Global retailers are cashing in on Friday’s Barbie film release, reigniting the craze for the plastic doll and her hot pink, sequin-adorned universe. Fashion and footwear brands from Zara to Primark/Penneys and Gap have launched Barbie collections, while hotel chains, including Hilton and Hyatt Hotels, have Barbie-themed room suites.
While the movie is marketed as a family film, it also appeals to adults who grew up with the dolls and had nostalgia for them. With many consumers spending less amid a cost of living squeeze, retailers are jumping at the opportunity to persuade shoppers to spend more on Barbie merchandise and boost their revenues. Hoop earrings, perfume, jumpsuits, and dresses are among the items being snapped up by shoppers.
Mattel, the maker of the Barbie brand, has been reinvigorating its reputation and reshaping its identity in response to consumer concerns about the doll’s formative image. The company’s new campaign has emphasized diversity and inclusivity in its dolls, which now come in multiple skin tones and include versions with wheelchairs and prosthetic legs.
The Barbie film is expected to be a hit, bolstered by the fact that it features a diverse cast and a more positive portrayal of the doll than its predecessors. The movie’s trailers have evoked a sense of optimism and a desire to change the world for the better, echoing Mattel’s longstanding mission to encourage girls to achieve their dreams.
The movie has already inspired a resurgence in the Barbie brand, with millennials and Gen Z shoppers snapping up products branded with the pink and fuchsia colors of the film’s promos and merch. The phenomenon has been dubbed “Barbiecore” by Vogue magazine, with celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Lizzo embracing the aesthetic with pink hair and matching accessories. Independent businesses are also tapping into the Barbie mania. For example, the 1928 Cuban Bistro in Neptune Beach, Florida, offers customers who wear their best Barbie- or Ken-inspired apparel a free mini guava pastry.
Even prominent designers are getting in on the action, with Valentino, Chanel, and Balenciaga creating a range of Barbie-inspired clothing. At the same time, more traditional retail chains like Macy’s have been offering Barbie-themed collections in stores and online. For instance, the department store has a Barbie x Aqua line in nine stores and on its website, including clothes, shoes, and handbags.
Barbie’s rise in popularity is partly due to its enduring cultural significance, which has helped it transcend generations. It is a symbol of beauty, femininity, and ambition, which reflects the aspirations and hopes of many people worldwide.
At the same time, it has a distinctly girlish aesthetic with its tiny waist and perfect brows that have become associated with an ideal of perfection that is both aspirational and unattainable. That paradox is reflected in the movie’s plot, which has been kept under wraps. However, the director of the movie, Greta Gerwig, known for her female-empowering films, has promised to address it in a way that will affirm Mattel’s core values of inclusivity and diversity.