Barbie Dimensions and the Barbie Store in Harajuku, Japan

This is working towards objective 1.

Whilst researching into Harajuku within Tokyo, a district whereby individuality is promoted through a range of cool tech-led cafe’s, vintage stores and classic Harajuku-dress opposed to encouraging a standardisation of dress through international chain stores for in other districts such as Shibuya, for example, I found it strange to find that there was a Barbie Flagship store situated in the centre of Harajuku. I found this interesting due to being a district where being different, unique and having your own identity are praised, whereby Barbie is the epitome of female standardisation and evident in the role of creating an ‘ideal female figure’. On the contrary however, it can also be said that being in an area of Tokyo where ‘kawaii’, meaning ‘cute’ is a prominent trademark per say, it seems perfect sense to place a store of branded, ‘cute’ and Western products in such area.

Upon further research of imagery, it became apparent that the store sells more than toy dolls, it sells clothes, accessories, cosmetics and jewellery along with a long list of other branded merchandise. Falling in-line with consumerism as touched on in my previous project “what’s my name again?!”, this shows how a brand can obtain so much power over their audience and use it to their advantage for further advertising and sales, without regarding any impact on the end-user and their mental health, wellbeing and self-perceptions. Furthermore, the imagery below showcases this alongside life-size, to scale Barbie doll mannequins, showcasing how in real life, if a Barbie doll was an actual living human being, would actually be “5’9″ tall, have a 39″ bust, an 18″ waist, 33″ hips and a size 3 shoe. She likely would not menstruate… she’d have to walk on all fours due to her proportions”. Furthermore, it is reported that “Barbie would weigh 110 pounds and have a BMI of 16.24” making this unrealistic, unattainable nor practical, and also therefore proving how these mannequins give the wrong impression to consumers alongside advertising and promotional materials which promote Barbie as the ideal woman. A BMI of below 17, is also considered in general terms as “anorexic” causing cause for concern in regards to eating disorders and the way the ideal as promoted by Barbie, is actually anorexic and therefore an unhealthy representation of an ‘ideal woman’.

However, the VP of Design for Mattel (Barbie) argues the point that Barbie Dolls were not designed to represent realistic women – “Barbie’s body was never designed to be realistic. She was designed for girls to easily dress and undress. And she’s had many bodies over the years, ones that are poseable, ones that are cut for princess cuts, ones that are more realistic” – maintaining dignity that the dolls are for play, however when children are young, what they see is often what they grow up to know, as previously noted in regards to Jaques and Lacan’s theory on the Mirror Stage. Children are not aware of functionality, they are aware of the aesthetically pleasing design. However, this again questions the social responsibility issues of such corporate companies, whom in my opinion shouldn’t release such products for sale whereby they can be damaging to oneself or ones mental health – especially children, posting an unrealistic figure as their main character of imagination and recreation at a young age.

I really wanted to visit this store on my trip to Tokyo, Japan in order to carry out further research, look at the product packaging, copywriting and take more photographs, whilst seeing what sort of consumer shops there. However upon researching the specific location, found out that this store was shut down permanently in 2015. I have not been able to find a reason why.

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Other Sources:
Katz, N. (2011). Life-size Barbie’s shocking dimensions: Would she be anorexic?”. Available: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/life-size-barbies-shocking-dimensions-photo-would-she-be-anorexic/. Last accessed 9th November 2016.
Endicott, S. (2014). ‘Barbie Doll Was Never Designed to be Realistic’ Says Mattel Designer. Available: http://stylecaster.com/beauty/barbie-doll-body/. Last accessed 9th November 2016.