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April 17 2014

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Barbie Blows Up: Top Fashion Brass Take on the Doll

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Barbie may be turning 50 this year, but she doesn’t look a day over, well, teenage fashion-model age, to be exact. As part of Mattel’s global birthday celebration, she made her runway debut in Bryant Park. And while there’s speculation that Ken is still in the closet, everyone’s outed themselves when it comes to their love for Barbie. Fifty designers —Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Anna Sui, Rachel
Roy, and Brian Reyes, to name a few—created looks for the show. Backstage was calm compared to the mayhem front of house, packed with little girls in pink T-shirts, tulle tutus, and Uggs waiting anxiously with their mothers for the show to start. Front-row turnout included Diane von Furstenberg, Annie Leibovitz, Simon Doonan, and Heidi Klum. Robert Verdi was overheard pondering, “How many Kens can fit in here?”

The show started with a video montage of Barbie in all her incarnations (she’s had over 100 careers) set to Hole’s “Doll Parts.” Totally fitting, but kind of ironic since it’s difficult to imagine Courtney Love ever playing with any kind of doll. While some of the looks were pure fantasy like Bob Mackie’s incredible gold-beaded gown with marabou-feather trim and Marchesa’s lavender tulle confection, others could easily transcend the toy-store shelf to the city sidewalk. Costello Tagliapietra’s jersey dress in rust had a Lauren Hutton circa American Gigolo vibe; Derek Lam’s black-and-orange floral-print silk coat and dress will be perfect when the weather warms up in a month or two.

And while still chic, it seemed that some designers had crafted a few new occupations for Barbie as well: Rosa Chá’s Bondage Barbie, Jeremy Scott’s Vegas Cocktail Waitress, Catherine Malandrino’s American Flag Barbie (Can you work as an American Flag? How much does that pay?). While none are for sale, some will be on display at Bloomingdale’s. But the party doesn’t stop in Bryant Park. The world’s largest Barbie store is opening in Shanghai early March, complete with a spa and a bridal service that offers a $15,000 Vera Wang gown. Buy it, and Mattel will throw in a doll specially created to resemble you in said gown. Following will be the life-size Malibu Barbie Dreamhouse, in Malibu, decorated by Jonathan Adler. “I am so excited about this. When I was a kid, I ripped the heads off my sister’s Barbies. This is my way of making amends.”

Photo: TIimothy A. Clary / AFP / Getty Images

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