Barbie is a world-famous American toy line which was launched in 1959. Inspired by her daughter’s habit of playing with paper dolls with adult traits, Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler saw the potential in giving children an alternative to the usual baby or infant dolls they were presented with. She soon developed the first designs which led to the creation of the first Barbie doll. Named after her daughter Barbara, Barbie celebrated her official birthday at the American International Toy Fair on 9th March 1959. The release of the doll with prominent female features sparked a little bit of an outrage but its immediate success soon outgrew the critical voices and within the first year of release 350,000 dolls were sold to American households. Today this number has increased to over 1 billion dolls, sold in over 150 countries worldwide! Other than Barbie dolls and accessories like clothing and dream house furniture, Mattel also offers a wide range of other Barbie merchandise including books, video games, animated films, clothing, cosmetics and fragrances.
The Barbie dolls have become less popular in the 21st century. This has been attributed to complaints about the the brand’s lack of diversity and promotion of an unrealistic body image. Although the shape of the doll has gone through some minor adjustments, most notably in 1997, when Barbie’s waist was widened, it wasn’t until 2016 that the company introduced a new range of 33 different dolls of varying stature and ethnicity including petite, tall and curvy body types as well as seven different skin tones. This move has been widely acknowledged as a first step towards a more inclusive future of the world’s most famous plastic doll. Also noted has been the brand’s encouragement of female independence through the possibility for girls to pursue the career of their choice – regardless of which gendered connotations are associated with certain career paths. As part of the “You Can Be Anything” collection, the brand sells dolls with all kinds of professions, including, amongst others, Astronaut, Surgeon, Army Officer, Fire-Fighter, Engineer and Presidential Candidate Barbie.
The Barbie perfume collection is released in conjunction with Spanish perfume giant Puig and dates back to 1997, when the sweet floral fragrances Barbie Princess and Barbie Aventura were introduced. More recently the floral fruity Barbie Kiss (2013) was launched. It is presented in a bold green and pink glass bottle with bow tie detail and includes a top note of apple, grape and grapefruit on a floral heart and warm base of sandalwood, amber and musk. Barbie Sweet Peony (2013) was presented in a similar yet less colourful bottle design with a black velvet ribbon. It contains notes of raspberry, lemon, peony, rose, freesia, musk, sandalwood and amber.
Barbie has been a well-established part of popular culture and her iconic status is reflected in countless collaborations with big fashion houses like Diane von Fürstenberg, Moschino, Oscar de la Renta and Karl Lagerfeld as well as an extensive range of special collector’s edition dolls based on famous characters from Film and TV. The doll was immortalized as early as 1985, when pop cultural icon Andy Warhol created a Barbie silk-screen print, a miniature version of which comes as an accessory of Andy Warhol Barbie (2015).