The first Barbie-themed restaurant has opened in Taiwan, where Barbie dolls were originally manufactured.Barbie has inspired many things in her 54-year existence: little girls’ imaginations, artwork and feminist ire among them. Now Barbie Cafe, a restaurant dedicated to the doll, has opened in Taiwan and it’s as pink and plastic as one might expect.
The restaurant has been licensed by Mattel, the US toy manufacturing giant and creator of Barbie, and has opened in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital city. Mattel hopes that the café, located in the shopping district of the city, will promote Barbie as a fashion brand. The staff who work at the restaurant sport a not-entirely practical uniform of pink Barbie logo T-shirts, matching tutus, Barbie logo armbands and glitter and tiaras on their heads. The fashion lines available on the Mattel website include a similar pink tutu intended for toddlers.
Iggy Yip, a senior managers at Mattel’s Greater China division, commented on the café: “We picked Taiwan because theme restaurants are very popular and successful here. We are very confident that the Barbie Cafe can promote our brand image .” There are also hopes that the café will attract Barbie fans from China, Hong Kong and Japan. Taiwan used to manufacture the Barbie dolls until the 1980s, when Mattel moved its production lines to China.
The café is 660 square metres of pink dining space, furnished with fashionable illustrations of Barbie in a range of outfits on the walls and chairs, which have red corset-style lacing and tutus around the seats.
Local office worker Jessica Ho, who has a five-year-old daughter, approved of the venture. She said, “My child and I both love Barbie and this lovely and cute place is like a dream come true for us. I will take her here to celebrate her next birthday.”
Mattel’s products include the Spa to Fab Barbie and the career-inspiring I Can Be Pancake Chef Barbie, as well as 22 dolls themed around the beauty industry. Barbie has consistently come under attack for presenting an unrealistic image of femininity to young girls.
Rhiannon Williams, editor of feminist website The Vagenda Magazine, commented on the café: “I cannot imagine anything less pleasant and more nausea-inducing than a Barbie themed restaurant. Not only because I prefer low-impact environments and none of the major food groups are pink for a reason, but also because Barbie is an outdated model of stereotypical femininity and needs to die a death.”
A Barbie restaurant opened in China in 2009 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the doll, but it was closed two years later amid reports that the outlet was unsuccessful. Theme restaurants are popular in Taiwan. Taipei has a restaurant based on eating in an airliner, complete with air hostess waiting staff and trolleys and a hospital-themed bar, where customers consume ‘medicine’ drinks from drips or are ‘syringed’ by waitresses. Curious tourists can also enjoy a meal at the Modern Toilet, where food is served from tiny lavatories, and customers sit on loo seats. The cat café phenomenon is popular in Japan, where customers can enjoy contact with cats after a drink.
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