From Barbie to Polly Pocket, toys from our childhood continue to inspire fashion and set trends

“Life in plastic, it’s fantastic”, sang the group Aqua in 1997. More than ever, fashion is inspired by the toys of our childhood. The release of the Barbie movie continues to be emulated on social networks, TikTok no longer swears by “Polly Pocketcore” and brands are inspired by toys to offer colorful fashion, resolutely Y2K. Nostalgia has not finished plunging us back into the heart of our happy memories.

Toys as a return to carelessness

The toy craze in fashion is on trend newstalgia, Anglo-Saxon neologism (“new” for new and nostalgia). However, it is not a question of replicating the past, but rather of creating something new with something old. A marketing concept that works. Nostalgia is rooted in pop culture, in TV series – Stranger Things is largely inspired by the 1980s, in the music with Charlie XCX wishing to teleport to 1999 (editor’s note : his song 1999 is a nostalgic tribute to that year) or even in fashion.

If these years are so attractive, it is because they refer to a “carefree, happy period”, comments Vincent Grégoire, trend hunter for the Nelly Rodi style office. It plunges creators into a time when memories are joyful, far from the everyday life of adults which is not always easy to face. “We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, when we look back, we mainly focus on the positive”. Stylists then revisit the time of childhood and cuteness, allowing consumers to put on a T-shirt bearing the image of their favorite video game character, Mario, or a pair of sneakers inspired by the iconic Barbie and escape from the adult world for a few hours. “It’s reassuring,” he adds.

An inexhaustible source of inspiration

To convince teenagers and adults alike, toys seem to be the key. In 2023, Pat McGrath presented a Star Wars make-up collection, when fashion brand Christian Cowan collaborated with the cartoon Teletubbies. THE stroumpfs posed on Dsquared2 t-shirts and Kermit the Frog inspired a green ProPilot watch. A way for “more or less niche creators to extend their power of desirability” and for consumers to recreate generational links. These fashion-inspired toys appeal to the TikTok generation as well as their parents. “Generation Z got to know these toys through their parents. Fashion then makes it possible to reduce generational divides”. A tribute to a period that seems blessed for those who did not experience it, a Proust madeleine for adults, who see their childhood memories on t-shirts, shoes or even on the catwalks.

From the bedroom to the parades

Bratz, Barbie, Polly Pocket… Dolls are children’s first fashion experiences. When Greta Gerwing announced the release of the film, she also provoked the Barbiecore trend. The signs then redouble their imagination to offer ever more colorful collaborations. The Italian brand Superga has notably created pairs of sneakers bearing the image of the star doll. Partnerships that seduce by “the pleasure and nostalgia they arouse”, announces Erica Johnston Marketing Manager for Superga World. The latter confirms the words of Vincent Grégoire, revealing that the toys and more particularly Barbie, “recall happier and less stressful moments. They transport us to our formative years, a time of innocence and creativity. “.

The Italian brand Superga collaborates with Barbie, presenting different pairs of sneakers.
The Italian brand Superga collaborates with Barbie, presenting different pairs of sneakers. – Superga

On social networks, the Barbiecore is seen competing with the Polly Pocketcore. On TikTok, users go so far as to recreate the iconic looks of these little dolls. The Polly Pockets are also taking the catwalks by storm. In Loewe’s FW23 collection, Jonathan Anderson imagined silhouettes that seemed to be directly inspired by the dressing room of our toys. A collection of tops, structured peplum dresses, wedge shoes, pleated skirts, and accessories, always curved, in acid colors and in PVC material. For its part, Miuccia Prada bet on mini dresses in shiny leather during the Miu Miu FW23 fashion show. Another facet of the clothes of these dolls. If these references bring back memories to the boomer generation, they totally excite millennials.

Astro Boy, Hello Kitty, Barbie, Pokemon, Polly Pocket, Bratz, LEGO… Heaps of toys and franchises could be mentioned. Each year, new ideas spring up in the minds of stylists, to transpose the world of games to the world of adults, since “the imagination inspires”, as Vincent Grégoire reminds us. Fashion being an eternal new beginning, the toys of our childhood have not finished dictating it and inviting themselves into dressing rooms, thus allowing adults “to display their individual style while recovering their child’s soul”, concludes Erica. A soul that must definitely not be lost in order to preserve this symbolic joy, which makes all the difference on a daily basis.

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