Dolled Up: Roger & Mauricio Padilha Love Barbie, Too

By: Joe Thompson

Roger and Mauricio Padilha are the owners of MAO Public Relations, a boutique PR firm with heavy ties to the fashion world as well as New York’s art and cultural scene. They’re also the publishers of MAO MAG, which features inspirational people who are often ignored or forgotten by the mainstream press.

The brothers have loved Barbie for years, and in 2009 the fashion icon asked them to produce her 50th Anniversary fashion show at New York Fashion Week; over 50 designers created tributes to highlight Barbie’s timeless beauty, including Diane von Furstenberg, The Blonds, and Christian Louboutin, and the Padilhas orchestrated this magnificent show.

We asked them to chat about their relationship with one of the fashion industry’s most fabulous icons.

What’s your first Barbie memory?
ROGER: In a hypothetical way, my first "Barbie" moment came from watching my mom getting dressed and putting on make-up. I guess she is the original "Barbie" doll in my life. In a literal way, I was at Toys“R”Us as a kid and so desperately wanted a Barbie, but at that time in the late 1970s I had the notion that little boys aren’t supposed to play with Barbies. So I got a Wonder Woman doll, which seemed a little less feminine as she was an action figure. I actually didn't have a Barbie until I was given one by the great folks at Mattel once we started working together, and I still marvel at them. They are magic.

MAURICIO: My first memory of Barbie was when I was young and there was the Barbie and the Rockers cartoon on Saturday mornings. I used to love watching it to see what Barbie would be wearing. The colors always got me excited as a kid.

What excited you most about working on Barbie’s 50th Anniversary fashion show?
MAURICIO: Working with Mattel to make it one of the most memorable shows that New York Fashion Week has seen to date. From the video beginning, to the outfits from each of the 50 designers, to the 50 little girls who closed the show— and to see how happy they were to be standing next to a "real life" Barbie fashion model—was so exciting.

ROGER: It was the greatest fun ever. Just getting to think about fashion in a completely non-commercial way for a change was really amazing. The sparklier, the glitzier the better! Barbie isn't shy when it comes to style so to make 50 of the world's top fashion models into the ultimate Barbies, in a no-holds-barred way, was amazing. The girls had the BIGGEST hair, the HIGHEST heels, and the vampiest make-up. I loved it!

Why do you think Barbie is so iconic?
ROGER: Barbie is THE American icon, right up there with Mickey Mouse, the Statue of Liberty, and the Grand Canyon! I recently went to a masquerade party in Italy that was very extravagant and the theme was "America," and it was funny to see what a European thinks is purely American. There were people dressed up as Scarlett O'Hara, french fries, taxi cabs, Uncle Sam and at least 30 Barbies! I mean, Barbie is a symbol of our country.

MAURICIO: Barbie can be anything and is everyone. She can be a fashion model, a doctor, a rocker, Barbie is anything that your imagination wants her to be, and I think that is why she has had the longevity and is always in our hearts.

Who would you want to see made into a Barbie?
MAURICIO: I would love to see Anna Wintour as a Barbie. Anna rules the fashion world, but I think Barbie does too, so it would be a perfect match. But Barbie would have to come with two outfits, ‘cause Anna is known for switching into a second outfit halfway through the day.

ROGER: Madonna. They have so much in common—they love to dress up and change their appearance, they are both strong, powerful women, and I think they are approximately the same age.

How do you think Barbie has influenced our culture?
ROGER: So many of the world's style leaders, such as Donna Karen, Anna Sui, and Betsey Johnson have personally told me that Barbie was one of their first fashion memories. So if these women played with Barbie and then grew up to dress the world, there's got to be some of Barb's influence going on.

MAURICIO: Barbie is the girl who can transform with the times, and I think the base of Barbie is being EVERY WOMAN, which makes it easy for her to travel with us from year to year. She evolves in the same way as humans do.

Check out some video from Barbie's 50th Anniversary Fashion Show.