Barbiecore Painted Asia Pink this Summer – But is it Here to Stay?

Barbiecore Painted Asia Pink this Summer – But is it Here to Stay?

Barbiecore has been prevalent across runways, new collections and social media across the globe lately – so how does it fare in Asia?

The sizzling heat of summer this year found its match in the hottest, boldest, and most unapologetic shade of pink. This hue became the epicenter of a fashion phenomenon known as Barbiecore, a term coined to pay homage to the iconic Mattel doll. Barbiecore's presence has not only permeated the runways and filled the shelves of stores but has also found favour with a plethora of celebrities who wholeheartedly embraced its ultra-feminine aesthetics.

This trend's global domination received an astonishing validation when Greta Gerwig's Barbie film hit the big screens in July, raking in a staggering US$1.03 billion at the global box office, as reported by official Warner Bros. estimates. This accomplishment also marked Greta Gerwig as the first solo female director to join the elite club of billion-dollar movies, according to CNN. Despite its massive success, the Barbie film faced bans in two Southeast Asian nations, Vietnam and the Philippines. However, this setback did not deter the relentless spread of all things pink across these regions. Barbiecore's undeniable presence remains unshaken, overshadowed only by the rising trend of "quiet luxury," propelled into the spotlight by the HBO hit series, Succession. This quieter, more understated aesthetic may offer an intriguing contrast to the unabashed vibrancy of Barbiecore.

The nostalgia for Barbie among younger generations is just one facet contributing to the inception of this sweeping trend, and there are no indications of it losing momentum. So, how are fashion designers globally, and specifically in Asia, acknowledging and responding to this phenomenon?

The Beginning
Barbie made her debut back in the 1950s when Ruth Handler, an American businesswoman, introduced the first "Barbie" doll to the toy market. Over her impressive 70-year-plus history, Barbie has undergone numerous transformations, and in 2023, her evolution continues. The aesthetics that would later be recognised as Barbiecore have been present for a considerable time.

Notably, figures from the noughties like Paris Hilton practically embodied real-life versions of the iconic doll. Over the years, the fashion world has seen notable collaborations with top-tier brands such as Valentino, Chanel, Mugler, and Moschino, all of which have played a role in shaping Barbiecore's distinct style. However, it wasn't until 2019 that Barbiecore truly gained mainstream traction. This period witnessed the creation of hundreds of Barbiecore-themed Pinterest boards, and a corresponding trending hashtag that amassed over 15 million views. Etsy, the online marketplace, also witnessed the surge of Barbiecore, as evidenced by a 35% increase in hot pink fashion-related items in comparison to the year 2021, a trend observed and reported by Good Morning America.

Celebrities have been drawn to the allure of Barbiecore for some time, but it's the doll's enduring influence on contemporary pop culture that truly stands out. In 2022, Pierpaolo Piccioli of Valentino made a striking statement by featuring a hot pink runway, setting the stage for this vibrant aesthetic to conquer red carpets worldwide.

High-profile stars like Zendaya, Gemma Chan, Lizzo, Nicola Peltz Beckham, Simone Ashley, and Dua Lipa, among many others, eagerly embraced this trend, making it a ubiquitous presence in high-profile events. This was merely the outset of a phenomenon that would gain even more traction a year later. In the days leading up to the release of the Barbie movie, a plethora of stars graced various occasions wearing pink outfits, further solidifying the trend's stronghold in fashion and pop culture.

What is Barbiecore?
While the prominent color associated with Barbiecore is undeniably pink, the essence of this trend defies a rigid, one-size-fits-all definition. However, the underlying theme revolves around embracing a sense of hyper-femininity. As described by Forbes, Barbiecore is characterised by the celebration of boldness, confidence, and fun. But it’s not just about dressing up in pink. At its core, Barbiecore champions maximalism, encouraging the play with vibrant colours and textures. What’s more, it can go beyond fashion and extend its influence into interior decor and essentially anything one wishes to infuse with its exuberance. To fully embrace the Barbiecore aesthetic, one can incorporate playful accessories such as headbands, armbands, and eye-catching bags and shoes. Pastel hues, mini skirts, and oversized accessories are also prime choices for those aiming to exude the Barbiecore style. In essence, Barbiecore offers a versatile and inclusive approach to personal expression that goes beyond the confines of a single colour.

Barbiecore takes Asia
Barbiecore has also made a significant impact in Asia. Following the release of the Barbie film, there has been a notable surge in moviegoers who, in recent months, have flocked to cinemas dressed from head to toe in outfits that epitomize the spirit of Barbie.

Jimmy Choo’s Autumn/Winter 2022 campaign starring Kendall Jenner featured the reality TV star in a baby pink leotard with hot-pink stiletto boots and a clutch in the same colour. Prabal Gurung’s spring/summer 2023 collection featured bright pinks in tights, headscarves and dresses on the runway. Sohee Park, behind Miss Sohee brought colourful creative haute couture curations like “The Girl in Full Bloom” during the pandemic, channeling all pinks. Brands like Singapore’s Love, Bonito, meanwhile, have dedicated sections for Barbiecore.

Boutique brands are also taking note. Sau Lee, the glamorous, occasion-ready brand based in Hong Kong, has been an advocate for Barbiecore since the beginning. “We loved Barbiecore because it celebrates an iconic moment for glamour and sisterhood,” said Cheryl Leung, the brand’s founder and creative director, “Just as intended in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie feature, this was an opportunity to present a fresh narrative that cherishes empowered women defining modern femininity that is deeply rooted with Sau Lee’s brand values.”

Being a brand envisioned by women, made for women is part of what makes Sau Lee a Barbiecore-favoured brand. “That is what modern glamour is all about. We want her to look and feel special, never needing an excuse to dress up,” said Leung, “So across our collections this year, we’ve created many statement pieces that fit perfectly in the Barbiecore wardrobe.”

As for popularity in Barbiecore-related pieces, Max Wang, the brand’s global head of marketing and digital, has noticed an uptick. “We witnessed a surge in demand for the hyper-feminine look in shades of pink, blue, and orange, and particularly the fit-and-flare silhouette that could be styled in your own way to join in on the fun of Barbiecore,” said Wang, “Perfectly timed, women around the world are ready to get back to enjoying their lives after the pandemic. Barbiecore was a cultural moment that inspired the desire to indulge yourself, glam up with your girlfriends, and be noticed.”

Similarly, at Motoguo, a Malaysian fashion brand, there’s been an increased demand for colourful pieces from the brand. “Since the release of the movie we've seen a surge of customers buying mainly pink outfits, among other colorful pieces from our brand,” said a rep from the brand. “To us the Barbiecore is a trend that gained traction upon the release of Barbie movie, which goes to show the influence the movie had but we are very happy that the world has grown a little more accepting of using more colours to their outfit choices!”

Nostalgia plays a big role in the popularity of the trend. “Apart from the colourful demeanour, the trend also evoked nostalgia and memories of dressing up in colourful attire reminiscent of our childhood. It also provided people with a reason to wear vibrant colors that may not have been acceptable in recent trends of minimalism or quiet luxury,” added the Motoguo rep.

Second-hand Luxury Barbiecore
As for the second-hand luxury sector, Barbiecore has also reached far and wide in consumers’ search for vintage Barbie-like items.

Vestiaire Collective noticed an immediate surge in demand for these styles. “Our team observed a spike in searches for “Barbie” on the platform, as the blockbuster was released. Hence, we decided to take a closer look at actress Margot Robbie’s looks with their nostalgic vintage touch, and quickly found matching and similar pieces from our community,” explained Sophie Hersan, co-founder and fashion director of Vestiaire Collective.

This summer, the platform shared its favourite pre-loved picks for Barbie lovers so that shoppers could replicate Margot Robbie’s looks or find looks inspired by the trend. “Margot Robbie was also seen on the red carpet wearing vintage pieces inspired by Barbie looks, which shows the power of icons,” shared Hersan, “Vestiaire Collective recreated iconic looks through our rare and vintage selection of pre-loved luxury pieces and shared these with our community who love hunting through the Barbie-themed collection.”

She added how the trend really influenced the industry from new collections by Maison Valentino, Loewe or Courrèges, as well as exclusive collaborations and drops linked to the movie. Daily searches for “Barbie” have almost doubled compared with the same period in 2022. “We observed that our community hopped on the Barbiecore movement as they are strongly committed to promoting inclusion and share similar values as those represented in the film,” said Hersan.

Image Courtesy of Hula

Hula, another leading second-hand luxury sales platform, has also seen an increase in demand for Barbiecore-related products. “It's fun and extravagant and we have all needed cheering up! People are celebrating going out and dressing up again and Barbicore is the perfect excuse,” said the brand’s founder Sarah Fung. “Barbicore is about being who you are, doing what you want to do and looking how you want. It is a reflection of the world we live in; hyper-real, AI generated and possibly fake. It's a fantasy-world that most of us have wanted to escape to, especially after the last few years!”

And don’t be afraid to experiment. “The louder and pinker the better!” said Fung.

Asian Celebrities Rocking the Trend
Many Asian celebrities have embraced the Barbiecore style. For instance, Blackpink's Jennie is known for her consistent "balletcore" fashion choices, while Jisoo, Rosé, and Lisa from the same group are recognised for their bold and vibrant pink, fun, and feminine outfits, whether they're performing on stage or gracing the red carpet. In the Bollywood scene, celebrities such as Priyanka Chopra, Aishwarya Rai, Sanjana Sanghi, and others have also been seen rocking stunning all-pink ensembles.

What Does the Future of Barbiecore Hold?
The future of Barbiecore holds the promise of continued creativity and individual expression within fashion. As this style evolves, it will likely adapt to new trends and influences, maintaining its core theme of embracing pink, femininity, and a playful spirit. With a growing fan base and the influence of fashion-forward celebrities, Barbiecore is poised to remain a relevant and exciting style for those who appreciate its vibrant and bold aesthetics. As fashion continues to evolve, so too will the potential for Barbiecore to push boundaries and inspire new generations to express themselves through clothing and accessories.

The trend taps into a deep sense of nostalgia, invoking memories of a classic children's toy that many have cherished throughout their lives. As fashion continues to evolve, this timeless connection serves as a strong foundation for Barbiecore's enduring appeal. What's more, the evolution of Barbiecore has made it remarkably inclusive, transcending age, gender, and body type boundaries.

In today's diverse and dynamic world, this adaptability ensures that the trend has the potential to capture a wide and varied audience. Celebrities, fashion enthusiasts, and everyday individuals of all backgrounds are embracing Barbiecore, showcasing its universal allure.

From playful wardrobe selections to vibrant room decor, Barbiecore allows for creative expression, making it accessible to people with varying tastes and preferences. As this trend continues to evolve, fueled by nostalgia, inclusivity, and adaptability, the future of Barbiecore promises to inspire and resonate with a growing and diverse global audience.

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Faye Bradley

Contributor

Faye Bradley
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