Hello Kitty and Barbie, Round 1
TO the canon of legendary fashion feuds, as in Chanel versus Schiaparelli, Geoffrey Beene versus John Fairchild, and Giorgio Armani versus just about everyone, comes one this season that seems especially childish.
Hello Kitty is taking on Barbie for the title of most fashionable plaything.
There is not a designer worth his polyester who hasn’t spent a little too much time obsessing over dolls, so it is perhaps less surprising than tasteless to find fashion folk falling all over themselves to dress Barbie and Ms. Kitty for Fashion Week events. Barbie, who turns 50 next month, is having a runway show on Feb. 14 in Bryant Park, with Barbie-inspired clothes by one group of designers. Hello Kitty was set to show off looks by another group at a party Thursday night given by MAC, which has also created a new Hello Kitty cosmetics collection. Marketing ploys, indeed, but they do raise the question: Who’s the bigger fashionista?
Let’s put it this way: Barbie is to Cindy Crawford what Hello Kitty is to Naomi Campbell. One is the conscientious workhorse of her oeuvre, with a heart of gold (or plastic) and an improbably perfect body; the other is more difficult to read, with a sinister streak lurking behind that sweet, beautiful facade.
“I love that there is an innocence about Hello Kitty, but she’s also sexy,” said Esteban Cortazar, the Ungaro designer, who was taken by her cockeyed red bow. (He is among the 30 designers who have made Hello Kitty dresses, which will be auctioned on eBay next week to benefit the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology.)
Of course, Barbie is the bigger diva. Mattel estimates that more than a billion fashion items have been created for her clique, and her show will include looks from 50 designers. But as Hello Kitty, who is 34, would say if she had a mouth, Barbie is a lot older.
“They’re both pretty relevant in terms of their fashion,” said David Blond, a designer of the cult label The Blonds. “Hello Kitty is edgier, and Barbie is more sophisticated.”
Then again, Mr. Blond is working both sides of the playpen, having designed outfits for both events. At least Mr. Cortazar was willing to take a side when he was asked which he would prefer to have at his own show.
“I would go with Hello Kitty,” he said. “There are enough girls coming to the show who look like Barbies already.”M-e-o-w.