Ndebele print, Xhosa beads and hijab featured in Gert-Johan Coetzee collection with Barbie

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Barbie wears a gown from the Barbie Loves Gert collection. Photo supplied by Barbie South Africa
Barbie wears a gown from the Barbie Loves Gert collection. Photo supplied by Barbie South Africa
  • In his collaborative collection with Barbie and Europa Art, designer Gert-Johan Coetzee references Ndebele print, Xhosa beadwork and draws influences from modest dress as well as Pedi and Zulu cultural markers. 
  • The collection titled Barbie Loves Gert is meant to communicate inclusivity by drawing references from these multiple South African cultures. 
  • The designer says the collection is gender, size and religion inclusive to show it is meant for everybody.

Barbie has brushed up her runway look to model a couture gown from her Barbie Loves Gert collection with designer Gert-Johan Coetzee and Europa Art. 

You can't help but squint in focus at the miniature Mattel doll as she is poised in the diamond-patterned pink and black dress completed by a larger-than-life tulle overskirt. With her silver-adorned braids styled in an updo and her edges laid, Barbie's entire look ever so often catches a glimmer of light.

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This Barbie look, with more than three thousand rhinestone crystals and pearls, comes to life in a full-size version on the runway model. Upon closer inspection, the patterns on the dress are acutely familiar - an direct reference to the geometric Ndebele art. 

With this geometric pattern used in multiple other looks, it illuminates other cultural references in the collection such as the fine beadwork on two corseted looks, one a pink dress and the other a white, high-waisted skirt. 

All this was intentionally done because the designer says he wanted to communicate a message of "inclusivity" with this collection.

Gert-Johan tells W24, "I've been so inspired by all different South African cultures that I really wanted to bring across literally everybody. This collection is about inclusivity so when I was designing it, I literally looked at every single South African culture and I tried to incorporate a little bit of it, whether it's the Pedi colours or the Ndebele prints or the Xhosa [beads]. So, it was really trying to be really inclusive with everything."

Barbie wear couture gown from the Barbie Loves Ger

Barbie wears couture gown from the Barbie Loves Gert collection. Photo: Supplied by Barbie South Africa


READ MORE | Mattel's efforts to make Barbie more inclusive paying off in record-breaking sales 

A part of this collection's exhibition is also a model wearing a hijab, this Gert-Johan says, is to represent religious diversity as well. 

"This collection is gender-inclusive and also it is size-inclusive, religion-inclusive - it's literally for everybody and that is what I think Gert-Johan Coetzee stands for," says Gert-Johan. "That is the same for Barbie. Barbie is a very inclusive brand and I wanted to bring that across."

Barbie wear couture gown from the Barbie Loves Ger

Gert-Johan Coetzee presents the Barbie Loves Gert collection. Photo: Supplied by Barbie South Africa

The designer says he wants to bring across Africa in a different way. He says, "For me, it's really about showing the world what African couture looks like at its best. We've seen the beautiful work all the crafters do, but what is next and how can I be inspired by it and create an iconic art piece out of it."

This collection includes both couture and ready-to-wear items, with 15 of the ready-to-wear items to be available on the Gert-Johan Coetzee website and couture items can be made to order.

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