Chris Benz On Designing Presidential Barbie & The Power Of Pink
Barbie just unveiled its latest “I Can Be President” doll — and she’s the most stylish to date, thanks to Chris Benz.
Benz designed Presidential Barbie’s ensemble, a pink skirt suit in an archival Benz print (fun fact: Michelle Obama has worn a green version of it) with a patriotic red, white, and blue ruffled trim. Barbie also wears pearl earrings, a pearl necklace, and coordinating pink shoes that allow her to literally stand on her own. This is the fifth iteration of Presidential Barbie, and there are white, black, Asian, and Hispanic versions of the doll.
This morning we hung out with Benz and Barbie at a cupcake-filled press conference, where the designer fielded questions about the collaboration.
How did Barbie inspire you growing up? Did she inspire you to go into the fashion industry?
I think subconsciously she probably did. I think for a lot of people she’s been somewhat of an inspiration for many different careers. Both of my parents worked when I grew up, and I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house, my mom’s parents, and she had two sisters. So I ended up spending my time playing with a lot of those girls’ toys that were left over from the ’60s and ’70s, and cutting their hair and rearranging their outfits and all that. I think there’s such an interesting and sentimental kind of symbiosis that I have with Barbie and what I do now in my career.
What kind of spirit do you think pink evokes?
Pink, for me, is an inspirational color. No matter what it is, whether it’s like a food or a car or something, it always is a little bit encouraging and uplifting. It’s a really nice color. I accidentally dyed by hair pink and now I’m stuck with it, too. It’s sort of a neutral to me, actually.
Do you think you’ll produce this suit in grown-up size?
In a lot of ways, I feel like we’ve done this suit and this concept in my collection a number of times, but we’re always open to personal orders.
Why did you choose a skirt and not pants?
I think just in terms of not being overtly masculine, a skirt suit is that classic silhouette that I think is really, really polished and pretty. I think pants sometimes take it to a different territory — a little bit sportier.
Does Barbie have a change of clothing?
This is her official campaign look. She actually doesn’t have a change of clothes, and she’s not allowed to take those clothes off either — that’s not what she does.
How did you decide on Barbie’s hair?
I’m obsessed with Barbie’s hair. There’s this whole process. There are these artisans that literally have special machines to do the hair, and we went through millions of trials to figure out what the hair was going to be and exactly how it was going to curl and all of that. I was into the idea of keeping it super, super classic. And obviously we know every little girl likes to chop Barbie’s hair off and whatever, so we wanted to make sure it was long enough.
Is Barbie a Democrat or a Republican?
She’s a member of the B Party!