Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling’s Barbie releases on Friday. But for the past few weeks, it’s been Barbie’s world: from Barbie clothes to Barbie-themed mansions.
It’s all about Barbiecore
Barbiecore is back and stronger than ever. Pink everywhere last year, following Valentino designer Pierpaolo Picciolisending the hot hue down the catwalk in March 2022. It captured the zeitgeist, as consumers were freed from pandemic restrictions and tossed offtheirloungewear. “Dopamine dressing” —getting outfitted to feel as well as look good —took hold.
The economy darkened since, and the mood has shifted. Prints have become quieter and the silhouette has morphed from midi-dresses to more figure-hugging styles. Well-cut classics, quality basics and muted colors are in demand for men and women. Think cashmere rather than Barbie’s beau Ken.
All pink everything
But with the frenzy around the movie, consumers are rediscovering their love of bright colours, as well as the prints that costume designer Jacqueline Durran has chosen to dress Barbie in. Add in the fact that many of Barbie and Ken’s outfits hark back to the ‘80s and ‘90s, the latter era refusing to enter the fashion graveyard, and the Barbiecore hashtag has racked up over 500 million views on TikTok.
Barbie trend on social media
Searches including the term Barbie are up 271 percent in the past two months compared with the preceding period on the Lyst fashion platform. Searches for “gingham pieces” have increased 72 percent.
It helps that the movie’s release and the pre-launch marketing blitz have coincided with the onset of summer, when many people are thinking about their vacation wardrobes. A bout of warm weather on both sides of the Atlantic has encouraged consumers to shopfor summer staples.And what better to hit the beach in than a retro pink two-piece?
Barbie tops to mansion
For Barbie-maker Mattel Inc., there is much riding on the movie —primarily reviving sales of Barbie dolls and accessories.Demand for all toysboomed during the pandemic, but the industry cooled as lockdown rules were lifted and inflation and economic malaise set in.But how well the movie does matters more broadly to the consumer sector.Mattel has struck partnership deals with more than 100 companies.
You can buy Barbie clothing and accessories at retailers including Gap Inc. and Associated British Foods Plc’s Primark, the discount retailer that is expanding across the US, and you can find Barbie cosmetics at L’Oreal SA’s mass market NYX. There are Barbie dog coats, rugs and roller skates. In a special promotion, you can book a stay in Barbie’s Malibu DreamHouse, a multi-colored mansion, on Airbnb Inc. And Birkenstock gets in on the act too, with a cameo in the movie.
Aldo Group Inc.’s shoe collection is the most wanted Barbie collaboration right now, according to Lyst. Given that the Barbie bandwagon —or rather, the pink Chevrolet convertible —has been rolling into town since photos of Robbie and Gosling rollerblading on Venice Beach were leaked a year ago, it’s not surprising that companies want to get on board.
Quirky collaborations, such as with Crocs, whose own aesthetic blends well with Barbie’s, create a buzz. But there is a multiplier effect from Mattel and Warner Bros Discovery Inc.’s huge marketing effort. That means more bang for your Barbie buck.
As companies try to navigate the culture wars, the movie has struck a sweet spot too.
Barbie embraces diversity
There is something wholesome and nostalgic to Barbie, yet the feminist retelling makes her more relevant to today’s audiences. In her world, Barbie characters are presidents, doctors and lawyers. Ryan Gosling’s Ken, who still clings to dated gender norms, is relegated to the supporting role, flipping the usual Hollywood dynamic on its head.
The movie embraces diversity too, with Barbies of different skin colours and body shapes, as well as a transgender Barbie, reflecting the doll’s own evolution.
Yet Barbie and Ken are still archetypal male and female characters. So the movie is pushing boundaries but not too much to make brands uncomfortable, particularly in the wake of backlashes against Anheuser Busch InBev SA’s Bud Light over its collaboration with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney and Target Corp. over its Pride Collection.
The products themselves bring excitement to retailers’ ranges. They’re a way to draw fans wanting a gingham pajama set or logoed bucket hat to stores or websites. While they are caught up in the movie-mania, they just might put a regular item in their basket too.
Special ranges are usually limited edition. And that’s a good thing, because while the aesthetic reigns supreme right now, this might be Barbiecore’s last hurrah.
Hot or “hyper” pinkhas already peaked, according to trend forecaster WGSN. Retailers have increased bright pink products this summer by 1 percentage point, compared with last year, it says. But more of these are being, with only 9% going out-of-stock at full price, below the clothing average of 13 percent.
While US inflation cooled sharply last month, offering fresh hope that the Federal Reserve can wrap up interest-rate hikes andavoida recession, borrowing costs are set to remain elevated in Europe. The UK faces a mortgage time bomb.
That’s hardly the environment to see shoppers splashing out on exuberant fashions. Sober styles still look more in line with the consumer mood.
But for the next few weeks, it will be Barbie’s world and we will all be living in it.