prestigious
doll awards and has become the focus of many feature articles in collector
magazines and on the Internet. Gene dolls retails for between $69 and $129;
on the secondary market retired editions of the Gene are valued at up to
$800 per doll with limited editions commanding up to $1,500 per doll.
For a clone, Hayley was of fairly good quality
and sold for a lower price than Gene; the five casual Hayleys sold for
$29.99 and the three formal versions sold for $39.99 compared to the average
Gene price of $80. Hayley was the same size as Gene with a similar body
construction, although Hayley featured a twist waist which Gene lacks and
a more pronounced clavicle. Hayley's face bore a resemblance to Gene, but
her three facial styles were quite distinctive from Geneís and lacked
Gene's sultry, long eyelashes. Her eyes varied from Gene's aqua blue to
soft brown "doe eyes." Slight differences in hair color and hair style
were evident and her hair was considered by many to be thicker and more
luxurious than Gene's. The stand, packaging, plastic head protector, ribbons
and wrist card were certainly similar to Geneís, but the pale pink
Hayley box was considered by many to be more attractive than the plain
white Gene box, and Hayley's box featured an elegant sticker with the Hayley
logo to hold the tissue together inside the box.
On the downside, Hayley's vinyl was of cheaper
quality, showing more seam than Gene, and her twist waist was inclined
to break. I also heard several reports of Hayleys cracking, especially
the Blue Jersey version. Her jewelry has been described as "laughable"
particularly the earrings made with beads and a straight pin. Gene collectors
were polarized into two camps: ìlove herî and ìhate
her.î Many Gene collectors felt Hayley was the ideal practice doll
for customizing while others thought she was ugly: period!
Her outfits were quite different from Gene
fare, although some of them had certain similarities. Certainly Blue Jersey
looked somewhat like Midnight Romance, the Brown Check ensemble had a classic
Gene look a la Hello Hollywood Hello, Good-bye New York; and Red was very
much like Red Venus, especially the jewelry. Her Black Leather, Yellow,
and Pink formal were totally unique, however, and the Leopard and
Pink/White outfits, while reminiscent of the Gene era, had no direct Gene
Hayley did not attract much attention as she
sat on display at a Toys "R" Us Nashville. A few casual shoppers considered
her, but there was no hurry to buy; Hayley wasnít moving. I picked
up the Brown Check Hayley to add a little variety to my Gene collection,
but I thought I would see if the dolls went down in price before I picked
up the others. However, on the Internet something was happening. Gene collectors
discovered that Hayley was not in all Toys ìRî Us stores;
in fact, she appeared to be in only a handful of stores. This caused a
minor stir and a few die-hard Gene collectors began to try to find Hayleys
at their local Toys ìRî Us, and having no luck there, resorted
to the world wide web. I decided I had better go investigate.
On Monday, November 23, the Hayley section
was still overflowing at the Toys ìRî Us in Nashville. I asked
the Toys ìRî Us assistant director, Robbie West, what he knew
about these dolls. Robbie responded that all he knew was it was some kind
of test market. This piqued my curiosity so spotting the director of the
store, Carl Olsen, I asked him what he had heard about Hayley. He answered,
ìNot much, just that we are one of three stores in the Atlanta district
that is carrying them as a test market.î Carl informed me that there
are 16 Toys "R" districts in the U.S., but later research revealed that
only a few districts on the east coast received the doll. In Tennessee
at least two stores received her, and I have heard through the Ashton Drake
Gene forum that Hayley also turned up in Toys ìRî Us stores
in New York, North Carolina, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
I wisely decided I really should buy
a couple of more styles (like, one of each!), but when I rolled my shopping
cart (full of Hayleys) to check out, an odd message appeared on the cash
register screen when the clerk tried to ring up the dolls; "Hazard. Do
Not Sell". The cashier called the director who referred her to the manager
of the doll department who turned around and called the director back and
asked him if he had received any Hayley information. Eventually the doll
manager found a sheet she had received from the main office saying all
Hayleys had been recalled due to a lawsuit and that Toys "R" Us would have
to pay heavy fines if they sold them. Upon overhearing this discussion,
one overzealous shopper literally tried to buy a Hayley right out of my
cart and caused quite a scene until she was turned away. Later that day
the Hayley shelves had been stripped bare except for a few boxes on the
highest shelves, but the display case still featured all the Hayleys.
The story behind the confusion at Toys
"R" Us is that Mel Odom, creator of Gene, and Ashton-Drake, the distributor
of Gene dolls, filed a lawsuit asking the U.S. District Court in Chicago
to stop Toys "R" Us, Inc. from selling and distributing clones of Gene.
In addition to the request for an injunction, the lawsuit asked the court
to award Odom and Ashton-Drake compensation for copyright infringement
and to order Toys "R" Us to turn over all profits realized through the
sale of Hayley.
Odom and Ashton-Drake state in the law
suit that Hayley is a "blatant copy" of Gene. In the lawsuit, Ashton-Drake
said that Toys "R" Us approached Ashton-Drake on more than one occasion
asking them to sell Gene dolls to Toys "R" Us. When Ashton-Drake refused,
Toys "R" Us entered into what Ashton Drake is calling an unlawful agreement
with the Soft Luv company to manufacture and distribute Hayley. Toys "R"
Us, according to the suit, created the Hayley clone "to unfairly trade
on the success of 'Geneí and in so doing Toys 'R' Us willfully infringed
and violated the rights of Mel Odom and Ashton-Drake in the 'Gene' doll's
copyright and famous trade dress."
In a court hearing on Friday, Nov. 20, the
Federal Court entered an order in which Toys "R" Us agreed to stop selling
and producing the Hayley dolls while the suit is pending. By Monday morning
when I went to buy my Hayleys, the powers that be at the main Toys ìRî
Us office had already programed all store registers to post the ìHazardous.
Do not sellî message.
After my foiled foray into Toys ìRî
Us, I began to hunt for a few Hayleys on the Internet. Everywhere I went,
the common suggestion was ìTry Chevyís web site.î Chevy
Anz from Knoxville, Tennessee, has collected Gene for over a year and has
one of each Gene doll and one of each costume except convention items.
Citing her favorite Genes as Monaco, Blue Goddess, and White Hyacinth
Chevy was encouraged by her husband to invest in Hayleys and sell them
on the Internet through a web site he created for her. ìHe even
dashed out to a TRU trying to beat the news of the court order for me while
I was in New York City,î says Chevy.
Due to the success Chevy had with her site,
she became a reluctant "expert" on Hayleys. "This whole thing started with
me wanting a couple of Hayley outfits and posting that I'd like to split
one with someone on the Ashton Drake board. I received nearly 100 emails
that day with people wanting to do the split with me, and the first two
emails got the nude dolls. Everyone else begged me to run down to TRU and
pick them up. After two days of this it turned into a 24-hour-a-day adventure,
and I turned my house into a shipping department and was making lengthy
road trips to get what everyone wanted."
Chevy let her customers purchase their choice
of NRFB Hayleys, nude dolls, outfits, or shoes only. She found the most
popular Hayley was Blue Jersey "for her hair and face, not the dress."
The most popular outfit was Leopard, but Chevy preferred Brown Check and
Pink "as long as you replace the tacky jewelry." Chevy said she thought
all the Hayley's clothes were "kicky" and Gene looked "cool" in them,"
so she was keeping one of each Hayley outfit to dress her Genes in. "The
clothes were well made, but some of the fabrics were cheap. The shoes
are completely fabulous, and they stay on Gene's feet better than her own
Chevy tracked Hayley to the TRU's in Knoxville,
Kingsport, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, as well as two stores in Queens
NY, and a store in Phillipsburg NJ. She estimated the Tennessee stores
got about 60 dolls, and the store in Middle Village, Queens, seemed to
have over 100.
In Knoxville stores Chevy saw many Red and
Yellow and very few Brown Check, White/Pink, and Leopard. In Queens she
found they seemed to have equal numbers of each variety. Chevy reported
an odd phenomena that was shared by other Hayley seekers; most TRU stores
didn't even know they had Hayleys in the store.
"I think Gene collectors are the ONLY
people who would be interested in Hayley," stated Chevy, who decided not
to keep a doll for herself after providing me with her last nude, a broken
Marcia Friend in Matawan, New Jersey, also
qualified as a Hayley expert after writing an article for the ìFashion
Doll Sceneî newsletter. After providing me with a NRFB Leopard and
a Red Hayley, she shared some of her experiences. Marcia purchased her
dolls at TRU in New York City (where they cost 10% more than elsewhere)
and in four New Jersey locations: East Brunswick, Hazlet, Freehold and
Woodbridge. She selected the Blue Jersey, Red, Black Leather, Leopard,
Yellow, and the Pink gown. ìI decided against the White/Pink
suit because the pink stitching on the suit looked really cheap.î
Altogether she purchased about 20 dolls and sold the extras, keeping four
Marcia agreed with Chevy that the Leopard outfit ìwins
hands-downî as the best outfit and her favorite doll was a toss-up
between Blue and Pink. ìI bought the Leather one for the clothes.
I did not like the Red one at first, but when I realized how long and luxurious
her hair was, I decided to get one.î
The cheap quality of Hayley, especially the
rough seams, are a drawback for Marcia who thinks Gene has a much more
sophisticated expression (partially due to the eyelashes) and better skin
tone. ìI think Hayley's hair and shoes compare favorably to
Gene's. The clothes are closer to a "Fashion Avenue" quality, but I really
like the Leather outfit, the Leopard jacket and Leather dress, and the
green pants from the Yellow outfit. I was impressed that they had
While Marcia also found most employees didn't
know who or what Hayley was, one manager told her that Soft Luv toys is
owned by TRU and they make a lot of the exclusive doll lines for TRU.
Another manager told her that a woman had come in a few days earlier
and purchased $1500 worth of the Leather and Leopard dolls.
ìI think Hayley will be back,î
Marcia claimed. ìThe most likely change in her will be her
packaging.î Marcia thought Hayley would probably appeal more to Barbie
purchasers than to Gene collectors.
Linda Fustini purchased all eight of the dolls
from two stores in Connecticut, one in East Haven and the other in Milford.
One manager, who only carried five styles, told her he had five boxes
of Hayleys which she believes meant he had one case of each style.
Linda had to go to the security area at the
back of each store and a clerk brought the Hayleys out for her to examine.
The dolls were never displayed to the public in the two stores.
Other collectors had similar experiences.
On Long Island, New York, Ellen Boisen found six different stores that
carried Hayley. Not only did Ellen buy one of each style for herself, paying
the regular $30/$40, but she also picked up some extras ìto ship
to a few poor Gene fans on the West Coast who were Hayley deprived (or
is it Hayley challenged?).î Originally Ellen bought Hayley to try
doing repaints and to share clothes with Gene, she stated, pointing out
one person she bought Hayleys for was a well-known doll designer.
True to form, the majority of the stores did
not even know they had Hayleys with only two out of the six displaying
the dolls in a case. In the others stores Ellen had to ask for them at
the pickup desk.
Ellen felt that while Hayley's clothing was
"fun", it lacked originality. ìYou will notice that all of the daywear
that has a jacket and sheath dress seems to be made from the same pattern,
with very little variation, but Hayley's shoes and handbags are great!î
She shared the common disapproval of Hayleyís jewelry calling it
ìuninspired and cheap.î She was also disappointed in Hayleyís
baggy stockings and felt the only attribute Hayley might have over Gene
was the twist waist, but added ìnot if it breaks.î Once again
Blue Jersey and Leopard scored top marks along with Pink which she liked
ìbecause it is nothing like a Gene outfit.î
Another collector, Vicki White from Illinois,
purchased a nude Hayley for $15 on the secondary market since the local
Toys ìRî Us in Illinois did not carry the dolls. Her motivation
was to use Hayley as a mannequin for fitting new Gene designs. Vicki
found the quality to be ìway belowî Geneís. ìI
don't think I would pay even what the retail was for her knowing how the
seams were not sanded, etc. I feel even Barbie's quality is superior to
In Wisconsin, David Proto purchased
several Hayley dolls prior to any legal actions at TRU and through the
secondary market. TRU informed David that there were only two areas where
Hayleys were being test marketed, New York and Atlanta. Armed with
that information, David called the TRUs in those areas and ordered two
Black Leather, two Leopard, and one each of Yellow and Pink, paying $29.99
for each one plus a reasonable amount for shipping. David was not able
to find all of the dolls through TRU. ìI had also wanted a
Blue Jersey, but by the time that I got around to locating one, the legal
action had started and the prices were too high.î
David bought his first Hayley out of curiosity.
ìBlack Leather was my first, and when I saw how cool Gene looked
in this outfit, I decided to investigate the possibility of wardrobe raiding
from Hayley for Gene. I do not sew, and simply cannot afford to pay
the prices that are charged for Gene related items.î The shoes
were a big hit with David. ìIf they would have made closed
toed plastic pumps (that really looked like pumps), I would have bought
every Hayley I could get my hands on just for the shoes alone.î
Although David agreed there truly is no comparison
between Gene and Hayley, he found some advantages to Hayley besides her
great shoes citing that some of the dolls have more hair than Gene.
ìGeneís hair is obviously a higher quality material, but
if you happen to be someone who likes to redo hair, some of the Genes show
way too much scalp when one attempts to change the original do.î
David, Marcia and Linda all expressed some
puzzlement about the lawsuit. ìAside from the obvious attempt
at copying Geneís makeup on two of the dolls that do not even have
the same shaped face as Gene, there really is no comparison,î said
David. ìThis doll did not change my mind about collecting Gene,
nor would I buy one instead of a Gene, nor did it confuse me as a Gene
collector,î Linda stated.
Although Pam Jordan lived near a Hayley test
market area in New Jersey, she had no desire to buy one because she felt
Hayley was ìa cheap rip-offî of Gene. ìThe quality
obviously was lacking in the photos I saw, and I would rather save my money
to buy more high quality Gene dolls.î Pam adamantly supported the
Ashton Drake lawsuit because she felt Hayley was obviously a blatant copyright
Hayleyís time was brief; she only stood
on the Toys ìRî Us shelves for three weeks, but the supervisor
at the main Toys ìRî Us customer service department and the
doll manager at the Nashville store both say they think Hayley might well
be back on the shelves once the lawsuit is settled. Now one forlorn
Brown Check Hayley still stands in the case with her box alone on the shelf
above the display, apparently holding the spot for the anticipated return
of Hayleys once the lawsuit is settled. Much like the comet, avid collectors
will certainly be looking for signs of her return. One thing is for certain,
whether or not Hayley returns to the shelves at Toys ìRî Us,
she has already made her mark on doll collecting history.
Part of this article appeared in Barbie Bazaar magazine.