As much as I don’t like how LEGO keep screwing around with some of the aspects of Friends, I’ll likely always have a soft spot for the series for as long as it’s going to exist. Where others are turned off by the colors, I see lots of opportunities and crazy ideas almost immediately zap through my head. Emma’s Fashion Shop (41427) from this year’s second wave of sets is perhaps not that exactly, but I sure have long-term plans for something involving all those vanilla pudding/ custard yellow elements.
Unlike in the past years, actually getting your hands on current sets is a bit of an exercise. LEGO‘s logistics are very apparently still impaired by (partial) factory shutdowns, shorter work shifts with less personnel and additional freight checks and quarantine procedures. That’s why ultimately I had to go with this set for the time being because my preferred choice, one of the new animal-based sets, wasn’t available anywhere. That’s quite different from other years where the June releases were sometimes already on sale or available for pre-order late April and then you had them on the first day even if you weren’t one of the privileged outlets that get free review samples directly from LEGO.
What thankfully hasn’t changed is the discounts you get even immediately after release, so I was able to pick this up for 20 Euro instead of 30 Euro. That in and of itself is of course getting weirder every year, too. Despite LEGO generally ramping up prices, sometimes to ridiculous heights, retailers just know that a lot of set won’t sell for the MSRP, firing them out for a lot less and barely making a revenue on them. Say what you will, this is certainly crooked and barely healthy and sustainable in the long run. anyway, for 20 Euro this set is certainly okay, but for reasons I’m going to explain a bit further down I don’t think the full 30 Euro would hold up.
Aside from the main build, the actual house, there isn’t an abundance of extras. the figures are ones already found in other sets and the kick scooter is the same as the one in Andrea’s Accessories Store (41344). It would have been nice to at least get that one in a new color, but I guess LEGO were playing it cheap and only used stuff and pieces that they already had in stock. This by the way seems to be the prevalent theme here, anyway: Keep it simple. It’s a very straightforward “no frills” affair. Not bad, just a bit unoriginal.
Personally I don’t associate the Bright Yellow with Emma at all. This color is typically related to Olivia or more generalized building like the Heartlake Highschool, so it takes some getting used to. On the other hand there is enough of the Lavender, so on some level it’s still easy enough to draw the connection.
The interesting thing about a lot of the Friends buildings is that they often contain interesting ideas, but suffer from those concepts being implemented poorly, incompletely or inconsequently. sometimes it’s the sheer lack of space due to the smallness of the sets, sometimes the designers just get carried away with cramming too much stuff in and yes, sometimes you just smell that evil corporate-mandated budget dictating how a set turns out. as far as all of that goes, this model is one of the better ones.
As can be seen, the building is reasonably wide and deep and doesn’t look all too cluttered up on the inside. It nicely conveys both the ideas of a small neighborhood shop and a cosy living/ relaxation/ work area/ custom fitting room on the second floor. that is to say it is totally imaginable you might wanna live there and the building could fit into a small suburban/ rural street layout.
This is also helped by its simple build style and overall structure, which should make it relatively simple to expand the building and convert it into a larger one, be that adding an extra floor, making it deeper or wider or even changing it into a corner building with two facades. Buying multiple of these sets and putting them to use certainly isn’t that far flung an idea.
However, the way it’s constructed is perhaps also a hindrance to that and perhaps the model’s biggest shortcoming. Instead of being built up from more regular smaller bricks it uses large 1 x 2 x 6 “column” bricks and equally large panels. This always is the point where I feel that these perfectly understandable simplifications for kids get in the way of broader acceptance and adaptation of Friends by more seriously-minded builders. That’s also the reason why I wouldn’t buy these sets at full price, as in order to make the most of them with customizations you still have to figure in the extra spending on Bricklink.
There are a few easily removable items like the sewing machine and a “mix & match your styles” column. The function of the latter only becomes clear when you apply the stickers, which of course I never do. The highlight of the sewing machine, if you will, is the use of a black lipstick minifigure utensil for the needle head, but other than that it’s just the same standard build you’ve seen in a ton of other sets. The same goes for the test fitting booth, which for all intents and purposes is just the same basic build also used everywhere else. At the very least I would have hoped they’d include the half-cylinder element in an opaque color so it works without a sticker.
The mannequins are creepy and more than just a bit uninspired. This is one of those “If you can’t be bothered…” things that just upset and enrage me. Can it really be that hard to at least produce monochromatic mini dolls without any prints and minus the arms and legs or even better yet come up with a custom mold based on existing ones? I mean if such a mold existed, it would in fact even look good in City sets next to regular minifigures. Definitely time for LEGO to do it!
On a small, anecdotal note one of the things that stood out to me was the Flame Yellowish Orange bow. Yupp, it’s once again of those odd inconsistencies in the Friends universe that, while it should be easy enough to produce this item in all colors of the rainbow, it only exists in five colors and the yellow version is the rarest one only featured in a few sets that I never bought. Go, figure!
The upper floor is dominated by the couch and that’s another thing I take some small issue with. It essentially blocks the door to the balcony. The kids won’t mind it, but it’s not exactly the most plausible placement. I also feel like the curved balcony only exists to provide the railing onto which the signage is clipped. They could have added a potted plant at least or included a minifigure bird or cat to perch on the railing as a gag. Regrettably, the ruler on the signage also isn’t printed. It would make so much sense to have such a 1 x 4 tile and it could be used for anything from school scenes to being an accessory in a handyman’s toolbox…
All things considered, this is a good enough set to be worth your money – at a reasonably reduced price. While utterly unexciting, it still looks pretty decent or even nice and provides a solid basis on which you can expand and improve upon. Of course it would be nice if LEGO would put in a bit of effort and also worked on the typical issues that plague these sets like flimsily piecing together plates with barely any overlapping elements to hold them, but I guess that is too much to hope for and I guess for the rating we have to settle on a “perfectly acceptable” rather than “great” or “outstanding”…