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Getting Dolled Up: Stila and Mattel Make a Deal

With its new partnership with Mattel Inc., Stila Cosmetics hopes to prove that the toy company's highest-profile figurine is more than just a doll.

With its new partnership with Mattel Inc., Stila Cosmetics hopes to prove that the toy company’s highest-profile figurine is more than just a doll.

Barbie, now celebrating her 50th birthday, is getting a new Stila color cosmetics line this spring, and the makeup company also will serve as the cosmetics sponsor for Mattel’s first Barbie runway show during New York Fashion Week next month.

“Stila is a brand which at the core is about fun and innovation,” said Richard Dickson, Mattel’s general manager and senior vice president for the Barbie brand, during a phone interview earlier this week from Shanghai, where he is readying the brand’s new House of Barbie flagship. “The combination of Barbie and Stila felt right.”

Agreed Deanna Kangas, president and chief executive officer of Stila: “These two brands are fun and girly and fit together very well. It’s fun to be in the planning meetings for this project.”

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The Stila-Mattel collaboration marks the second time in three years that the Barbie moniker will be splashed on upscale cosmetics: In 2007, Mattel teamed up with MAC Cosmetics to create a color cosmetics collection and a Barbie dressed as a MAC makeup artist. The collection was said to be one of MAC’s most successful collaborations to date and reportedly generated more than $9 million in retail sales in North America. Many pieces, including the doll, sold out in less than a day, according to industry sources.

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So why not head back to MAC? Dickson said the decision was a matter of overall strategy. “We’ve had a history with the beauty industry, and in particular had a very successful partnership with MAC,” she said. “Our cobranding strategy [with Barbie] has been to develop relationships in various different categories to create cultural noise and drive demand. In order to do that, you really do need to be limited and quick — keeping it innovative and limited has been part of the appeal of our products. For instance, we have a history of doing limited edition Barbies with fashion designers, and we follow the same strategy. We don’t saturate the market. They come and go, and they keep the brand out there as a cultural thing.”

Speaking of designers, 50 of them, reportedly including Vera Wang, have signed on to show Barbie-inspired fashion at the February runway show — and Dickson notes that makeup will be a very important part of the show. Makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury has been confirmed as the show’s lead makeup artist.

“A celebration of Barbie through the decades will be subtly presented throughout the show, and the makeup is absolutely essential not only to show the decades but to show the mood,” said Dickson. “It’s a complicated show in a lot of ways and makeup is essential to it. Throughout the last 50 years, Barbie has changed her look quite a bit.”

And the Stila-Mattel partnership will not be limited to the U.S., said Dickson. “We are approaching this as a global relationship,” said Dickson. “We will do fashion shows around the world, and we will distribute products globally.” Japan will be one of the first countries post-U.S. to get the show, he said. The market has historically been a strong one for Stila, as well, said industry sources.

The inaugural, limited edition line will make its debut exclusively at Sephora next month. It will be available at Sephora’s Fifth Avenue store in New York, international Sephora locations and at only. The collection features four Decades of Beauty cans, each $40, with a booklet inside describing the beauty and fashion wardrobes for each doll. The first, #1 Ponytail Doll, celebrates the first Barbie, launched in 1959. It includes a red lipstick called Ponytail, a liquid eyeliner and a three-pan paper-wrapped compact with two eye shadows and a cheek color. Malibu Barbie, which highlights the doll of the same name that launched in 1971, has a pale pink Lip Glaze called Malibu, a black mascara and a compact with two eye shadows and a bronzer. Foxy Doll, which depicts the African-American Barbie launched in 1980, includes a Lip Glaze called Foxy, mascara and a compact with two eye shadows and a cheek color. The final offering, Jewel Doll, is based on the 2000 Barbie of the same name and includes a bright pink Lip Glaze called Jewel, a Multi-Effect Mascara and a compact with two eye shadows and a cheek color.

Stila also will launch a new version of its patent-pending talking palette with tips and tools on how to get the Barbie look. As with the beauty cans, this product, which will retail for $40, will be available only at Sephora and

The limited edition collection will be only the beginning of the collaboration, noted Kangas. “These products will precede a larger collection and Barbie beauty program slated for fall 2009,” she said.

While none of the executives would discuss sales projections, industry sources estimated that the first collection of limited edition Stila products would at least match MAC’s $9 million retail sales figure in North America.

In November, Dickson said products other than toys make up half of Barbie’s annual sales, which come in at just less than $3 billion. The nontoy business includes Barbie Couture, a five-year-old women’s clothing line comprising $230 dresses and $500 suits sold at more than 25 branded stores in Asia.