Barbie Lagerfeld

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Barbie Lagerfeld
Barbie Lagerfeld

As the iconic designer is reimagined as the world's most famous doll, we speak to designer Robert Best on scaling down Kaiser Karl Lagerfeld for Barbie

Tomorrow will be a big day for Karl Lagerfeld, with the highly anticipated Chanel S/S15 show. Today things are a little smaller – 11.5inches small to be exact – as the much anticipated Karl Lagerfeld Barbie doll launches on the world. Barbie Lagerfeld comes dressed in black leather, a white shirt and necktie, complete with gloves, white ponytail and miniature quilted Chanel bag. Only 999 dolls have been produced, clocking in at $200 each, as part of Mattel’s Barbie Collector series.

The doll was designed by Robert Best, who previously cut his teeth as a womenswear designer for Donna Karan before sending his portfolio to Mattel, where he has been working for nearly twenty years, dealing in all things tiny. Previous dolls include Audrey Hepburn, Heidi Klum, James Dean and Barbara Streisand, as well as Disco Barbie, Palm Beach Barbie and Versace Barbie. “She stirs something very deep and emotional in people,” Best comments. “A true love mark.” Barbie herself was born in 1959 (making her 26 years Karl’s junior) and has had over 150 careers. AnOther caught up with Best to discuss Barbie Lagerfeld and his favourite miniature memories.

"Barbie stirs something very deep and emotional in people. A true love mark" — Robert Best

Did you ever expect working for Barbie to be your profession?
I always wanted to work in fashion from a very early age. I would constantly be drawing fashion sketches and illustrations, which led to studying fashion design. The Barbie aspect came much later on, and although it was not something I had ever thought of, it seemed like a very easy connection to make. It was basically what I had trained to do, just in miniature.

Did you have dolls growing up?
I had a Biffy Beans doll growing up, which was this funny baby doll dressed in overalls, nothing nearly as glamorous as Barbie. Of course I played with my sister's Barbie dolls and it was hours of good fun.

What factors did you need to consider for the Lagerfeld Barbie?
Capturing the iconic look of Karl in precise detail, but still keeping the essence of Barbie was critical. Faithfully recreating items from the Karl Lagerfeld collection in Barbie scale and really working with his team to ensure everything had a very elevated attention to detail and quality.

What other memorable dolls have you worked on? 
I particularly enjoy working on dolls with strong authenticity in the fashion world, which is why the Designer Dolls are some of my favorite projects. I also like dolls that celebrate people I’ve admired, like Audrey Hepburn.

Are there any early Barbies which you think are particularly iconic?
The doll that started it all, the number one doll in the black and white bathing suit... peerless.

What do you like most about your job?
I am always amazed at the genuine love and enthusiasm Barbie generates. When I worked for a very high profile designer in the fashion industry, nobody much cared. When I tell people I design for Barbie, I am usually met with the response, "You have the coolest job." Which I wholeheartedly agree with.

Barbie Lagerfeld is out now.

Text by Mhairi Graham