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By on March 11, 2009 in Uncategorized with 2 Comments »

If you hadn’t heard, Barbie had a birthday. Yup, in March the plastic hottie celebrated her big 5-0.

To celebrate, Mattel – Our Toys – Barbie promoted the heck out of its idollic (sic) Ms. B, grabbing nearly as much media attention as the First Lady’s bare arms, the $40,000 Jennifer Aniston haircut and the Cathay Pacific tantrum lady combined. 

And while Mattel’s hot, flashy babe celebrate, this hot-flashing Baby Boomer wonders how, if not why, Barbie always seems to transcend the decades.  After all, the anorexic-looking model has become a fashion don’t, the bejeweled beauty crown has somewhat tarnished, and recently a West Virginia state lawmaker has introduced legislation to ban the sale of Barbie and similar dolls who he finds promote physical beauty to the detriment of girls’ intellectual and emotional development. But through all this, the ubiquitous “pink one” continues to endure the winds of change.  

Admittedly Barbie’s sense and sensibility perplexes me. She came out of the Sixties Feminist Movement practically unscathed.  She later entered the world of business with her own successful beauty salon. Like such notable fashionistas as Donna Karan/DKNY, Kimora Lee Simmons  and Daisy Fuentes who have taken large space at Macy’s, JC Penney, and Kohl’s, Barbie has earned her rightful place at FAO Schwartz.  She not only has been able to ascend the glass ceiling, she earns well more than the average woman’s salary of 80 cents on the dollar,

The question is: How has Barbie continued to mirror the images in advertising, film, and MTV, from early days of Mad Men to Madison Avenue? The answer: Mattel has continued to play its Barbie brand card well.

Barbie’s 50th party celebration is just another example of her parent company’s integrated strategic/creative success.  First it rounded up all the usual rich and famous subjects, including Karl Largerfeld who custom-dressed Barbie for display in the windows of Paris’s trendy Colette boutique.  And a “Barbie room” was being installed on the first floor to present Jeremy Scott’s new collection of Barbie clothing.   

Next there came Fashion Week, where Barbie seemed to dominate the runways, with a variety of designers dressing their models as the female wonder.  Even Tarina Tarantino debuted a Barbie Doll collection. 

The Wall Street Journal published a piece on Mattel’s New Shanghai Barbie Store, a six-story emporium complete with a spa, a cosmetics counter, a cocktail bar and offerings from chi-chi designers Vera Wang, Patricia Field, and Judith Lieber.  Barbie’s sleeveless ivory wedding dress from Ms. Wang costs $15,000. 

I read in The Motor Report about the deal between Fiate Centro Stile and Mattel, who joined forces to offer a special Fiat 500 dedicated to the “pink one,” formerly known for her Ferrari.

Even the hospitality industry jumped on the Barbie “brandwagon”. According to Hotelchatter.com , the Milwaukee Iron Horse Hotel was throwing a Barbie birthday bash, inviting guests to bring a Barbie to its Branded bar, entitling them to drink specials and their very own pink boa.  And if you’re headed to the UK for more celebrating, the May Fair London’s pink Schiaparelli Suite is ready for your arrival.   

And seemingly unfettered by the mortgage industry climate, Mattel moved Barbie into the fire and flood zones of sunny Malibu, building an expensive 3,500 sq. ft. manse overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  I hope Mattel provides her plenty of insurance.  According to a report in Associated Press,  Barbie’s real-life Malibu Dream House designed by Jonathan Adler  boasts wall-to-wall pink flooring that would make even pop singer Pink blush, a closet full of pink peep-toe heels that Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods would feel comfortable in, and a pink Volkswagen New Beetle with motorized pop-up vanity in the trunk that a Mary Kay saleswoman would die for.  An Andy Warhol portrait of Barbie valued at over $200,000 hangs on the wall. 

Following the festivities, the majority of Barbie’s custom decor will be shipped to the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, to furnish a special pink-tinted Barbie Suite soon available for bachelorette parties, birthdays or anyone who wanted to live the Barbie dream. Other items will be available from the “Jonathan Adler Loves Barbie” collection would launch in September.  

As always, Mattel remains zealous in its attempts to protect Barbie’s image over the years, launching a series of perceived copyright violation and defamation lawsuits, including the Danish group Aqua, whose hit song ‘Barbie Girl” had lyrics, like “Kiss me here, touch me there, hanky panky.”  Mattel lost.

This all being said, we all know that if Barbie were a REAL woman, her physical proportions would have her toppling over the runway. I imagine if Tim Gunn were consulted, he would tell Barbie to dress less like a 21-year old and more like the graceful, aging woman she has become.  And while skimpy tight fashions may work for the Real Housewives Orange County, bet your bottom dollar that even Rachel Zoe would prefer to see Barbie appear like Elizabeth Hurley rather than Elizabeth Berkeley in Showgirls on the red carpet. 

I even hear Barbie may be getting a tattoo soon. Who knows where?  Maybe Ken.