Joe Zee Thinks ‘There’s Always Room For A Tall, Statuesque Blonde’

Joe Zee, creative director of Elle, has been known to credit Barbie as his first styling client (the lucky lady!), so it’s fitting that the editor would have been on hand to present the awards for Barbie & FIT’s  “Play With Fashion”  student design contest this past Thursday.

The lobby of the school’s Fred P. Pomerantz Art and Design Center was transformed into a veritable Dream House for the event, which showcased the work of students from five different departments: Fashion Design, Interior Design, Jewelry Design, Photography, and Visual Presentation & Exhibition Design. We spoke with Mattel‘s Peter Helenek, the VP of design for the Barbie brand in charge of  “overseeing everything horses to houses” for “the most famous fashion icon ever” (talk about a dream job!) who told us that the company started working with the students back in September 2011, and were charged with narrowing down over 200 submissions to just 5 from each department. The contestants were instructed to create new objects of desire for Barbie and Ken, while incorporating unconventional materials into their designs.

And prizes weren’t just the glory of Barbie’s stamp of approval (though that’s surely ample padding for one’s resume): First place winners took home a grand prize of $5,000. “Barbie is generous,” after all. Now, with an exhibition dedicated to the patron saint of pink on show at the Met right now, we had to ask if the color’s other biggest fan has made the trip uptown. “She loves the Schiaparelli exhibit.” Helenek assured us. “It’s kind of like her second Dream House. It’s where she goes to kind of get away and be inspired.”

As for whether Joe Zee was inspired by the student work on display, he told us in no uncertain terms:

“This is the next generation of voices in our industry. Whatever it is that they do – I mean look how creative they are! I was just so blown away by so many different things.”

Us too! So can we expect a Barbie-themed cover shoot in Elle‘s future? “I feel like I’ve done one! And she was called Nicki Minaj.” Ha!

The 11-inch icon isn’t going away anytime soon, it seems. As Zee explains, “I think there’s always room for a tall, statuesque blonde.” His own Creative Director Barbie, however, would perhaps be somewhat less of a glamour girl: “Mine would always be running to a plane. She would be at JFK in sweats. Well, stilettos and sweats.” You heard the man, Mattel! We’ve found Barbie’s next career move.

The exhibit will be on display through September, and we think you should go check it out! These kids are seriously talented:

[photos courtesy of Diane Bondareff for Barbie]

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