Interviews, Costume Society Ambassadors, Costume Society  |  October 18, 2020

In Conversation with Carlyle Nuera, Lead Designer – Barbie Signature, Part Two.

by Joanna Munholland

JM: You’ve been with Mattel for over nine years. How would you say you’ve seen Barbie’s fashion sense evolving since you’ve been with Mattel?
CN: Barbie has always reflected the times and in the 9 years I’ve been designing for her, I’ve been honored to be a part of that. As Barbie designers, we pay attention to trends, not just in fashion but evolution in terms of representation and society too. So in addition to representing what clothing real people are wearing, Barbie’s representing the real people wearing the clothing.

JM: You discussed how within the BMR1959 line the clothing pieces were mostly interchangeable between the four different body types. Is this a large consideration for you when designing new collections and if so, why?
CN: For the first two waves of BMR1959, yes, I kept fit in mind when designing the pieces because I wanted Barbie collectors to be able to mix & match.

JM: How did this new addition of four dolls come about to the BMR1959 line? Especially as you discussed the range as a clothing brand, is this the Spring/Summer 2020 BMR1959 line?
CN: After I designed the first 6 dolls, establishing the BMR1959 branding, I wanted to expand the line in terms of diversity (body type, skintone, etc) and also add more clothing pieces for mix & match styling. I wanted to give Barbie collectors a strong statement of 10 dolls.

JM: You had a really lovely quote [YouTube Interview Link] - "Every doll that I design comes with this... idea of diversity, idea of representation and how can this doll... make somebody feel seen and represented. All different types of people." How do you apply that idea to your fashion concepts in particular?
CN: When designing a doll, I ask myself ‘Who haven’t we represented yet? Who needs to be represented more?’ And I also account for the nuances of hairstyles, textures, the range of skintones & facial features within a demographic, because each group isn’t monolithic. I also account for context in which those nuances are represented. For example, I put an afro on the 2018 Holiday Barbie in a glam gown because I think it’s important for Black girls to see their natural hair in aspirational, glamourous contexts too.

JM: One article said of a pair of earrings in the BMR1959 Collection, "Yes, you're going to want those earrings for yourself." Is there a specific piece you've designed at Mattel you'd like a resized version of yourself?
CN: Definitely some of the pieces from BMR1959 like the vinyl bomber jacket and oversized mesh t-shirt with the rainbow logo. I love jewelry, so there’s this statement collar necklace from the 2018 Holiday Barbie that I designed I’d love to have in human scale!

JM: When designing a real person as a Barbie, do you try to recreate an iconic outfit or an entirely new design based on their past fashion choices or a little bit of both?
CN: It depends! Sometimes they’re open to a design from me or sometimes they want to recreate a past iconic outfit or a future outfit that they’re going to wear around the time the doll comes out, since we work about a year to a year & half ahead of a doll’s release.

JM: Just for fun – what pop cultural icon, living or dead, real or fictional, would you like to design for? Why, and how would you do it?
CN: My favorite band of all time is the Sugababes. Their harmonies, lyrics and integrity really inspire me. The original three members, Mutya, Keisha & Siobhan, are back together, so it would be an absolute dream to style or design for them!

References:
1. https://barbie.mattel.com/shop/en-us/ba/barbie-bmr-1959#facet:&productBeginIndex:0&orderBy:&pageView:grid&minPrice:&maxPrice:&pageSize:&contentPageSize:&

  • ‘Carlyle Nuera, courtesy of Carlyle Nuera, Mattel, courtesy Carlyle Nuera and Mattel’
  • ‘Part of the BMR1959 collection, courtesy of Carlyle Nuera, Mattel, courtesy of Carlyle Nuera, Mattel’
  • ‘Part of the BMR1959 collection, courtesy of Carlyle Nuera, Mattel, courtesy of Carlyle Nuera, Mattel’
  • ‘Part of the BMR1959 collection, courtesy of Carlyle Nuera, Mattel, courtesy of Carlyle Nuera, Mattel’
  • ‘Part of the BMR1959 collection, courtesy of Carlyle Nuera, Mattel, courtesy of Carlyle Nuera, Mattel’
  • ‘Part of the BMR1959 collection, courtesy of Carlyle Nuera, Mattel, courtesy of Carlyle Nuera, Mattel’