House of Barbie Shanghai

Mattel to Open First-Ever Barbie Flagship Store in Shanghai

Contact: Toni Lee

Ogilvy & Mather, Slade Architecture, and Chute Gerdeman Partner to Create a Unique Barbie Retail Experience

SHANGHAI, March 6, 2009 – To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Barbie doll's debut, Mattel is set to open the world's first store dedicated to the iconic doll, on March 6 in Shanghai, China.

Situated on Huai Hai Road, one of the busiest shopping streets in downtown Shanghai, the store covers approximately 40,000 square feet of retail space on six floors. It will house the world's largest and most comprehensive collection of Barbie dolls and offer the widest assortment of licensed Barbie products, as well as a range of services and activities for Barbie fans and their families.


Mattel's Richard Dickson, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Barbie brand and the visionary behind the store, explains the concept: "We see the store as a destination, a place where girls of all ages come to spend the entire day and walk out feeling thoroughly enamored with the Barbie experience." For Mattel, defining "the Barbie experience" was a journey to the core of the brand. "Our ability to inspire girls to be anything they dream – from a mermaid to a movie star, a fairy to a fashionista, a princess to a president – and the experiences we defined and created in the store are a direct connection to our brand's DNA, and unmatchable by any other brand in the world," Dickson continues.

Dickson also wanted to design a store where the doll was absolutely the hero, but where the experience and assortment expressed the brand as a global lifestyle brand. His vision for the store grew from a desire to build on the world-famous Barbie brand and the brand's strong historical link to fashion. He recognized Barbie's unique position as a fashion brand in the toy world and wanted to expand on that heritage. Barbie Shanghai is the first fully realized expression of this new, broader vision for the brand.

With these objectives in mind, Dickson and Mattel turned to BIG, the strategic branding and design division of Ogilvy & Mather, to help develop the creative concept.

"We were very excited to be asked early on by Richard Dickson to help bring his vision for a Barbie retail experience to life. From the beginning, our goal was to create an activity-driven brand experience grounded in Barbie's heritage as a fashion doll," says Richard Bates, BIG's Executive Creative Director.

Being involved from the beginning enabled BIG to act as Mattel's brand steward and to help Richard Dickson develop the overall concept for the store, explore featured activities, identify the core creative partners, and provide creative direction for the development of the store.


For Mattel, Shanghai was the logical place to launch the flagship store. Focus groups conducted by Mattel in Shanghai confirmed that girls and their mothers love Barbie. Importantly, both groups not only appreciate Barbie for her beauty and fashion, but also respect her for what she represents – an accomplished and confident feminine role model.

Dickson explains, "As one of China's most modern and progressive cities, Shanghai is an ideal choice for the inaugural Barbie flagship store. The city is cosmopolitan and outward looking, and brings together cultural influences from around the world. What we're doing in Shanghai is an indication for the future of the Barbie brand."

The Store

The New York-based architectural firm Slade Architecture was selected from BIG's short list of over 20 contenders to design the store in an existing eight-story building located at 550 Huai Hai Road.

Slade Architecture was charged with leading the design of the store, including the exterior, interior, fixtures, and furnishings. Slade's design is a sleek, fun, unapologetically feminine interpretation that pays homage to Barbie, past, present, and future.

"The House of Barbie experience begins across the street" was one of the conceptual ideas Mattel and BIG established as a core principle. To this end, Slade created an entirely new façade for the building. Combining references to product packaging, decorative arts, and architectural iconography, they created a modern, sleek identity for the store. Their design simultaneously expresses Barbie's cutting-edge fashion sense and the long history of the brand – very much in line with Richard Dickson's vision – all the while being "unapologetically girl."

The façade is made of two layers. Molded, clear polycarbonate panels on the interior create a transparent three-dimensional layer that refers to traditional decorative architectural elements, as well as to decorative jewelry and picture frames. A whimsical and feminine lattice pattern of Barbie-trademarked iconography is printed on the exterior glass. This pattern reinforces the architectural gestures of the interior, formed panels and the two layers interact dynamically as viewers approach and occupy the building.

While developing the design, Slade worked with Mattel fabrication facilities and teams who produced mock-ups and models of architectural elements – using the same skills and resources they employ for prototyping Mattel products. Slade also collaborated with the designers at BIG, who created the final graphics for the lattice frit pattern on the outer layer of glass, a pattern that has become one of the signature identity elements throughout the store.

From the moment they step across the threshold of the store, visitors are enveloped by the softly curved, pearlescent surfaces of the lobby, which leads to a pink escalator tube that takes them away from the bustle of the street, up two flights to the main floor. As visitors ascend, the sound of girls laughing and giggling becomes louder, while the sound of the city fades behind them.

Visitors arrive at the double-height space on the third floor, where they can register for a Barbie passport and begin their experience.

The central element of the design is a three-story spiral staircase, which encloses over eight hundred Barbie dolls. The staircase and the dolls are the core of the store; everything in the store literally revolves around Barbie.

The staircase links the three retail floors: the girls' floor, the women's floor and the dolls' floor. The main floor focuses on women's fashion and includes the couture collection area as well as licensed and designer products from around the world. The mezzanine is all about the doll and her fashion and accessories. The top retail floor focuses on girls' fashion and accessories. Throughout the retail areas, Slade played with ideas of scale corresponding to scale differences between dolls, girls and women. They reinforced the feeling of youth and the possibilities of an unapologetically girlish outlook (regardless of age) by mixing reality and fantasy and always keeping the idea of play and fun at the forefront of every part of the store – the goal being to create a space where optimism and possibility reign supreme as expressions of the core Barbie attributes.

In addition to retail, the store features four experiential, activity-driven attractions:

  • In the Barbie Design Center, girls get a glimpse into one of the most carefully guarded secrets in the design world: how to design a real Barbie doll. Creativity reigns as girls become fashion designers for the day, selecting their own look for Barbie from a huge range of wardrobe choices. The world of fashion design becomes real for the girls, and their chaperones, as they learn how fashion collections are created. Girls take home their own Barbie creation in a custom carrying case, along with keepsakes from the experience. The activity was organized and choreographed by Chute Gerdeman Retail. The final design of the environment was created by Slade Architecture.
  • At the Barbie Fashion Stage, planned and designed by Chute Gerdeman Retail, girls can experience taking part in a real runway show, choosing outfits from racks of dresses, costumes, and shoes, and also receiving hair and makeup treatments. Learning poise and gaining confidence, aspiring stylists take to the stage in real time, debuting their creations in the Barbie Fashion Café under the lights and in front of the cameras. The experience is captured with fun mementos, including a personalized fashion magazine cover and a fashion look book, all with Barbie's signature. Family and friends get the VIP treatment as well when they watch the runway show in the Pink Room, an intimate Café offering light refreshments and Barbie-themed chocolate.
  • In the full-service spa, scheduled to open later this year, visitors can get their hair and nails done while sampling Barbie brand beauty products. The spa is a joint partnership between Mattel and CMM China. The spa interior was designed by the Norman + Karen Design Studio.
  • The Barbie Café, a beautiful restaurant and gelato bar on the top floor, offers guests the opportunity to take a break and enjoy both local comfort food and Barbie-inspired refreshments. Planning for the Pink Room Café and the Barbie Café was performed jointly by Mattel and David Laris Concept. Both spaces were designed by Slade Architecture.


  • BIG acted as brand steward throughout the development of the store. From developing the initial creative concept with Richard Dickson and Mattel, including research and focus groups with mothers and daughters in China, to selecting core creative partners to designing the key visual identity element that runs throughout the store, BIG provided overall creative direction support during the development stages of the project.
  • Slade Architecture was responsible for the design of the interior and exterior of the House of Barbie, including fixtures, finishes, and furnishings. Charged with the realization of the first physical space to fully develop the new, broader vision for Barbie, they developed a spatial vocabulary and aesthetic that merged the historic/classic heritage of the brand with a fashion-forward, modern aesthetic infused with a sense of fun and whimsy.
    Working with Mattel, Slade led the creative team through the design of the project. Slade developed all aspects of the architectural expression of the project, from the façade to the smallest touch points that together define the overall vision and experience of House of Barbie Shanghai.
  • Chute Gerdeman, a strategic retail design company based in Columbus, Ohio was brought in specifically to choreograph the customer experience at the fashion Café and design center. They also designed the interior of the fashion runway experience and many of the materials used in both areas. In creating the Barbie Design Center Activity and Fashion Stage Show, the Chute Gerdeman design team integrated the powerful Barbie brand essence with a girl-centric point of view. Chute Gerdeman partnered with Mattel on all aspects of creating the themed experiences – crowd management, personalized staffing and attention, time sequencing, and audience participation – in addition to collaborating with the international project team to seamlessly integrate unique environments and brand communications into the larger Barbie Shanghai identity.
  • KSA Shanghai provided retail operations planning and support for Mattel and the rest of the design team.
  • ADI served as the local architect/architect of record, overseeing all local requirements, documentation, and code and legal requirements, as well as directing the mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and structural engineers.
  • Radiance was responsible for lighting design throughout the interior and exterior of the store.
  • JLL provided local construction and project management services for Mattel.
  • David Laris Creates (DLC) provided restaurant operations planning and support for Mattel for the Pink Room Café and the Barbie Café, and developed a chocolate product range branded "Barbie loves chocolate by David Laris."

For more information, please visit the official website:

Contact: Toni Lee
Date: March 06, 2009
Office: Shanghai