Malibu Barbie gets a makeover from L.A. designer Trina Turk

Los Angeles Times Fashion Critic

With her beach blond hair, cheeky tan lines and chic shades, Malibu Barbie has been a style icon for many a young girl, including this one. Now, more than 40 years after she first hit the pop culture wave, Malibu Barbie is getting a makeover, from Los Angeles designer Trina Turk. And this time, she’s wearing a bikini!

Starting today, the Malibu Barbie by Trina Turk doll ($50) and collection will be available at Trina Turk stores, and The mythical Malibu icon is the perfect canvas for Turk’s cheerful 1960s and ‘70s-inspired SoCal aesthetic.

Turk dresses the doll in a printed bandeau bikini and hexagon white lace cover-up and accessorizes her head-to-toe with a beach tote, pink shades, short-shorts, a peasant blouse, floppy sun hat and white wedge sandals. She’s even got a chunky cocktail ring, pink cuff bracelet and a bottle of sunscreen. To add to the fun, Turk’s June 2013 fashion collection, titled “Malibu Summer,” features the same items for women, so life-size Barbies can dress like their miniature muses.


PHOTOS: Barbie fashion through the years

Turk admits to being a Barbie fan as a kid, when her mother, a seamstress, would make clothes for her collection of dolls. But the idea of working with Barbie actually came out of a visit last year to the L.A. County Museum of Art’s exhibition, “California Design, 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way.” “We were working on our summer 2013 collection, and had been to the exhibition,” Turk said. “Mattel was a sponsor, and Barbie and her 1960 Dream House were featured. I had never thought of Barbie in terms of architecture, which is one of my hobbies, but I was looking at the house made of slotted cardboard, and realized that Barbie is actually a modernist. It gave me the idea to use Barbie as inspiration for my collection.”

Turk contacted Mattel for permission and representatives at the El Segundo-based company offered her one better — the opportunity to design her own doll for the Barbie Collector series, which has tapped more than 150 fashion, beauty and design collaborators over the years. “We decided on Malibu Barbie, who was born in the early 1970s, and hadn’t had a refresh,” Turk said. “Her look was pretty conservative — she wore a high neck swimsuit in a pale aqua color — even though I always think of the 1970s as bikini time. But the archivists at Mattel told us Malibu Barbie came out during a recession, and that her designers didn’t want her to look too ostentatious. So we decided to update her.”

Malibu Barbie’s original platinum blond hair now has streaky, John Frieda-esque highlights, and her ultra-long, free love blunt cut is more layered. She’s not as tan as she was in 1971 and comes with a bottle of sunblock “because now we know more about skin cancer,” Turk said. And in keeping with our shoe-crazed culture, she has a pair of totally impractical beach sandals -- white patent criss-cross slides with scooped-out wood platform heels, inspired by a vintage 1970s pair from Turk’s own collection. “It was amazing to see them come back to us in miniature size,” Turk said. “There was a lot of squealing in the office.”

Turk has also designed several summer lifestyle products, including SIGG water bottles ($30), beach towels emblazoned with an image of Barbie that’s a re-creation of a vintage illustration ($30), surfboards ($1,092) and stand-up paddle boards ($1755) that can be ordered from

For me, it was an amazing project to work on because there was so much synergy,” Turk said. “Sure, I’m not an amazingly-proportioned tanned person with long streaky blond hair, but our Southern California roots are what we have in common.”


Trina Turk has a lock on the Palm Springs look

New York Fashion Week Fall 2013: Trina Turk review

Barbie, moving from Malibu, gets help from Mario Lopez