Launched by American toy giant Mattel Inc. in 1959, Barbie is certainly the world’s most famous doll. Over a billion Barbie dolls have been sold around the world over the decades. The phenomenal popularity of Barbie has also resulted in multiple fashion collaborations that have only gone on to cement the doll’s status as a defining cultural icon.
Indeed, Barbie is known for keeping pace with changing fashion trends as well as societal perceptions. In recent years, Barbie, through Mattel, has become even more committed to promoting equality, inclusion and diversity. This has resulted in Barbie becoming an ideal role model for many.
Barbie’s imprint on society has also led to her being featured in films, television shows and books. The most recent is the Barbie movie, starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as Barbie and Ken, respectively. Directed by Greta Gerwig, the film about the doll depicts Barbie’s world of toys where everyone is either a version of Barbie or Ken and how Robbie’s Barbie adjusts to the real world.
From a functional point-of-view, Barbie is known for its adaptability, which helps its owners dress the doll up in a wide range of outfits and accessories as well as present her in any kind of avatar — from doctor to lawyer and fashion designer to pilot.
Perhaps this is why many designers have credited Barbie as having inspired their love for design. No wonder notable names, such as Christian Dior and Diane von Fürstenberg, as well as famous brands partnered with Mattel on some of the renowned Barbie collections of all time.
Here are the most well-known Barbie fashion collaborations so far
Gap and Barbie
In July 2023, Gap announced a new partnership with Mattel Inc. for a limited-edition apparel collaboration around the Barbie doll.
The brand said that tees, skirts, logo hoodies, denim and button-downs will be part of the Gap x Barbie collection. All products will be designed by Gap and feature both the classic Barbie branding and Gap’s signature arch typeface.
Years ago, in 1995, Gap and Barbie had come together to create a red Gap logo fit for the doll. The collaboration was followed by “Barbie in Khakis” in 1996 and the “Barbie and Kelly in Denim” collection in 1997.
On 5 May 2022, Mattel released a special Barbie doll in the likeness of fashion legend Vera Wang as part of the doll maker’s Tribute Collection.
Mattel said in a statement that the Vera Wang Barbie doll celebrates “Asian-American and Pacific Islander women and role models to inspire a more inclusive world for the next generation.”
The American toy manufacturer noted that Wang, who was born to Chinese immigrants, “has cemented her place as a beacon of creativity, with a lasting impact on fashion for generations to come.”
The doll had straight and long black hair like the fashion icon and was dressed in a black romper under a chiffon dress with puff sleeves. The look was a version of Wang’s Spring 2017 runway collection. The doll was priced at USD 40.
Balmain and Barbie launched a limited-edition collection, including clothing, accessories and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), on 13 January 2022. The collection was designed by Balmain’s creative director Olivier Rousteing.
In all, the collection featured 70 items in various shades of pink and was priced between EUR 195 (around USD 208) to EUR 29,990 (around USD 32,063). Among the items were Balmain’s iconic Labyrinth and marinière patterns featured on the dolls. Tees, hoodies and badges as well as a Barbie doll designed to look like Rousteing were also part of the collection.
The NFTs marked Barbie’s debut in the digital art space. There were three tokens, showing Barbie and Ken, in Balmain designs. Each NFT came with a set of bespoke Barbie-sized Balmain pieces.
Zara X Barbie collection
In April 2021, Zara partnered with Mattel for a Barbie capsule collection featuring nine ready-to-wear athleisure pieces. The collection drew inspiration from the style of the 1990s.
A campaign starring models Adit Priscilla and Evie Harris was launched, with fashion photographer Marili Andre capturing them in swimming suits, shorts, T-shirts, cropped hoodies, bodysuits, track pants and other items from the collection. The colour chosen for the wearables was the pastel pink Barbie is known for. They were almost immediately made available in stores and online. They cost somewhere between EUR 13 (around USD 14) and EUR 26 (around USD 28).
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Two limited-edition Barbie dolls, marked with the words “Zara Barbie 1959,” were also part of the association. They were dressed in sportswear and priced at EUR 34.95 (around USD 37) each, with the profit from their sales set to go to the Spanish non-profit group, Entreculturas.
Streetwear brand KITH Women and Mattel came together to celebrate Barbie’s 60th anniversary with a special capsule collection featuring co-branded pink-and-black varsity jackets, hoodies, caps, sweats and printed tees.
But the highlight of the association, launched in September 2019, was a styling contest in which fans were allowed to visit the Arsham/Fieg gallery at KITH Soho and customise any of the four unique Barbie dolls using 80 bespoke apparel and accessory pieces from the KITH Women line.
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The winning design, which was announced as the official KITH Women Barbie doll, was released to the public in December 2021. Alongside it, the fashion brand also released a custom Kith and Barbie patch-branded Golden Bear Varsity Jacket, a Gothic Kith-branded Jane Hoodie and Chelsea II set co-branded Dad caps, and other special branded accessories.
On 6 December 2018, Puma released a limited-edition Barbie doll to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the iconic Suede shoe by the renowned German sportswear brand.
On the occasion, Puma launched a special sneaker alongside apparel and accessories as part of a collection inspired by Barbie.
Two Puma Barbie dolls wearing athleisure from the 1990s were also unveiled with the collection. While one of them had blonde hair and wore a hot pink Barbie x Puma tank top under an oversized white track jacket, the other had brown hair in braided pigtails and wore a co-branded black-and-pink tank top under a large hot pink track jacket. Both had their own dual-branded Suede sneakers and Puma-branded leggings.
Tommy x Gigi with Barbie
American supermodel Gigi Hadid had a Barbie doll in her likeness launched on 8 February 2017 as part of a celebration of her second capsule collection with American fashion brand Tommy Hilfiger.
The Gigi Hadid Barbie doll was accompanied by a second Barbie doll that looked more like any other Barbie with her blunt bangs. Both dolls were dressed in Tommy Jeans t-shirts, cutoff shorts, sunglasses, black roller skates and high socks.
The doll was particularly praised for its close likeness to the supermodel, with wavy hair, almond-shaped eyes and a pout. The doll also had a backpack.
A new version of the doll, complete with a navy flag hoodie and sneakers that Hadid wore on the runway for her Tommy Hilfiger fall 2016 collection was released to the public in December at a reported retail price of USD 50.
Jeremy Scott, the creative director of Moschino from 2013 to 2023, showcased a Barbie-inspired collection for the Italian fashion brand’s spring 2015 runway show held in September 2014.
Following the success of the collection, Moschino launched the Moschino Barbie capsule collection on 9 November 2015 in collaboration with Net-a-Porter.
The limited collection featured eight pieces, ranging from USD 225 to USD 1,595. Among the items were miniature looks of Barbie dolls as well as faux leather bomber jackets, mesh knitwear, mini-quilted crossbody bag and gold jewellery. Two Moschino Barbie tees were also part of the collection.
The items were the same that were showcased at the fashion show.
One of the most famous collections that Barbie had was with the German fashion great Karl Lagerfeld, who passed away in 2019.
The doll was part of the Barbie Collector series and was designed by Mattel’s Robert Best. The doll was essentially Barbie dressed in the signature style of Lagerfeld. As such, the doll featured a black jacket over a white shirt with a high collar, dark sunglasses, a white ponytail, a necktie, skinny black jeans, black ankle boots and a miniature quilted Chanel bag.
The doll was released on 29 September 2014, after it had been showcased at the Paris Fashion Week. Priced at USD 200 each, a total of 999 dolls were offered on sale on Net-a-Porter, and all were sold out on the day of the launch. Soon, they started reselling on eBay for as high as USD 3,500.
At least one doll was sold at a Christie’s auction on 9 June 2022 for USD 1,008.
The American leather goods brand designed a Barbie doll in August 2013, giving the Mattel icon a highly fashionable look.
The collector’s edition doll sported pieces from Coach’s spring/summer 2013 collection, including an ultra Suede skirt, striped jumper, red round-framed shades and classic checked Tattersall trench coat with stand-up collar. A genuine leather duffle bag was also created by Coach for the doll.
— Barbie (@Barbie) August 7, 2013
A total of 13,000 dolls were produced, each priced at USD 95. All of them were reportedly sold out in just about seven days.
Diane von Fürstenberg
The Barbie doll created in the likeness of Diane von Fürstenberg was one of the most famous fashion designer collaborations Mattel has had over the years.
The doll featured the Belgian designer’s signature wrap dress in pink and her long dark brown hair. Under its arm was an edition of The New York Times (NYT). The Diane von Fürstenberg Barbie doll held a white handbag in one hand and a large luggage bag in the other, indicating that she was travelling.
The doll was released in 2007.
Mattel created two Barbie dolls depicting Juicy Couture founders, Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor.
Both of them were dressed in Juicy Couture’s signature tracksuits in bright green and hot pink, highlighting the vibrant fashion statements of the early 2000s.
The doll modelled on Skaist-Levy had blonde hair while that of Nash-Taylor had the exact brunette colour of her hair. Mattel even got toy versions of their Chihuahuas, Bob and Tinkerbell, alongside shopping bags and diamonds as part of the dolls.
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“We couldn’t stop laughing when we finally saw them,” Nash-Taylor told NYT.
“We have so much stuff,” Skaist-Levy said, adding, “Ours really should be obsessive-compulsive Barbie and come with a closet just spilling out with Juicy and Hermès and accessories.”
The NYT reported that the dolls were priced at USD 100 each, with their proceeds going to two children’s charities.
(Hero image: Mattel via VERA WANG/@verawanggang/Instagram; Mattel via Barbie/@barbie/Instagram; and Featured image: Mattel via Barbie/@barbie/Instagram)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: The most popular Barbie, as per Guinness Book of World Records, is Totally Hair Barbie, which was released in 1992. It sold over 10 million dolls worldwide.
Answer: Bettina Dorfmann holds the Guinness record for the most extensive collection of Barbie dolls with over 15,000 of them.
Answer: Barbie has had several BFFs over the decades. Chief of them are Margaret 'Midge' Hadley Sherwood, Christie, Nicole 'Nikki' O'Neil-Watkins, and Teresa Rivera.
Answer: Midge is Barbie's first and her oldest friend. As per Barbie's official storyline, Midge and Barbie grew up together in Willows. Barbie was Midge's maid-of-honor at her wedding to Alan in 1991.