Fifty years after making her debut, Barbie celebrated her semicentennial birthday with a worldwide array of products, fashion shows, and parties. In Toronto, the brand partnered with The Bay to create one of two Barbie Signature Shops in North America. Large, pink billboards near The Bay added hype to the March 16 unveiling of the “traffic-stopping” store windows and retail destination, but the resulting display leaves much to be desired. Perhaps the stylists were confusing a minimalist intent with its barren outcome, or maybe Toronto Barbie is the newest victim of the economic crisis. Either way, the low-budget effort is evident and consistent with a brand that has seen its global sales drop 21% in the last quarter. Comparing this to Shanghai’s six-storey, pink and fuchsia flagship wonderland, you start questioning how all of the girly imagination and fantasy evaporated from this city.
The Signature Shop is tucked into a corner of The Bay and mostly sells merchandise with the Barbie logo. While the pink topiary trees and pink life-size plastic poodles are adorable, and some of the designer dolls—including Barbie designed by Diane Von Furstenberg, Burberry, and Armani—are innovative, none are for sale. Instead, the featured clothing designs are conservative and the furniture has been done elsewhere, in better versions. The pink, PVC-upholstered chair in Betsey Johnson’s Yorkville vitrine, for example, screams “Barbie Dream House” much louder than Glenn Dixon’s Barbie furniture line at The Bay. The store is open until mid-May, but it’s worth a visit only from those Barbie fans already in the area.
All photos by Brenda Petroff/Torontoist.