There is nothing subtle about Barbie. The blonde bombshell, along with her many friends and accessories, have been selling glamour and dazzle to little girls everywhere for decades. Yes, she’s been given makeovers to be more “realistic” and various career aspirations over the years, but there’s no getting around it. Barbie’s about as girly as it gets.
So why fight it? Indeed, the Barbie Shanghai flagship that opened in China last year embraces Barbie’s innate girliness whole-heartedly, with 36,000 square feet of pink-and-white-tinged cuteness and bubbly energy. “The store’s form and function are extraordinary,” says Danette Kroll, director of store planning for Foot Locker, and a judge for this year’s A.R.E. Design Awards. “The branding envelops the consumer.”
Barbie Shanghai was named A.R.E.’s 2010 Store of the Year, as well as grand prize winner in its category, specialty store over 25,000 sq. ft. Designed by Slade Architecture (New York) based on a concept design by BIG (a division of Ogilvy & Mather, also in New York), the brand flagship was once a theater. Now, a three-story spiral staircase centers the space, encased in a display of 800 dolls from around the world. The store gives new meaning to the concept of “playing Barbies,” with themed experiences that include the Barbie Fashion Stage, where girls get the chance to strut down the catwalk, and a full-service spa and café. Chute Gerdeman (Columbus, Ohio) worked with Mattel to create the fashion stage as well as a Barbie Design Center, where girls create their own doll outfits from a huge wardrobe of options.
Slade Architecture says that Mattel wanted a store where “Barbie is hero.” Mission accomplished; G.I. Joe wouldn’t be caught dead here. But Barbie fans are treated to fun and playful design touches around every corner, making this the perfect salute to an American toy icon.
Click any image above to launch a slideshow of all the winners in the 2010 A.R.E. Retail Design Awards.