NYFW: Barbies take over the runway


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NEW YORK -- Impossibly thin, gazelle-legged models are everywhere during fashion week. But on Saturday, these real-life dolls took to the runway in honor of their spiritual queen. Barbie celebrates her 50th birthday on March 9, but she doesn’t look a day over 22.

The show, a clever marketing coup orchestrated by Mattel, charged 50 designers with creating outfits for Miss Plastic Fantastic, though, in truth, during her lifetime she’s had many more. The spectacle packed in the people, young and old (they easily could have charged admission). The lobby of the Bryant Park tents was scarily crowded with pushy parents and little girls with visions of 18-inch waists in their heads.


Among those who made it inside were designers Bob Mackie, Diane Von Furstenberg and Peter Som; pink-haired Tarina Tarantino, who has a Barbie collection of jewelry; Barneys New York creative director Simon Doonan and his interior-designer partner, Jonathan Adler; and photog Annie Leibovitz with her two daughters.

I couldn’t decide if the opening-song choice of Courtney Love’s ‘Doll Parts’ was spooky or brilliant. The show was loosely organized into three sections --retro, modern and future Barbie. The first real-life doll was an homage to the original, which debuted at the New York Toy Fair wearing a black-and-white zigzag swimsuit, remastered here by designer Rachel Roy. With her blond pony tail swinging, she stepped her pink peep-toe shoe onto the glittering runway. Not every lassie was blond and white, but they all wore cat-eye sunglasses or cat eyeliner. Purrrrrrr.

The show read like the greatest hits from the spring season, with many designers contributing pieces from their spring collections. Nicole Miller’s was 1960s-inspired, a black-and-white checkerboard dress worn with white tights with red hearts. The modern-day section had Barbie in a Tory Burch tunic and jeans and a DVF wrap dress, dragging a rolling suitcase behind her.

Futuristic Barbie was hit or miss. The shimmering gold Mackie gown and feather headdress was thrilling, especially since, next to Cher, Barbie may be the designer’s all-time-best client. But the plasticky turbans and see-through capes (which looked as though they could have been cut from garment bags) were puzzling.

Ken made only a brief appearance (wearing Kenneth Cole, natch), but he did leave a Valentine’s Day card for each guest, tied with a bow around ‘Debut’ Barbie, a replica of the 1959 original created for the event.

As I soaked it all in, it occurred to me that the single most important American contribution to fashion isn’t anything that was cut and sewn on Seventh Avenue. It’s Barbie. Who else has had the power to stoke creativity in everyone from Andy Warhol to Jeremy Scott? Not to mention her role in propagating the unattainable ideal of youth and beauty. Where would we be without it? I can’t even imagine.

--Booth Moore


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