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Bring On The Botox: Barbie Hits 50

Sarah Mahoney
MediaPost
January 26, 2009

Mattel's Barbie is ready for her AARP discount, and to celebrate the brand's 50th birthday, Mattel is launching a series of celebrations, including a first-ever runway show for the big-bosomed icon. Festivities also include fashion blowouts in Paris and Shanghai, a partnership with Stila cosmetics, and--for Barbie's grown-up fans--a real-live Malibu dream house.

The El Segundo, Calif.-based toy marketer is kicking off the party at Bloomingdale's New York flagship, with a month-long exhibit including store windows along Third Avenue and a display of 120 historic Barbies. There's also a Barbie boutique, with apparel, accessories and dolls.

That's timed to open with New York's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, with 50 designers--who will be revealed early next month--providing life-sized Barbie looks for the runway. An additional retail exhibit is scheduled for Collette, in Paris, which will include such items as trench coats, dresses and tees in Barbie patterns, plus a mobile phone, luxury jewelry, stationery, candles and cosmetics. And in Shanghai, the company will open its first-ever Barbie store, with six stories and a spa.

On March 9, the doll's actual birthday, there's a birthday bash for the Piscean princess. Organized by event-planner-to-the-stars Colin Cowie, the party will take place in a beachfront Malibu Dream House, decorated by interior designer Jonathan Adler, who also has a line of Barbie-branded home décor items.

Other partnerships include a "Barbie Loves Stila" cosmetic collection and a T3 Barbie Hair Dryer, available at Sephora, and an "all girl candy line" with Dylan's Candy Bar--which will include a pair of chocolate high heels, for those who have always admired Barbie's exceedingly pointy feet. And in July, there's a Barbie convention in Washington, D.C., which has already sold out.

While Barbie may be an icon to many adult women, her appeal to younger girls has been slipping significantly in recent years. In its most recent quarterly results, the company says worldwide gross sales for the Barbie brand fell an additional 1% overall, with "modest domestic growth offset by international declines."

Some of Barbie's dimming fortunes were due to the almost meteoric popularity of the Bratz dolls, a rivalry that has been eliminated by the court ruling last December that MGA Entertainment may no longer manufacture, sell, advertise or license its core lineup of Bratz dolls or any other product with the Bratz name.

But like many mid-life celebrities, there's a tell-all on the horizon: The MGA Web site steers viewers to a teaser at Amazon, promoting Toy Monster: The Big, Bad World of Mattel, by Jerry Oppenheimer, due next month from Wiley. The blurbs include a tantalizing come-on from Kitty Kelley, queen of the unauthorized bio: "A great crime behind the sweet House of Barbie? Yikes! Terrors in toy land! The scandal. The skullduggery!!! This book is enough to scare Santa Claus.

 

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