Kitsch lives “rent-free” in the minds of Creative Directors worldwide. Childlike wonder and the injection of rudimentary imagination pops up each trend cycle… but not only on the runway. Industry collaborations leave no sector untouched—we’ve seen food, transportation, and sports crossovers explode this year alone—but a recurring favorite is equally as predictable as it is unexpected: toys.
As early as the ’80s, luxury houses have been tapped by toy companies to lend their designers’ creativity in a range of collaborations. Most infamously—Barbie. A doll that has sadly personified living models’ beauty standard for decades, Mattel’s kingpin has a storied past of getting clothed by just about everyone. Oscar de la Renta kicked off the fad in 1985, followed by the likes of Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Dior and many more.
Plus, Barbie motifs often pop up in fashion editorials—notably our very own CR14 issue, including a creative manifestation of “modern Barbies” to honor the brand’s 60th anniversary. A diverse A-team of top models each took on their very own trope of the classic doll, such as Bionic Barbie, Fourth Wall Barbie, and Chief Executive Barbie.
Just this month, CR announced a partnership with the nostalgia-packed GCDS x Bratz crossover for our 2022 Calendar. Bratz dolls—Barbie’s rebellious antithesis—have been Y2K fashion symbols since their release back in 2001. Scandalously controversial, Bratz are not exactly a parent’s favorite… hence fashion’s double decade fascination with the toy. Upon the release of GCDS’ clothing line and doll collection, our very own Carine Roitfeld fused her expertise with the brand’s Creative Director, Giuliano Calza, to dream up a human-version of Bratz’s 2000s glam.
Moschino, a house who thrives on transforming childhood favorites into campy adult wear, may love playing with dolls the most. An official partnership with Barbie was launched in 2015, accessorized by the plastic dolls’ being fully brought to life in their Spring/Summer runway debut. Logos meshed, shades of pink graced every look, and platinum wigs likely were out of stock for years to come. Mattel’s half of the crossover comprised of limited-edition drops of Moschino-clad dolls, the first 700 selling out in mere minutes. Collectibles, obviously.
Come 2019, Moschino leveled-up their toy addiction 21st century style… digitally. Addicted Sims users and fans of the label were able to shop Moschino x The Sims within the virtual universe and IRL. Characters and their human controllers could “twin.” Physical clothing was rendered to appear pixelated and video game-like, while its technological counterpart translated like classic Moschino designs.
Evidently, these designer “toys” are not for kids. Especially a selection at Gucci’s latest Los Angeles runway show that were clearly adults-only… in the form of erotic jewelry to mimic genital plugs and pearls. Onlookers were shocked by the casualness of their sporting, found dangling in a model’s hand or around the neck, pendant-style.
R-rated pieces are contrasted by Gucci’s more “all-ages” debuts of late, such as their highly wishlist-ed Xbox collaboration. Laser-engraved GG consoles are housed within vintage-looking trunks (aside from the tech company’s signature bright green, which makes up the interior and “XBOX” labeling) and striped controllers. Of course, the 100 limited-edition pieces sold out upon release just several days ago, despite a $10,000 price tag.
For all anti-tech toy junkies, the Italian house delivered a collector’s dream. Last October, Gucci joined forces with Hot Wheels—the classic American toy car giant—to celebrate their 100 year anniversary. A replica of the ’82 Cadillac “Seville by Gucci” was produced in mini size at a quantity of 5,000. It sold out in four minutes.
Fashion designer-made toys are not quite assembled to be played with. Just like an Hermès Birkin bag’s expectedly eternal shelf life post purchase, a YSL Barbie may never see the light of day—and definitely never the hands of Mattel’s most typical customer, young girls. So what’s with the fascination? Why do seemingly useless toys become unattainable in seconds?
A mixture of nostalgia, childlike excitement, boredom, and of course—investment. Along with providing mature reversions to childhood, designer toys have quite the resale value. Just a couple doll-sized clothing pieces from Oscar de la Renta’s ’80s Barbie collaboration are currently listed at $9,000 on eBay, while Bob Mackie‘s Barbies are going for $1,000 each. Gucci’s Xbox release—of just days ago—is already priced at $23,000 on StockX… which is 2.3x its original sale cost.
But fashion toys are not always a money grab. Amidst the Nepal earthquake of 2015, retailer Luisa Via Roma gathered the likes of Balmain, Marni, Rick Owens, Versace, Fendi, and more to dream up a toy collaboration with My Little Pony. Each designer dressed a Pony to encapsulate their house’s aesthetic, and the collective was auctioned on eBay to raise funds for Save the Children, plus various earthquake relief efforts.
So motives aside, unexpected alliances add a fun twist to the redundancy of trend and retail cycles. Gucci-branded Hot Wheels cars may not be first on the shopping list, but the adolescent recollections accompanying them warrant some amusement, at minimum. Or perhaps a look from Moschino x Barbie’s fashion show is someone’s way to semi-realistically bring their juvenile fantasies of becoming Barbie to life. Either way, see you on eBay.