Barbie, the fashion doll, turns 50

New York | Updated: Mar 11 2009, 04:28am hrs
Happy birthday, Barbie! Yes, the worlds most iconic fashion doll that has had careers like astronaut, army medic and presidential candidate, turned 50 on Monday.

But, Barbie, introduced at a toy fair in New York on March 9, 1959 as a teenage fashion model, has been the subject of numerous controversies and lawsuits, often involving parody of the doll and her lifestyle.

Barbie, whose real name is Barbie Millicent Roberts, was created by US businesswoman Ruth Handler whos inspired by a German doll called Bild Lilli.

And, now at 50, instead of a steady and successful career, Barbie, manufactured by US-based Mattel Incorporation, has been facing increasing competition from the Bratz range of fashion dolls.

Whats shocking is that the much-loved doll is not even immune to economic turmoil, with its sales skidding steeply and its maker Mattel reporting a 46% decline in its fourth quarter profits, tumbling to $176.4 million. Mattel had a profit of 328.5 million dollars in the year-ago period.

Fourth quarter worldwide gross sales for the Mattel girls and boys brands business units were $1.12 billion, down 17% from a year ago.

Worldwide gross sales for the Barbie brand were down 21% and worldwide gross sales for other girls brands were down 8%, Mattel had said in a recent statement issued to the media.

But, Mattel is said to be aiming to position the doll as a lifestyle brand for girls, bringing together more than 45 product categories ranging from toys to clothes to publishing.