I’ve just bought my first Barbie. I did it over the phone with the fabulous Herve and she should be with me in a few days.
I’m VERY excited.
The reason this is my first Barbie is not due to doll-less-ness when I was growing up. Far from it. It’s due to doll snobbery.
When I was ten, I had a Daisy. Daisy was infinitely cooler than Barbie, with a better wardrobe. (Literally – I remember buying that wardrobe. It’s probably in my parents’ attic somewhere. Must be worth a fortune.) Daisy was by Mary Quant and wore little pink plastic platforms and black satin evening dresses. She didn’t really do bathing suits and wouldn’t be seen dead in a pink convertible with a jacuzzi in the back. She was smaller and chicer than Barbie, went to better parties, got a better degree and was Ken’s secret love (because Mary Quant didn’t do chic plastic blokes for some reason – and her alternative was my brother’s Action Man, who was a Hong Kong factory reject with two left feet).
I had years of endless fun with Daisy, making her houses, buying her appropriately sized rattan furniture, organising her love life and dressing her for cool parties the like of which I would never go to. Barbie was for girls who hadn’t seen the light.
Fast forward to my forties. One of my favourite fantasies has been selling the film rights for my book to Hollywood and having stroppy conversations with the producers about merchandising rights. ‘No, Mattel can’t do the dolls because they’ll only create some sort of Barbie horror, in pink boob tubes and matching cheerleader skirts, which is exactly what I’m trying to encourage girls to avoid.’
But I would have been wrong, very wrong. Mattel CAN do the dolls because it turns out Mattel (and Barbie) are very cool indeed after all. They do couture versions. Have been doing for years. They do them very well and I’ve just pre-spent some of my second advance buying a super-cool limited edition Barbie dressed by Danielle Scutt in an updated eighties denim outfit that’s slightly reminiscent of Madonna in her Desperately Seeking Susan phase, which is when Madonna’s image worked best for me. I think I’m finally starting to see the funny side of the eighties now.
She was EXPENSIVE. Mind-poppingly expensive and worth every penny. I read about her in the Telegraph fashion supplement – a fabulous article written by Henry Holland who, like many designers, regularly dresses a Barbie in one of the favourite outfits from his shows. She’s on show at the Dover Street Market as part of a couture Barbie exhibition and if I can possibly spare the time I’m going to go and see her in context – with the Grease Barbies, the Birds Barbie (think Tippi Hedren), the Roksanda Illincic Barbie and the rest.
So my new fantasy is that Mattel DO get the merchandising rights and I sit down with one of their people to design a range for my characters with customisable clothes. Each doll would come with a variety of simple items that could be coloured, twisted, pleated and generally tweaked to make a unique outfit. Girls would learn to think of fashion as something they could control, rather than just consume. Entries into leading fashion colleges would go through the roof.
It’s a lovely fantasy. I do like being wrong, sometimes, when the truth is much better and brighter than my cynical take on it.
Meanwhile, my two year-old son has inherited a pink convertible with a jacuzzi in the back from my younger stepdaughter and adores it. He may decide that he wants my Danielle Scutt uber-Barbie to ride in it.
But she’s not gonna. There are limits.
Oh, and PS, the reason this entry is called Daisy Daisy is because I’ve just ordered some stuff from them, having found them via the Guardian online. Daisy Daisy do interesting, ethical stuff like bags, jewellery and children’s clothes. I’m not quite sure what they mean by ethical and I haven’t looked into it, but it sounds good and I approve in principle.
My favourite piece is a turquoise felt handbag that looks fantastic, will make me smile every time I use it and costs £15. I’ve been emailing Nick about my order over the weekend, refining it. He’s clearly somebody trying to make a commercial idea work in a difficult climate and probably hasn’t noticed it was Easter just now. Good luck to him. It was nice doing business with him.