Aqua may have been on to something back in 1997. Their song “Barbie Girl” and its cheeky lyrics riled up Mattel so much so that they subsequently tried to sue Aqua’s record label for tarnishing the reputation of their most precious commodity. Fast forward fifteen years and Mattel are perhaps slyly acknowledging that maybe lead singer Lena Nystrøm had a point when she was sarcastically singing, “Make me walk, make me talk, do whatever you please.” Barbie doesn’t need Ken or any other male equivalent. And he sure as hell isn’t going to “make” her do anything. She is her own woman. Thus sets the scene for Sophia Webster‘s latest collaboration with Barbie, accompanied by a film and a look book starring Colombian singer/songwriter and Kali Uchis and a gang of Rinse FM girls, shot by Sharna Osbourne.
Back in May I went along to follow Webster’s own Barbie World and shoot behind the scenes. As Uchis switched from marabou-trimmed negligee to pleather leopard to Clueless-esque uniform (well done to Louby McLoughlin on her most excellent styling), it was clear that she was in control of all that pink that she was swathed in. The big *gasp* news is that Webster has given Barbie her first pair of flats. Not just flats but Webster’s Riko high-top trainers, doused in pastel and glitter so that her impossibly teetering tip-toe-y feet can get some respite. A self confessed Barbie aficionado, Webster didn’t stray too far off-piste though. There are sky high heels too, adorned with butterlies, bows, Webster’s signature speech bubbles and yes, plenty of that plastic fantastic.
Yet at the same time, Webster is adept at subverting those saccharine surfaces and the very act of indulging in candy-like shoes. Her house is filled with pastel painted enlarged Barbie-esque house furniture, plenty of tulle tutus and of course, a ton of shoes. Everything is hyper girly but Webster’s surfaces and aesthetic take on a different tone when worn with the right attitude. That’s where Uchis and the Rinse FM crew come in giving more sass than sweetness. Uchis, with her Latino/LA drawl and impossibly blonde beehiveis, was transplanted like a powder pink alien into the heart of the East End in London, as she and her girl gang hung out in Walthamstow institution pie and mash shop L. Manze and psychedelic sweet shop down the road (where you can find every flavour of Nerds in existence!). The result is a trippy Super 8 meandering short shot by Osborne. It’s Webster’s London colliding with Uchis’ genuine first time experience of these places. Even I hadn’t been to a pie and mash shop in…. forever. I loved that the girl working behind the counter at L. Manze was a veritable customer of Webster’s. It’s easy to see how her shoes would appeal to a crowd beyond insider fashionistas. And you can bet that women, whether they’re channelling their inner Barbie Girl or not, will be clamouring for these shoes.