What do Fashion Week and Toy Fair have in common? Barbie.
Each year, buyers descend on New York in mid-February. Some have their eyes fixed on the runways of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, looking for fashion's next big trend. Others race around the city from showroom to showroom and all throughout Toy Fair at the Javitz Center, looking at toys of all kinds, trying to find the brands they expect will delight children next holiday season.
Mattel has often looked to be part of the buzz around both events with its iconic fashion doll Barbie, and this year's no different.
The toymaker is kicking off a new advertising campaign for Barbie, "See What Happens When You Play With Barbie," that will try to play up the doll's fashion credentials, and at the heart of the campaign is Barbie's Dream Closet.
Playing off of this idea, the company is hosting an event at the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center during Fashion Week that allows fans to step inside a larger-than-life version of Barbie's closet.
The stats are enough to make space-starved New Yorkers drool with envy. Behind the 24-feet high, pink bejeweled closet door lies 9,000 square feet of closet space and a three-story high shoe rack with 360 pairs of pink-heeled pumps.
Inside the closet there are virtual dressing rooms that allow visitors to try on Barbie's outfits, and at a special VIP event night, six live models will be dressed in Barbie-inspired fashion on loan from the Albright Fashion Library from designers such as Alexander McQueen, Oscar de la Renta and Chloe.
And for Barbie fans who can't make the event, Mattel has launched a digital Dream Closet on itsBarbieWowwebsite. There, via webcam, fans can dress up in their favorite Barbie duds.
Mattel says this is only a taste of what's to come this year for Barbie. The company is rolling out a clothing line and will be teasing its launch with an outfit that is available for purchase through the BarbieWow site.
Several toys in the Barbie line that are being shown at Toy Fair also tie into the fashion theme. There is the obvious: a Dream Closet playset and an app. Also, Barbie's "I Can Be..."toy line has Barbie taking on her latest career, a fashion designer, and children can try out their own fashion designs with the Design & Dress Studio.
There's also a new twist on Barbie's video cam doll. This time around the camera takes digital photos that are displayed on Barbie's chest. The idea is to give girls a chance to customize the doll's T-shirt, but knowing the criticism the video cam doll received, I can already sense the controversy brewing here.
But Barbie's no stranger to criticism, and she doesn't look worse for wear. In the latest quarter, Barbie sales were up 6 percent. Still, Mattel is suffering weak sales in the U.S. and it will no doubt be leaning more on Barbie's plastic shoulders to keep its business humming along.