Everyone has at least one childhood memory that involves a Barbie doll.
The first official Barbie debuted in 1959 and had represented women and girls across the world. Celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, Beyoncé, J-Lo, and Cher have all had replicas of their own Barbie created.
In 2019, South African singer and songwriter Lira was announced as the first African woman to be honoured with a Barbie doll in her likeness. Since 2015, the manufacturers of Barbie, Mattel has been honouring women who continue to "break boundaries" in their chosen industries and celebrate role models who inspire young girls.
This year announced a collaboration with celebrated fashion designer Gert-Johan Coetzee. He has created a ready-to-wear diverse collection inspired by the uniqueness of South African cultures, races, and ethnicities.
The Barbie Loves Gert collection is made up of 31 looks.
“I am so excited to be part of a project of this magnitude. Barbie is historic and very nostalgic for many of us. This collection is all about celebrating the uniqueness of the people of my country South Africa,” Gert says.
“The collection represents all genders, sizes, and cultures, and the models who walk in the show reflect Coetzee’s commitment to diversity.
“I wanted Barbie to experience South Africa to its fullest by integrating an array of South African cultural elements into the collection. Striking pink from the Pedi culture complimented by geometric patterns inspired by the Zulu culture,” Gert says.
“Using South African beadwork in black and white; I took inspiration from the Xhosa culture. I wanted this collection to encapsulate a truly South African experience,” Gert says.
As part of the Barbie Loves Gert collection, his one-of-a-kind finale piece is a life-size doll outfit with intricate detail and over 3000 genuine rhinestone crystals and pearls that are applied to the fabric to create the replica for Barbie. The dress is made of more than 40 meters of bright pink tulle ruches and the entire construction took over 50 hours to create.
“Barbie has collaborated with many designers but I really wanted the African interpretation to stand out. When people look at the collaboration from around the world they must really feel inspired by the diversity of Africa, the richness of our culture, and the beauty of our men and women. I also collaborated with Europa Art Group to make the stunning shoes to match each look,” says Gert.
Gert is one of SA’s most admired fashion designers. He has dressed the likes of Bonang Matheba, Minnie Dlamini-Jones, Lerato Kganyago, and many other A-listers. Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and Miss Universe 2018 Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters are just two newsmakers who chose Gert’s gowns for special occasions and US talk show host Oprah Winfrey wore A GJC at the Global Citizen Festival in December 2018.
Gert has won numerous awards, including SA’s Most Promising Young Designer in 2006 at the age of 19 years old, and SA Designer of the Year in 2010. His brand extends to Canada, Angola, and Nigeria and has a growing following in Africa.
He is also a social activist and has broken prejudices about albinism, participated in breast cancer awareness and GBV.