Barbie dolls are no strangers to fashion collaborations. Since 1959,
the doll has been dressed by numerous fashion brands and designers
creating limited editions that appeal to collectors worldwide.
Balmain, Moschino, Vera Wang, Diane von Furstenberg, Oscar de la Renta
and many others have had the privilege to dress this iconic character.
The Karl Lagerfeld Barbie launched in 2014, for example, sold out
immediately, and collectors can now only find her on sites like Ebay
where the price exceeds 7,000 dollars.
Although these collaborations have usually involved international
brands, in 2022 the Mattel brand decided to bet on a different type of
collaboration to honour Day of the Dead reaching out to a Mexican
designer. Would it be just as successful?
Co-branding strategies have grown stronger throughout the years.
According to a study from Visual Objects, 71 percent of consumers
enjoy co-branding partnerships. This is because these launches provide
new product options, original creations, and products that solve
unique problems or add value to their already loved products. Looking
at this strategy from a brand’s perspective, a study by Partnerize
showed that 54 percent of companies say partnerships drive more than
20 percent of total company revenue.
Co-branding and partnership strategies are even more appealing to
younger generations. According to a survey by Statista in 2018, 67
percent of Generation Z respondents stated that they had purchased
luxury items from collaborations. Meanwhile, 60 percent of millennials
and 40 percent of Gen X also bought products from collaborations,
particularly by fashion brands.
Culture, fashion and business success
The Day of the Dead Barbie isn’t new. In 2019 Mattel launched their
first Barbie doll dedicated to honour Día de los Muertos (Day of the
Dead), although the launch was tainted by criticism about cultural
appropriation and using an old tradition for profit.
The Day of the Dead is an ancient belief that the barrier between the
world of the dead and the world of the living is open for just one
day, allowing the dead to visit their loved ones. This holiday honours
those who have departed by celebrating their lives.
The 2019 Day of the Dead Barbie was designed by Javier Meabe, Barbie
Signature designer, who wanted to portray his Mexican heritage on the
doll, as well as his memories celebrating this holiday during his
childhood years living in Mexico. He even said during an interview for
The New York Times at the time that the doll’s dress was inspired by a
dress his mother used to wear.
There were new versions of the Barbie Signature Día De Muertos
Collection in 2020 and 2021 designed by Meabe, who used customs,
symbols, and rituals as inspiration to represent this tradition.
However, in 2022 the brand decided to shift its strategy. Instead,
they invited a Mexican fashion designer to work with them for the
first time. Benito Santos was the first Mexican fashion designer
Barbie collaborated with on a Dia de Muertos doll.
In 2022 there were three special edition dolls, two designed by Meabe
and one by Santos. The Benito Santos x Barbie doll sold out in only
four minutes. The doll wore a bespoke black dress featuring white and
crimson embroidered details, inspired by traditional charro outfits.
The designer who created the iconic red dress actress Ximena Navarrete
wore when she won Miss Universe in 2010, now dressed Barbie with a
skirt that showcased a dramatic mermaid hemline and a cropped bolero
“Working with Benito Santos was a highly collaborative experience.
What I loved the most about this collaboration was being able to bring
Benito’s vision to life in a new way. He shared trend boards so we
could understand what themes he was eager to convey and then we worked
together to bring his creative vision to a Barbie scale,” said Meabe.
“It was a passion project from both Benito’s team and the Barbie team.
I’m thrilled to welcome Benito to the Barbie brand and share his
vision of what it means to him to celebrate Día De Muertos with
The Benito Santos x Barbie doll wears black, red and white attire. Her
white shirt has bright red buttons and a red bow. The layered
mermaid-shaped skirt and fitted jacket are adorned in red roses
embroidered with white leaves. The elegant design is combined with
silver and red jewellery, as well as a red rose headdress.
Not only did this Barbie doll represent Mexican culture through her
attire and make up, but also showcased the mariachi tradition that
came from the designer’s hometown. This way the brand managed to steer
away from cultural appropriation comments, while also having a
successful launch through a new fashion collaboration.
This article was previously published on FashionUnited.mx
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