Well-loved and time-worn Barbie dolls are getting a second chance as fashionistas, courtesy of the Sonoma Community Center’s Trashion Fashion Week extravaganza.
The fashion dolls were repurposed from secondhand stores for an exhibition that blends artistry with ecology, a form of 3-D or assemblage art starring the iconic Barbie. Think pint-sized haute couture from recycled goods and Dumpster finds.
Presented in Gallery 212 at the local community center, the “101 Trashion Barbies” display features 101 of the discarded dolls — mostly Barbies, with a few Kens — wearing fashions created from castaway materials.
Bluntly stated, Barbie has gotten trashy.
It’s all for a good cause, though, fun and spirited but with a reminder to recycle, repurpose and reuse items destined for trash cans and landfills.
Kenwood artist Jeanine Briggs proposed the idea after Margaret Hatcher unwittingly mentioned during a committee meeting it might be fun to expand on the already-popular Trashion Fashion Runway Show that’s now in its seventh year.
Hatcher is the community center’s wildly creative special projects manager who oversees the annual fashion show, where models hit the runway wearing dazzling outfits designed from food wrappers, toilet paper tubes, plastic bags, beverage straws and a wide range of rubbish few could envision as fashion statements.
The Barbie exhibition invites those without the time or confidence to create a full-scale outfit for the runway event, which typically sells out to an enthusiastic crowd.
Without preaching, the Trashion Fashion events — including this year’s inaugural fashion show with decked-out dogs on the catwalk — inspire a conversation about ecology.
Briggs is hopeful the Barbie display, also new this year, will share that message in a lighthearted way.
“I don’t want it to be doom and gloom,” she said, “but solutions are out there. Who knows who will come up with something at some point in time?”
Briggs, 71, was a generation ahead of the Barbie doll. Introduced by Mattel in 1958, Barbie was a popular toy for Briggs’ daughter. The artist’s 6-year-old granddaughter also plays with Barbie.
It’s estimated Mattel has sold more than a billion Barbies in 150-plus countries. They aren’t recyclable, Briggs notes, and not every child wants one weathered from years of play or with mangled hair or locks once subjected to haircuts at the unskilled hands of little girls or boys.
Artists and others with a creative spark paid a $25 entry fee to transform a Barbie for the exhibit. Bids open at $25 to purchase one of the dolls.
“Many people embrace the idea of making art out of trash,” said Hatcher. With Barbies standing just under a foot tall, “You can do quick ideas.”
Exhibitors, 60 in all, range from 6-year-old Sullivan Edwards and his big sister, Madeleine, 8, to retirees.
Some are professional artists; others are trying their design skills for the first time.
Agua Caliente resident Justine Filipello, 37, was always tempted to create something for the Trashion Fashion show, but never found enough time. She sells goods at the local farmers market for Paul’s Produce and works as a client coordinator at Sonoma’s homeless shelter.
Designing Barbie couture was an ideal way to test her creativity while supporting the community center, which long has promoted sustainability practices.