For Barbie's 50th Anniversary, Mattel Makes Life-Size Malibu Dream House

As part of a year of worldwide events in honor of the 50th anniversary of Mattel's Barbie doll, guests took to a beach house done up to look like a luxe version of the doll's Malibu Dream House.

By Alesandra Dubin March 11, 2009, 4:07 PM EDT

Barbie's 50th birthday bash in Malibu

Photo: Line 8 Photography

Barbie's 50th Anniversary Bash in Malibu
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You might say that Mattel had an insta-theme for its Los Angeles bash for about 200 celebrating the iconic Barbie doll's 50th anniversary. Playing off the Malibu Dream House toy—a coveted accessory for the doll—organizers picked a real life beach house on Pacific Coast Highway and went wild with full-size incarnations of the doll's tiny treasures and pleasures. The date of the party, March 9, was the doll's actual birth—er—launch day at New York's Toy Fair 50 years ago.

Mattel's Lauren Dougherty—along with two other co-chairs of the marketing campaign, Liz Grampp and Brad Armistead—tapped Colin Cowie to plan the party and conjure the food and beverage ideas and Jonathan Adler to decorate the interior of the home. “Barbie is a reflection of fashion, pop culture, and aspiration, and that's really how we celebrated her for her 50th birthday,” Dougherty said. “In many ways, the Malibu Dream House [party] was the quintessential moment [in the campaign] because she is a California girl—this was our big marquee moment.”

At the party were 1,800 pairs of Barbie sunglasses, 3,500 pairs of tiny shoes, and 3,500 mini handbags filling custom-designed Lucite tables. Pink roses, hydrangea, and ranunculus made up the centerpieces. Inside the house, wall-to-wall carpeting lining Barbie’s bedroom and hallway featured a custom-designed “B” pattern, and more than 200 yards of fuchsia velvet fabric draped Barbie's bedroom. Pink peep-toe Christian Louboutin heels—straight from Barbie’s runway show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York this February—lined Barbie’s shoe closet. Reproductions of 1959 dolls made up an eye-catching wall mirror in the living room. Barbie vintage art hung on the walls throughout the house, including a portrait by Andy Warhol. An in-house museum featured 25 dolls from Barbie's past.

At the dessert table, 146 pounds of pink candy included mints, chocolate, licorice, rock candy, gummy lips, and jelly beans—and a 1,000-pound-plus ice sculpture resembled a giant cake. (Cowie had wanted to do the cake itself, but he said Mattel nixed it because it looked too wedding-y.) In the driveway, a Malibu Barbie Beetle—a custom-designed pink Volkswagen made especially for Barbie—featured a pop-up vanity and other fanciful touches.

“It was a fun project to do, [with the goal] to make it as Barbie as possible,” Cowie said. ”The whole inspiration came from the classic 1959 Barbie in the black-and-white zebra suit. The space was very contemporary, but everything was done with a wink and nod to the past.” And his favorite part of the party decor? “The backdrop to the bar: black and white stripes with 750 actual Barbie dolls, head to toe, the entire thing framed in a Lucite trough filled with acrylic jewels. So cha-cha-cha. Very girlie, very fun.”

The Malibu event was part of a year of global events celebrating Barbie's 50th. The decor from the house will move to Las Vegas, where it will permanently deck a Barbie-branded suite at the Palms.

No part of the splashy party—nor the rest of the 50th campaign events—appeared to be dulled by the recession. “This is something that we began planning about 18 months ago,” Dougherty said. “It was really important to us that we recognize this monumental, epic moment for the Barbie brand, so we moved forward with it. Although she is only 11-and-a-half-inches tall, Barbie doesn't do anything small.”

Cowie added, “I think it's what we need right now. Everyone's talking about the economy, but we need to have a good time. Budget wasn't the biggest driving point. Anyway, I don't think creativity has anything to do with money. We were very resourceful and found creative ways to make an impact and a statement. And when you personalize something, you really hit a note.”

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