Can new-look Ken save Barbie?
New York, February 10:
Since their breakup two years ago they have forged lives apart. Barbie took up with a surfer from Australia. Ken, meanwhile, took time off for self-reflection on a trip through Europe and the far east.
But a new, rougher Ken, with ripped jeans, a motorcycle jacket and untidy hair, was unveiled yesterday at a press conference in Manhattan, as executives from the toy company Mattel hinted that he and Barbie might be about to get back together again.
“It’s really about playing through different fantasies for little girls,” said Chuck Scothon, a senior vice-president of Mattel. It is also about rekindling their interest in Barbie’s brand. Even the updated Ken may not be able to save Barbie, whose sales have plunged in recent years as she faces tough competition as the No 1 fashion doll in the United States.
Bratz, a five-year-old line of skinny, multiracial dolls with thick, pouty lips, midriff tops and tiny skirts is hard on the heels of the demure, ever-smiling, wasp-waisted, big-busted Barbie — now nearly 50 years old. Sales of Barbie slid by 12.8 per cent last year, from $1.4 billion to $1.2 billion, although the Barbie brand remains the best-seller in the world, not just for a doll but for any toy.
A recent study from the University of Bath, England, said that 7-to 11-year-old girls found Barbie ‘babyish’ and considered rejecting the doll as a rite of passage.
Ken has already gone through changes over the years.
In the 1970s he was a long-haired doll had removable black sideburns and a moustache. In the 1980s an earnest, light-brown-haired Ken wore a faded jean jacket. His new Hollywood stylist, Phillip Bloch, who has dressed Pierce Brosnan and Johnny Depp, said yesterday that Ken has Brosnan-inspired hair and Depp’s ‘worldly European thing’.
“Like any guy, he needs a great jacket, good shoes, and good jeans,” said Bloch.