Sign of the times: Barbie turns 50, celebrates in Shanghai dreamhouse

From the LA TIMES:

Mattel this weekend will unveil the House of Barbie in Shanghai.

The six-story retail emporium is the brand’s first stand-alone store in China. It’s a multimillion-dollar bet that its 11 1/2 -inch plastic toy will appeal to Shanghai’s material girls, even in this horrible economy.

“There’s no reason why in five to 10 years, China shouldn’t be the biggest market in the world for us,” said Richard Dickson, Barbie’s general manager, sitting on a lattice boudoir bench on the store’s fourth floor, where girls can design their own dolls.

The store also contains a salon where moms and daughters can get facials and manicures. There’s a restaurant and bar. Naturally it offers thousands of Barbie products, from branded chocolate bars that cost a buck or two to an adult-sized Vera Wang-designed wedding dress for $10,000.

I had several experiences with Barbie when I was in China researching WAIW?:

1) All of the adopted Chinese girls are sent back to the U.S. – or wherever their new home is – with a “Going Home” Barbie. It’s a Caucasian Barbie carrying a tiny little Chinese bundle of joy. The White Swan hotel distributes the Barbies and the manager told me “Most of the children are adopted are girls and Mattel sees this as an opportunity to attract potential clients. We are on our 3rd series of Barbies. Some families who have adopted multiple times have collected all three.”

2) In the toy aisle at the Chinese Wal-Mart I visited in Foshan, there were Barbies, but not Asian ones.

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