Barbie dolls are beloved around the world, and have been for decades, but they recently stirred controversy after Barbie herself was awarded a fashion industry award. The Council of Fashion Designers or America saw Barbie as being befitting of its Board of Directors’ Tribute, and awarded her accordingly, which generated some ire amongst those who thought real fashion gurus should have been honored instead.
Does Barbie really deserve a fashion industry award? Here’s why so many people are up in arms about Barbie’s recent accolade, and what message the fashion industry was sending when they awarded it to her.
Barbie joins Jennifer Lopez
One of the reasons that many people were irked when the Council of Fashion decided to honor Barbie with the award is that it came at the same time that other, real-life people were receiving similar accolades. According to extensive reporting from CNN Style, for instance, we know that Jennifer Lopez was also honored with an award, as was popular designer Eileen Fisher. Whether Barbie’s receiving an award diminishes the prestige of those awards given to real life fashion icons is a hotly debated topic, but it stands to reason that the Council of Fashion’s Board of Directors will likely stand by their choice in the immediate future.
Weathering the criticisms that were launched by some feminists who have long been opponents of Barbie and the body image she touts to little girls everywhere, the Council of Fashion definitely generated a stir with the award, which was likely their intention in the first place. While it’s been called the “Oscars of the fashion world,” the truth of the matter is that the Council of Fashion’s award ceremony isn’t nearly as famous as that more celebrated event, and the Board of Directors need to do what they can to generate public fascination with their event. This is likely one of the reasons that Barbie was given her award, alongside of the fact that an argument can be made that the doll is an important figure in the world of fashion.
The world of fashion has always been peculiar and proud of it, and that certainly hasn’t changed in the digital age, where services like iHeartRaves’ rave clothing superstore have become popular and traditional retail outlets have faded from the public eye. Mattel’s doll is no new feature to the world of fashion, however, and has indeed been enjoying a following for the 60 years that it’s been on the market. To say that Barbie is a nobody in the world of fashion and thus undeserving of the award wouldn’t be entirely fair.
It should also be noted that the Diane von Furstenberg, the Chairwoman of the CFDA, is a longtime fan and collaborator with Mattel’s Barbie, as the doll’s social media page pointed out in the midst of the award ceremony. It’s thus likely to say that there may have been some “fashion insider training” going on with the award’s deliverance, though that wouldn’t be particularly new to the industry.
The fashion industry has more potential
Nevertheless, it’s likely fair to say that Barbie may not have deserved the fashion industry award she received, largely because it demonstrates how the fashion industry is failing to live up to its potential. For years, major brands and fashion events have been rightfully derided for presenting a negative body image as desirable to little girls – the industry’s flirtations with anorexia and other disorders is well known. Rather than cementing the idea that women should be striving for the aesthetic features of a literal doll, it would have been nice to see real life women who have demonstrably contributed to the industry’s improvement be recognized, instead.
Barbie’s immense cultural sway and the doll’s role in introducing many young girls to the world of fashion can’t be denied, however, so it’s unlikely that the CFDA is going to renege on its choice anytime soon. The fashion industry has given awards to brands and vague concepts before, but to see flesh and blood actors who have real hearts and souls within them rewarded would be amazing for fashion fans everywhere. Barbie receiving an award may not be the most egregious of errors, but it demonstrates that the fashion industry still isn’t ready to live up to its potential and put its focus on real human beings.