Carolyn Rowan's Barbie
Jun 15, 2023
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By Donna Bulseco
Carolyn Rowan is a kid again. No, this is not a Benjamin Button moment, where she turned back time, but rather a reboot of the fashion icon of all of our youths—the beloved Barbie. The New York creative director, whose luxurious namesake line of wraps, cashmere shawls and glamorous hats was launched in 2014 and sold in Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and specialty shops, recently debuted the Barbie X Carolyn Rowan Collection. It’s a departure for the designer, coloring her signature pieces in a sun-drenched palette that runs counter to her preferred range of restrained hues. “It’s funny because my own collection is white, gray, navy and black—I’m not a color person,” says Rowan. “Barbie got me out of my comfort zone. The collection represents a little bit of playfulness and fantasy—it’s about dressing up differently than you normally would. That’s what the spirit of Barbie is.”
Barbie, the new movie helmed by director Greta Gerwig and starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, takes place on a playground of color and fantasy. The iconic 11-inch doll created by Ruth Handler of Mattel Inc. was introduced in 1959 at the American International Toy Fair in New York City and stood out from the beginning. Barbie’s curvaceous figure and can-do attitude about life, as expressed in her fashionable ensembles often themed to activities, allowed girls to be creative in the way they dressed and forward-thinking in the way they imagined their lives. Rowan’s silk capes and shawls, trimmed with frothy ostrich feathers and Swarovski crystal flowers, offer a sophisticated take on Barbie’s playful palette, brightly colored in hot pink, sunshine yellows and white, as if inspired by a still from the film. Summery bucket hats, visors, cute headbands and face-framing beach hats have crystal beads and silk bands. But the line is also infused with the “let’s go” energy that Barbie radiates. There’s something for all moments of the day, from sightseeing with friendsto dressing up to go out at night. As always, Rowan’s accessories make an understatedensemble pop.
Rowan is a lifelong Barbie collector—one of her favorites being the Pan-Am era Barbie, whose flight attendant outfit she remembers hand-washing and ironing herself. “Each of us have a different relationship with Barbie,” says Rowan. “For me, it was about being home as a child. We didn’t have all the things we have today, and it was pure joy playing with Barbie.”
Play allows children to dream, too. “It was a chance to develop an imagination, when you were dressing up your Barbie with your friends, who may have a Barbie with a different outfit or hairdo or accessory.” The new collection seems like an ideal match with a mindset close to her own—creating the sort of couture that any woman, or doll, will feel fantastic and confident in. carolynrowancollection.comSIGN UP FOR PURIST’S NEWSLETTER AND DIGITAL ISSUES