“The main job of a hair designer is to create and set hairstyles for prototypes, photo model dolls, and samples for Toy Fair,” says Heide. Hairstyles are either based on sketches (a method favored by Robert Best), or magazine clippings depicting the latest trends. There are dozens of different styles, cuts, colors and lengths to work with, so the job of a hair designer is extremely versatile.
The hair fibers used on most Collector dolls are made from Saran, a synthetic material that provides a high level of versatility, quality and shine. “The key is to make the hair look as realistic as possible, so we use a color blending chart to figure out just the right colors and highlights before the hair is rooted.”
The process is fascinating to watch. First, a blank head is partially painted to match the color of the chosen fiber. Then, it’s off to a special machine that pushes a needle through each head and hooks the hairs in place. The rooting is done in a circular pattern, covering the outside periphery first, and goes around about ten times. The sewing is done in a very tight stitch, so rooters must always err on the side of caution when operating the machine. The rooting itself takes 5-10 minutes, and the bulk of time is devoted to styling, which varies depending on complexity.
“Rooting hair on a Silkstone is an even more delicate process,” explains Heide. “Since they are made of harder material, Silkstone heads need to be heated in a low temperature oven to get soft enough to run through the machine. Once a head is soft, there isn’t much time before the material hardens again, so the rooting needs to be perfect the first time around.” Talk about splitting hairs!
Once the hair is rooted, the head goes onto a heavy brass post, where it is groomed, cut and styled by hand. After perfecting the style, the designer wraps the head with a special piece of plastic and puts it in a low temperature oven to secure the hair in place. We can’t stress this enough: do NOT try this at home!
What can collectors try at home? According to Heide, the best restyling tool is an unlikely one: a dog brush! “Believe it or not, that’s my number one tip,” she says. “Make sure to get the hair really wet, and use a dog brush with metal pieces that aren’t too sharp. Start at the ends and work your way to the top, and don’t use hairspray unless you truly love the style.”