Grab Skipper, hop in the convertible, and head to the beach house – March 9th is National Barbie Day!
Ruth Handler was an American inventor (who created the iconic Barbie doll in 1959) saw that her daughter’s toy choices only allowed her to play out being a mom or a caregiver whereas her son could imagine being all sorts of things like a firefighter or astronaut.
Handler aspired to invent a doll that that showed girls they had choices too and would better facilitate the way young girls were playing with their dolls.
Introduced at New York Toy Fair on March 9, 1959, Barbie sported a black and white striped swimsuit and had her signature ponytail. Sixty-three years later and she’s still inspiring girls and boys of all ages.
- Barbie’s full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts.
- Barbie was named after Ruth’s daughter Barbara while Ken was named after her son Kenneth.
- Barbie’s iconic pink color is PMS 219.
- Barbie has consumer products in 45 categories including food, fitness, and clothing.
- More than 100 dolls are sold every minute with 58 million Barbie’s sold annually. A Barbie Dreamhouse is sold every two minutes.
- Life in plastic, it’s fantastic! – “Barbie Girl” by Aqua topped the charts in 1997.
- There are over 18 billion minutes of Barbie user-generated content created each year.
Master of Trendsetter
Earlier this year, Barbie partnered with Balmain, the French high fashion house, to create Balmain X Barbie, a 50-piece Barbie-inspired unisex collection for grownups.
No physical dolls were used. Instead, the collection was modeled by racially diverse avatars and included three NFTs of one-off looks that were auctioned off online as part of Barbie Signature, a members only collectible from Mattel Creations.
“Having Barbie in my Balmain army, making a collection inspired by her where there are no boy clothes or girl clothes, is my small revenge,” said Olivier Rousteing, the creative director of Balmain. “I think Barbie represents a joyful dream world. There’s nothing wrong with a dream. But let’s push the dream and not dream of the 1950s or 1960s, but 2022.”
Barbie, an 11.5-inch plastic doll, has been creative inspiration for over 150 designers and has had over 75 collaborations with creative influencers.
Her first collaboration was with Oscar de la Renta in 1985. She’s partnered with many of the fashion greats – Bob Mackie, Christian Louboutin, Karl Lagerfeld, and Yves Saint Laurent while inspiring even more.
Cynthia Rowley shared, “As a little girl, I spent countless hours playing with my Barbie dolls, even designing and sewing one-of-a-kind outfits for the doll. I guess you could say Barbie gave me my start as a designer.”
Barbie even had her first runway show during New York Fashion Week in 2009 to celebrate her 50th anniversary.
In addition to fashion, Barbie took notice of important trends , pivoted, and revitalized their consumer products brand. Sales of Barbie were down by one-third between 2011 and 2015 as little girls no longer found her aspirational and body image was a big issue.
In 2015, Barbie released their Fashionista line–a collection of two dozen dolls with eight different skin tones and some curly hair options. In 2016, they launched Barbie in different body shapes including curvy Barbie, tall Barbie, and petite Barbie.
The Fashionista line now comes in 22 skin tones, 94 hair colors, 13 eye colors, and 5 body types.
In 2020, they added new dolls who are in wheelchairs or use prosthetic limbs. Ken dolls also have a broad array of body types and hairstyles including man buns. Barbie’s sales soared; in 2020 Barbie generated its best sales growth in two decades and it’s #1 doll was sold with a wheelchair.
In addition to products, Barbie’s marketing has embraced diversity and inclusivity. Barbie’s YouTube vlog tackling racism went viral.
Master of Collaboration
Barbie is inspiring girls to dream big around the world by honoring 12 global female role models for International Women’s Day:
- Shonda Rhimes (U.S.) – founder, American Television Production Company Shondaland
- Ari Horie (United States/Japan) – founder and chief executive officer, Women’s Startup Lab and Women’s Startup Lab Impact Foundation
- Pat McGrath (U.K.) – makeup artist and founder, Pat McGrath Labs
- Melissa Sariffodeen (Canada) – chief executive officer and co-founder, Canada Learning Code and Ladies Learning Code
- Adriana Azuara (Mexico) – founder, All4Spas
- Doani Emanuela Bertain (Brazil) – teacher and founder, Sala 8
- Jane Martino (Australia) – chair and co-founder, Smiling Minds
- Lan Yu (China) – fashion designer
- Butet Manurung (Indonesia) – founder and director, SOKOLA
- Sonia Peronaci (Italy) – founder, Italian food website, GialloZafferano
- Tijen Onaran (Germany) – chief executive officer and founder, Global Digital Women and co-founder, ACI Diversity Consulting
- Lena Mahfouf (France) – digital creator, videographer and author of “Always More”
As Mattel announced, “Inspiring Girls International, a charitable organization dedicated to raising the aspirations of young girls around the world by connecting them with female role models, will work with Barbie and schools in Spain, Italy, France, U.K., Poland, Brazil, Australia and the U.S. to deliver Dream Gap workshops featuring advice from various trailblazing Barbie Role Models, reaching an estimated 3,500 girls in the next year.”
Barbie also kicked off a year-long collaboration with Habitat for Humanity to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Barbie’s dreamhouse. And in 2021, Mattel and Warner Music Group partnered to launch “Barbie Radio” with iHeartRadio where Barbie is the DJ playing songs from her extensive catalog.
From fashionable dolls with lavish accessories to animated films taking Barbie and her friends on mystical adventures with princesses from across the world, Barbie is still creating new dolls, movies and books.
This March 9th, take a minute to appreciate the legend and icon that is Barbie. You’re never too old to love Barbie!