The Christian Louboutin Barbie, Mad Men Betty Draper Doll, Grace Kelly Bride Barbie, Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds Doll, Sports Illustrated Swim Suit “Barbie”, Stephen Burrows Nisha doll (launching tomorrow) — all creations from Robert Best, Director Barbie Design. Meet the man who joined Mattel sixteen years ago and since then has created countless fashionable dolls and more.
Please tell us a bit about your design background.
As a kid, I always drawing, and I knew early on that I wanted a career in fashion design. I went to school at Parsons School of Design, after which I worked as a design assistant for Isaac Mizrahi in the 90’s. I was one of the contestants on the third season of Project Runway, but was sent packing after a few episodes.
How did you become Design Director at Barbie?
What started out as a break from the insanity of the fashion industry, became a full-time gig and I couldn’t be happier. Back when I was in design school, I had illustration teachers point out that my sketching style looked like Barbie doll, so maybe they knew something I didn’t.
How many dolls do you design every year? How many fashion looks does this involve?
I do between ten and twelve designs for Barbie a year, and oversee a team that is responsible for anywhere from 80 to 100 dolls. This involves countless fashion looks, as each doll is dressed in a unique outfit, and it does not take into account all the looks that don’t make it to the stores.
What are some of your favorite designs from the past 14 years?
The Christian Louboutins, which were part of a unique and special collaboration. The Grace Kelly Bride was a beautiful doll and a tribute to a style icon I have always loved. Several dolls from the Barbie Fashion Model Collection like, “Walking Suit” Barbie, “Cocktail Dress” and “Mermaid Gown” were cool. This is a collection that I design exclusively, so it is very close to my heart.
How did the recent collaboration with Stephen Burrows come about?
We have worked with the CFDA on several different ideas and collaborations in the past. We were excited to work with Stephen as he is an American Design Legend and were delighted to learn that he was equally excited to work with us.
What was it like working with him?
Stephen brought such enthusiasm and spirit to the whole project. He had all sorts of ideas and a very distinct point of view. When the Barbie design team works with a partner who has such a clear and inspired vision – it truly makes our jobs not only easy, but enjoyable. Stephen worked very closely with our design lead Linda Kyaw to create a truly dynamic Barbie partnership, resulting in three incredible dolls that stand out in the Barbie collector world.
Besides the U.S., where is Barbie very popular?
Barbie is popular all over the globe. I was recently at the launch of the Fan Bing Bing doll in Shanghai, and there are plenty of Barbie doll fans in China. There are also doll shows in Italy, France, Japan, Spain, and Australia where fans of Barbie can come together and celebrate all things Barbie.
We were excited to hear about the upcoming Karl Lagerfeld Barbie, which joins one of your favorites Christian Louboutin. Which designers are on your wish list?
There are many amazing talented designers that would make great partners. One that jumps to mind would be Alber Elbaz for Lanvin. He is an incredible talent and a fun, playful spirit, which would be a great fit for Barbie. Plus, the fashion house was founded by a strong woman, Jeanne Lanvin, which resonates with our brand.
To what do you attribute the media’s fascination with Barbie?
Barbie’s relevance, she truly reflects the times around her and has evolved and changed right along side popular culture. It helps that almost everyone has grown up with Barbie. People have very specific memories and ideas about the brand. I also believe that Barbie represents the lighter, happier side of news and in a world where there are plenty of awful, depressing news stories, Barbie is a welcome respite from all that.
If you and Barbie could host a dinner, what people would you invite (living or dead)?
While I cannot speak for Barbie, I would like to invite Coco Chanel, Mozart, Yves Saint Laurent, Suzy Parker, Jane Austen, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Karl Lagerfeld, Choupette, the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George, Cher… my list could go on, and on.