Barbie is stepping into the digital art world dolled in Balmain. The two brands are teaming up for a ready-to-wear collection, an accessories line, and a series of NFTs. Executives from both companies say the NFT launch is a historic moment for fashion, tech and toys.
Txampi Diz, CMO of Balmain, is betting on the future of NFTs as a powerful customer engagement tool for high-fashion brands. “I believe it is going to completely change the fashion industry and it will have the same impact as when social media first started or when the Internet first launched,” he says.
“It’s a milestone, it’s the first NFT presentation that the Barbie brand has ever made,” says Richard Dickson, Mattel president and COO.
Barbie parent company Mattel previously collaborated with Gucci for a Hot Wheels NFT, but Dickson says Barbie’s deeper connections to high-fashion will kick the global toy company’s NFT plans into high gear. “It’s incredibly meaningful and powerful as we effectively roll out our NFT strategy across Mattel. It’s part of our business and staying relevant.”
This partnership has been two years in the making for the French luxury label and iconic American doll. The project came about in 2018, soon after Balmain launched its first ad campaign starring a trio of computer-generated models. “We wanted to find a way to go further in how to bring those CGI models to life and go deeper into that model,” Diz said. That same year, he met with the Barbie design team. “From the beginning we knew this was going to be a digital collaboration but the concept of an NFT was not part of the global context yet.”
Three one-of-a-kind BalmainXBarbie NFTs are currently up for auction via mintNFT, a new marketplace for non-fungible tokens that focus on creative collaborations. James Sun, founder and CEO of mintNFT, says such NFT partnerships redefine the meaning of brand ownership for customers, as it symbolizes a purchase into the company’s ethos. “What’s so beautiful is they’re not just purchasing an NFT they’re saying I want to be part of this brand on the blockchain…It’s very philosophical.”
But the traditional Caucasian blonde Barbie won’t be the only star of the Balmain show. The partnership has launched a digital campaign depicting the physical RTW and accessories. The ads emphasize diversity and inclusion, while the NFTs feature a multicultural cast of Barbie avatars modeling the Balmain ensembles.
“… Barbie and Balmain are embarking upon a distinctly multicultural, inclusive and always joy-filled adventure,” Olivier Rousteing, creative director at Balmain, said in a statement.
Ken is also making a cameo in the metaverse. Said Rousteing, “This collection also rejects any arbitrary gender limitations—this is an almost 100% unisex collection. For, just as today’s Barbie makes clear, there’s nothing holding us back anymore!”
Diz notes that at the end of the day, the Balmain Barbie partnership, at its heart, is also meant to be joyful and playful art. “What makes these avatars unique is despite being a one-of-a-kind and reflecting diversity it’s head to toe in couture Balmain. The details are exquisite.”
Bidding for Barbie NFT 1 through 3 will continue through January 14. The winners of each NFT will receive a matching mini Balmain outfit sized just for Barbie.
The human apparel and accessories meanwhile will be available worldwide on the Balmain and Mattel Creations websites, as well as select retail stores beginning January 13. Consisting of more than 50 pieces, the capsule collection will incorporate signature looks from both brands, marrying Balmain’s French polished aesthetic with Barbie’s bold American style.
“For this collaboration, we are building upon the new New French Style of Balmain’s most recent collections, once again showing that Balmain is inspired by the truly diverse and exciting beauty found on today’s Parisian boulevards and avenues,” said Rousteing.
Balmain’s limited-edition collection includes badges, tees, and hoodies. Among the most anticipated items are playful accessories inspired by Balmain’s signature handbags and Barbie doll packaging.
Balmain’s Labyrinth print and French marinière tops will make its way into the collection. But Barbie’s many shades of pink, from soft blushes to bright Malibu neons, will serve as the dominant motif.
“The inspiration flowed both ways,” said Rousteing, “My Balmain design team and I have also been playing with the very familiar spirit and iconography of the Barbie universe.”
Oscar de la Renta was one of the first designers to dress Barbie in the 1980s. In 2014, the Karl Lagerfeld Barbie sold out immediately and is currently listed on Ebay for $7,275. She’s since served as a muse for countless contemporary and streetwear labels, like Kith’s Women for Barbie collection. And of course, there was Jeremy Scott’s unforgettable Fall 2014 show where he debuted the Moschino Barbie line.
Both Balmain and Barbie companies hope the partnership is fun as it is historic: “Barbie and fashion combined represents a real fun moment,” said Diz. “When you look at the NFTs it makes you smile.”