Barbie and Balmain want to make toys the next big fashion frontier



It’s the first week of the New Year, but the competition to win the 2022 fashion collaboration game, this ever-growing race to find the most mind-boggling and heart-breaking counterintuitive couple of brands, has already started.

First to come out: Balmain, the French haute couture house, and Barbie, the ultimate plastic doll. It could mark the official crossing of the next big fashion frontier: the world of toys. Although the marriage of Mattel iconography and material iconography is not exactly what you might expect.

There’s no doll involved: instead, there’s a 50-piece Barbie-inspired collection for adults. It’s modeled by avatars of various races, and will feature three NFTs of unique looks for auction online, each with a doll-sized physical design, expanding Barbie’s reach into the digital collectible space.

And above all, the NFT collection and looks are unisex: Barbie clothes that erase the Ken-Barbie division.

After all, even in the days of the first female vice president, when Barbie and all the archaic female stereotypes she can represent seem out of place, the collection is disarming. It was designed with a touch of irony filtered through rose-colored glasses and the giant smile of a boy who once thought he wasn’t meant to play with dolls and now has carte blanche to reinvent the world’s most popular. world.

“Having Barbie in my Balmain army, making a collection inspired by her where there is no boy’s or girl’s clothes, that’s my little revenge,” said Olivier Rousteing, Balmain’s creative director. . “I think Barbie represents a happy dream world. There is nothing wrong with dreaming. But let’s push the dream and not the dream of the 50s or 60s, but 2022. For me, it is much more than a simple commercial project. It is very moving.

He spoke, he said, from personal experience – “as a kid I played with Barbies and felt a certain rejection for it” – that’s why he was interested in bringing his relationship to Mattel. beyond the dress-the-doll phase.

Mr. Rousteing previously created looks for Barbie Claudia Schiffer and in 2021 invited a CGI Barbie and Ken to the Balmain digital fashion show. And he’s one of a long list of designers who’ve made clothes for the doll, including Jean-Paul Gaultier, Michael Kors, Donatella Versace, Diane von Furstenberg, and Karl Lagerfeld.

In 2009, for her 50th birthday, there was a special ‘Barbie Fashion Show’ at New York Fashion Week, and in 2019, Barbie received the Council of Fashion Designers of America Board of Directors’ Tribute award. previously to Michelle Obama and Cécile. Richards of Planned Parenthood.

But this collection takes its influence and the concept of inclusiveness to an even wider level.

As to why Mattel was interested, well, according to Richard Dickson, president and COO of Mattel, the company believes toys have the potential to be a credible fashion accessory, as do bags and perfume. .

“When you combine the seriousness of high fashion with the fun of toys, it’s very powerful,” Mr. Dickson said. Mattel happens to have some experience in this area, having created a limited edition Hot Wheels Cadillac with Gucci in October. The small cars – 5,000 of which were priced at $ 120 each – sold out within minutes, according to Dickson.

The prices of the Barbie x Balmain collection are higher than that. They range from $ 295 for a t-shirt to $ 42,494 for a signature dress, which is a lot more than regular Barbie prices, but less than the classic Balmain, where a basic logo t-shirt sells for $ 495. . (No one knows how much NFTs will cost in today’s digital collectibles gold rush climate; the auction is Jan. 11-14.) The Chanel bag can start with a bottle of Chanel n ° 5, those who dream of a Balmain dress can start with a Barbie x Balmain accessory.

“People are looking for optimism and joy, especially now that life is very heavy,” he said. “Toys are that by definition. That the same definition can apply to fashion is one of the points of convergence.

And it’s true that it’s hard to look at the Barbie x Balmain collection and not laugh, despite the sweet smoothness of the color palette, which ranges from fuchsia to bubble gum (in other words, not very far at all) , with some white, blue and yellow added as accents.

There are giant, spongy puffy bags with Balmain Paris scrawled on them in curved Barbie script under the 1970s Balmain logo and clear plastic shoppers that look like boxes of Barbie dolls; baby pink silk satin suits with kimono jackets and striped boyshort pajama sets; sequined mini disco dresses and a strapless mermaid dress. Also, dungarees and sweatshirts and buckled jackets with pointed shoulders with gold buttons.

Pure, silly kitsch meets pop culture meets couture jumpsuit works surprisingly well.

It adds lightness to Mr. Rousteing’s powerful ’80s shoulders and gathered turkey dresses, which can seem overcooked at times, and raises the bar for collaborations. Like Balenciaga’s “Simpsons” episode, social and cultural commentary is part of the value proposition.

And in doing so, it lends credence to Mr. Dickson’s prediction that soon the fashion and toy industrial complex “is going to be a whole new business.”



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