Barbie celebrated her 60th birthday earlier this year, but that doesn’t mean the original Material Girl is slowing down soon.
Earlier this month, El Segundo-based Mattel Inc., which makes the beloved doll, invited an intimate group of fans, celebrities and social media influencers to partake in Barbie’s latest venture. For the Barbie Truck Totally Throwback Tour, Barbie swapped her pink Corvette convertible for a van, which will travel the West Coast through the spring.
It’s loaded with limited-edition merchandise such as distressed denim jackets, pins, badges and cookies. After an unveiling at the Grove in Los Angeles in early November, the 1990s-themed bubblegum-pink truck will be on the road for three years traveling from state to state.
The tour items on sale, which carry a distinct vibe from the late 1980s and early 1990s, appear to be marketed to women in their 20s and early 30s. Several were in attendance at the Grove event.
That’s where they posed in a life-size Barbie box; received Barbie and Ken-themed manicures; nibbled on Barbie-printed Ladurée macarons; and selected a Barbie patch to be embroidered on a denim baseball cap.
Among the Barbie fans at the Grove was 29-year-old Chrissa Sparkles, an L.A. fashion designer and influencer, who waited in line to have an airbrush artist customize her Barbie logo jacket with pink hearts and twinkles.
“I just love how Barbie embraces everything that is feminine, and she can do absolutely anything that she wants,” she said. “And I feel like that’s a role model that I’ve always had and always aspired to be. ... And I mean, she just looks amazing. She just ages so well.”
The Barbie truck will have its next stop at Irvine Spectrum Center in Orange County on Saturday. The tour appears to be the latest sign that Mattel is looking to cater to its adult fans, particularly fans who played with Barbies in the 1980s and 1990s — at a time when the doll’s sales were at their peak.
Those forever Barbie fans are also being targeted on social media and with high-end, licensed products. Five years ago, there was the launch of the @BarbieStyle Instagram account. The mildly tongue-in-cheek project portrays the doll as a social media influencer and has featured cameos from fashion-world figures such as model Gigi Hadid, designer Jeremy Scott and British Vogue Editor Edward Enninful. (Of course those guests were in doll form.)
The @BarbieStyle Instagram account has further cemented the doll’s aspirational status among millennials. The account now boasts 2.1 million followers compared with the younger-focused @Barbie account, which has 1.5 million followers.
For 27-year-old Chelsie Hill, an influencer and disability activist, there is a poignant reason for the doll’s ongoing appeal.
Hill, who uses a wheelchair, told The Times, “I love Barbie, especially now because [Mattel is] being so diverse, and their big thing right now is including people with disabilities.”
In June, Mattel launched a doll with a prosthetic leg and another that comes with a wheelchair. Both are part of the Barbie Fashionistas line and have been featured on the high fashion-focused @BarbieStyle Instagram account.
Although most of the products in the Barbie truck are aimed at adults, Barbie hasn’t forsaken her core audience. (Prices for items range from $16 for a holographic cosmetics pouch to $70 for a denim jacket.) There is also merchandise suited for younger fans, including a Barbie logo necklace ($15) and a pin set ($26).
Six-year-old Kaui Yip, who, together with her brother, Kingston, has amassed more than 20,000 followers on Instagram, is a Barbie fan. She said the fashion toy now fights for her attention. She’s also into her L.O.L Surprise dolls and her iPad.
Despite technology advancements and newer rival dolls, there’s one area where Barbie is ahead of the competition: her wardrobe. “I like that they have a lot of accessories,” Yip said.
When: Saturday in Irvine and Dec. 7 in San Diego (Visit website for future dates)