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Barbiecore’s Surprisingly Long Legs

A new teaser for the Margot Robbie-fronted Barbie movie has kicked off more frenzy around the film. It’s also setting up a showdown between two of the hottest TikTok trends of the moment: quiet luxury and Barbiecore.
The second Barbie movie trailer, which is expected to have a big impact on fashion, sent fans into frenzy.
The second Barbie movie trailer, which is expected to have a big impact on fashion, sent fans into frenzy. (Warner Brothers)

This week’s teaser for Greta Gerwig’s much-anticipated Barbie retelling starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling caused a full-blown frenzy.

In the hours after the clip was released, Barbie fashion-related searches doubled, according to Google Trends. On Wednesday, searches for fluffy mules — which Robbie wears in the opening shot — were up 115 percent, while searches for pink fashion rose nearly 80 percent on shopping app Lyst.

It’s not just fashion. Google searches for blonde hair dye tripled overnight after the debut. Minutes after the trailer dropped, Isle of Paradise pushed its tanning drops with a “she’s Barbie and he’s Tan!” email promotion. On TikTok and Instagram, users played with the movie’s cast-reveal posters.

We’re still months away from the film’s premiere but already everyone wants to party with Barbie.

Excitement has followed the film since Gerwig was first attached to the project in 2019, with leaked paparazzi shots of a spandex-clad, rollerblading Robbie and Gosling making headlines in April 2022. At the same time, consumers were increasingly buying into hot pink hues and other hallmarks of #Barbiecore, which has outlived other TikTok aesthetics like #darkacademia and #cottagecore. High fashion also gave the trend a boost. The hot pink that dominated Valentino’s Autumn/Winter 2022 collection dotted red carpets throughout 2022, and last fall, retailers like Intermix rolled out hot pink product edits.

Quiet luxury may be winter’s hottest trend, but the industry could be poised for a Barbie-fuelled maximalist takeover come spring. Pink product arrivals across US retailers are up 30 percent in the first quarter of this year from the fourth quarter of 2022, which was already at a peak, according to Edited data. And the hype surrounding the movie — featuring an extensive, star-studded cast including Dua Lipa, Issa Rae, Will Ferrell, Simu Liu, Hari Nef, Kate McKinnon, Michael Cera and Alexandra Shipp — is only going to grow as the July release date approaches.

The Barbie resurgence may appear to have spontaneously sprung out of TikTok (with help from Nicki Minaj), but Mattel, the toy’s parent company, has been trying to make it happen for a decade. The stick-thin blonde doll’s star faded in the 2000s, as newer, modern-looking dolls with big personalities, like Bratz, flooded the market. In 2014, Barbie sales were at the lowest level in 25 years. Mattel started taking steps to elevate Barbie’s place in the cultural conversation. It unveiled curvier versions of the Barbie doll in 2016 and has teamed up with a slew of fashion labels including Moschino, Vera Wang, Karl Lagerfeld, Kith, Tommy Hilfiger and Balmain, which debuted a 70-piece Barbie Balmain collection last year.

While for some the doll is an OG fashion icon, her new, more feminist twist represents an opportunity for redemption for those with whom Barbie never resonated.

“Barbie didn’t look relevant. She lost her connection with her consumer, whether that be little girls or adults. She wasn’t a reflection of what was happening in culture,” said Richard Dickson, who led the Barbie brand turnaround as Mattel’s president and chief operating officer.

The movie will serve as new Barbie’s official coming out party. The fashion in the film, curated by “Little Women” costume designer Jacqueline Durran, will be bold and meticulous, Dickson said. While the teaser featured a plethora of pink, it also included other styles like floral and gingham prints, striped sets, nostalgic gymwear and sparkly silver dresses. Dickson told BoF that fashion will play a big role in the film’s narrative — the details of which have yet to be shared. (No official fashion tie-in partners have been named yet, either.)

Barbiecore is still popular in part because Barbie provides a blank canvas for anyone to experiment with and project on, said Kristina Chiappetta, executive strategy director at Landor & Fitch. For consumers that grew up with Barbie, the doll is ingrained as a gateway to imagination and experimentation, which translates well to fashion, especially on social media.

“Barbiecore is so timeless and lasting because it’s inviting everyone to embrace that part of themselves that is loud and different and unafraid to stand out,” Chiappetta said. “It’s a visual breath of fresh air.”

Brands from Shein to Versace are playing into consumers’ desire for bold, fun colours, cuts and prints as retailers are weighing how far they should push Barbiecore.

At the same time, “Succession,” which also uses clothing as an important storytelling device, has made headlines for its characters’ proclivity for muted, ultra-expensive labels like Loro Piana. The show has helped popularise the idea of “stealth wealth” style, which comes in the form of pricey staples like cashmere sweaters and button-downs from brands like The Row and Brunello Cucinelli that are only recognised by those in the know. Lately, more mass players like Banana Republic and Vince are leaning into the look.

“[Quiet luxury] is a mirror to the current economic climate,” Heather Kaminetsky, the North American president at Mytheresa, told BoF. “There are times in the world where everything’s great and people want to show off, but right now, everyone’s a little bit uncertain.”

Mattel’s Dickson has a different perspective.

“The world needs us, they need more fun and levity,” he said. “Barbie represents the potential for that.”

THE NEWS IN BRIEF

FASHION, BUSINESS AND THE ECONOMY

The Hermès logo outside one of the brand's stores.

Hermes surfs luxury boom to €200 billion market value. Hermes International, the maker of the iconic Birkin handbag, soared past €200 billion ($218 billion) in market value for the first time ever this week, surpassing Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG.

Levi’s tumbles on restructuring charge, gross margin miss. After implementing a restructuring change in October, Levi Strauss & Co.’s first-quarter gross margin dipped below previously reported figures.

Moscow approves sale of Inditex’s Russian business to UAE-based buyer. The Russian government on Wednesday said it had approved a deal for Zara’s parent company, to sell its Russian business to a UAE-based buyer, with some of its former stores to reopen under new branding in April and May.

Fanatics buys Italian sports merchandiser, adds Serie A clubs. Epi, which is closely held by management and Quadrivio Group’s Industry 4.0 private equity fund, generated more than $50 million in sales in 2022, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Hong Kong’s Fung Group weighs retail unit IPO in Singapore. Fung Group is exploring an initial public offering in Singapore for its retail brands unit that could value the business at about $500 million.

Audemars Piguet to guarantee $55,000 watches against theft in industry first. Audemars Piguet, the Swiss luxury watch brand best known for the highly sought-after Royal Oak, will offer to replace clients’ stolen watches as part of a new service program created in response to a surge in watch-related crime.

Dolce & Gabbana to open luxury condos and a hotel. The Italian brand is partnering with real estate developers to build branded residential apartments in Miami and Marbella, as well as a hotel in the Maldives.

Crocs extends its partnership with Salehe Bembury. The designer will join the brand as creative director of the Crocs X Pollex Pod collection. The pair first collaborated in 2021, later partnering again to release seven different colours for the Pollex Pod collection in 2022.

Indonesia cracks down on used clothing imports. Government officials last week destroyed $5.3 million worth of illegally imported used clothing in a bid to safeguard the domestic textile, apparel and footwear industries.

Walmart sees more than 2,000 job cuts in e-commerce warehouses. The layoffs include more than 1,000 roles at a warehouse in Fort Worth, Texas, along with 600 jobs at a Pennsylvania fulfilment centre, 400 in Florida and 200 in New Jersey.

Hundreds of firefighters tackle blaze in huge Bangladesh clothing market. No casualties from the Tuesday morning blaze have been reported yet. Shop owners and fire officials told reporters that the Bongo Bazar market in Dhaka and three adjacent commercial precincts had been almost completely gutted.

Nigeria’s homecoming festival partners with Nike and Stüssy. The annual event celebrating streetwear, music and art in Lagos will collaborate with international brands on dedicated capsule collections and merch for this year’s edition, which is set to kick off on Apr. 7.

Walmart maps out plan to boost market share, improve efficiency. Walmart Inc.’s top executives predicted new market-share gains and showcased improvements in the retailer’s supply chain during two days of meetings, store visits and warehouse tours with financial analysts.

THE BUSINESS OF BEAUTY

Interior of an Aesop store with products lining the stone and wood shelving.

L’Oréal to acquire Aesop. Beauty giant L’Oréal is buying Aesop in a deal that values the brand at $2.5 billion, the largest-ever acquisition for the French conglomerate.

Revlon cleared to exit bankruptcy with $2.7 Billion on debt reduction deal. A US judge on Monday approved Revlon Inc’s reorganisation plan, allowing the cosmetics maker to cut $2.7 billion from its debt and exit bankruptcy later this month.

Beiersdorf raises 2023 sales outlook. Nivea maker Beiersdorf raised its full-year sales guidance on Wednesday, as it reported a 12.2 percent hike in preliminary organic group sales in the first quarter, driven by its consumer business unit.

P&G unwinds ‘precision’ makeup brand Opte four years after launch. Procter & Gamble Co. is phasing out Opte, an inkjet wand that allowed for targeted makeup application, after touting it to investors and analysts for several years.

PEOPLE

Michael Roberts.

Former Vanity Fair editor Michael Roberts dies. Michael Roberts, former fashion and style director at Vanity Fair, has died at his home in Sicily, Italy. He was 75.

Rachel Tashjian joins The Washington Post. On Thursday, the newspaper announced that the Harper’s Bazaar fashion news director would join its Style section as a fashion writer.

Bernard Arnault’s fortune soars past $200 billion for the first time. The French tycoon behind luxury-goods powerhouse LVMH saw his fortune increase by $2.4 billion on Tuesday to $201.1 billion, a record high, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

MEDIA AND TECHNOLOGY

An IPhone displaying app icons, with the TikTok and Instagram app icons in focus in the centre of the image. Headphones lie to the left of the phone.

ByteDance matches Tencent’s $80 billion sales after TikTok boom. ByteDance Ltd.’s revenue surged more than 30 percent to surpass $80 billion in 2022, matching the tally at archrival Tencent Holdings Ltd. after twin video platforms TikTok and Douyin drew eyeballs and advertisers from social media incumbents.

Compiled by Sarah Elson.

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