What Fashion Brands Can Learn from the Rise of Barbiecore

What is Barbiecore? What does this fashion trend mean for Gen Z, and the fashion brands working to attract them? We’re breaking it down.
Fanbytes | Barbiecore

In 30 seconds:

  • Like any trend, Barbiecore may have started on social media, but it has spread from digital feeds into fashion enthusiasts’ wardrobes – and Gen Z’s everyday lives.
  • The Barbiecore aesthetic is characterised by hot pink dresses, platform heels, minidresses, fuchsia handbags, and – of course – high ponytails.
  • But there’s more to learn from this trend than just how to style bubblegum pink like a true Barbie girl – it can teach us a lot about how Gen Z approaches fashion and identity online.

Fashion trends are fickle things. They move fast. And the latest aesthetic to grace our collective fashion consciousness? Barbiecore

Thanks in no small part to TikTok, the newest fashion trends look a little different to how we’ve come to understand them. TikTok’s majority Gen Z audience doesn’t put so much stock in the ‘must-have item’ – they’re looking for an aesthetic, and they love mixing and matching different characters. These aesthetic trends can be based on anything that captures their attention. 

Fashion brands have to move ahead of the TikTok curve if they want to lead the conversation – but doing so opens up an exciting new world of possibilities. After all, trends like the Barbiecore aesthetic are wide-ranging, so there’s room for a whole host of different fashion brands to get involved. 

We’re breaking down everything you need to know to make sure your brand is always fashion-forward for young audiences. 

What is the Barbiecore trend?

Part nostalgia, part empowering reclamation of ‘girlie’ interests, Barbiecore is the pink-dominated trend on everyone’s fashion wish list right now. 

Barbiecore fashion takes a no holds barred approach to femininity.  Bright pinks, glitter and eye-wateringly high heels are all key features. But by overtly tapping a recognised character synonymous with the style, the trend’s name has the kind of self-deprecating humour that makes it fun for Gen Z to join. For TikTokers, the Barbiecore look is an inclusive trend: it’s a movement to embrace and feel empowered by feminine looks – and have fun.

But where did it come from?

Greta Gerwig’s upcoming Barbie movie certainly plays a role in the Barbiecore trend. Set to star Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as Mattel’s Barbie and Ken respectively, the movie is slated for release in 2023, but on-set photos are already gracing TikTok – the actors dressed in recreations of iconic Barbie outfits.

But Barbie pink’s currency also has high fashion roots. Valentino’s recent A/W 22 Pink PP Collection, designed by creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli, is a notable contributor to Barbiecore’s transcendence: the monochrome collection was exclusively fuchsia – the fashion show itself staged in an all-pink room. On the red carpet, fuchsia pink Valentino pieces have been worn by huge names like Lizzo, Florence Pugh, Zendaya and Anne Hathaway, whilst other big names including Megan Fox, Dua Lipa, Hailey Bieber and Nicki Minaj have bubblegum pink, tying the barbie-inspired trend ever-tighter to pop culture

But even trendsetter Kim Kardashian – who has been spotted wearing Balenciaga’s pinkest pieces – cannot claim exclusive responsibility for the rise in sky-high heels and acid-bright pinks. Barbiecore has taken off because it’s about more than just a style: it’s about capturing a moment. And that’s exactly what the TikTok ‘-core’ aesthetics do so well. 

How fashion brands can tap Barbiecore TikTok - and more

TikTok’s most successful aesthetic trends – such as Cottagecore and Barbiecore – have particular commonalities that fashion brands should know. Getting an aesthetic trend right is a perfect ticket to mass brand awareness and consideration. Check out our report below to start converting your TikTok presence into sales and more.

What is a ‘-core’ trend?

Is ‘core’ the new ‘chic’? Short answer: kind of. But it’s a little more involved than that. 

Fashion has good form for grouping trends into aesthetics – consider the 1990s ‘heroin chic’ or the early 2000s’ ‘boho chic’ (thank you, Kate Moss and Sienna Miller, for your service). “Chics” are still part of TikTok fashion parlance – take, for instance, the emerging “ketamine chic” trend – but generally, nowadays, the fashion community’s preference is for ‘-cores’.

One of the first examples of a ‘-core’ that really took off was in 2014, when ‘Normcore’ started making waves online. Normcore championed unremarkable clothes: think straight-fit jeans, plain t-shirts, unbranded trainers and plaid shirts. 

This gives a clue into the allure of ‘core’ aesthetic trends now: the joy from this trend came from camaraderie, rather than a single “must have” piece. Whereas a ‘chic’ trend may seek to embellish or refine a particular aesthetic, getting a ‘core’ trend “right” means celebrating its key aesthetic principles, and not seeking to improve them. Core trends are also more up for individual interpretation. 

Most importantly, “Core” aesthetic trends bring people into a wider conversation, and often include deeper discussions about the role of clothes in self-expression. A ‘-core’ therefore encourages an attitude shift along with a new way of dressing – and that’s why Gen Zers are so keen to get involved. 

Gen Z, TikTok, and aesthetic trends: lessons for fashion brands

The most downloaded app in the world, with more web traffic than Google itself and users reportedly spending more than 850 minutes per month on the app, it’s clear that TikTok is the new centre of gravity for young people’s experiences on the internet. 

TikTok is capable of single-handedly launching trends: the ability for users to react very quickly to ongoing conversations means that when a style is gaining popularity in a group, those interests are soon reflected back at them – helping the trend to spread even further. 

It works for memes, and it works for fashion styles. Though, these aren’t always so clearly separated for Gen Z. 

‘-core’ trends and popular aesthetics are often at least slightly tongue-in-cheek. Gen Z isn’t afraid of laughing at themselves, even as they work hard to follow a particular trend. Just remember the rise of the ‘villain era’ – half-joke, half-aspirational call to further self care.  

Here are some more lessons for fashion brands to take away:

1. It’s about the look, not one “it” item

Fashion writers have claimed for years that “the “it” bag is dead” – yet many fashion brands would argue differently. The emerging shape of TikTok’s aesthetic trends, however, could add fuel to the discussion. 

Core aesthetic trends identify multiple key elements. This is where brands can insert themselves into the conversation – for example, Versace’s sky-high pink platform pumps – but they do not carry the trend alone.

Instead, TikTok’s fashion trends tap into desires or overall ‘feelings’. The #Barbiecore aesthetic, for example, is about more than just the clothes – it’s about playing a character (preferably, in a “barbie world”). Another key example of this is the “coastal grandmother” – which marries preppy outfits with embodying a relaxed ‘coastal’ lifestyle.

What this means for brands:

To successfully tap into a ‘-core’, fashion brands need to focus on how pieces play into an entire aesthetic – and the role play that this unlocks. 

The good news? This heralds a new kind of flexibility. Brands can explore different ways of expressing the same ideas, present a diverse approach to trends, and still be perfectly on-brief. The entire climate of fashion – from couture to fast – can inform a look or movement.

In fact, part of the beauty of Gen Z’s approach to fashion trends is just that: it encourages a diverse kind of uptake. Different interpretations, different body types, different tastes… no pressure on people to ‘conform’. All of which means better brand sentiment, and a wider audience of potential customers. 

2. No -core is unique

While one ‘core’ trend or TikTok fashion aesthetic might take the spotlight for a while, for the most part they’re all happening at the same time

The ‘clean girl aesthetic’ is synchronous with the ‘feral girl aesthetic’. You’ll find bimbocore devotees posting alongside cottagecore enthusiasts, fairycore girls, “Scandi girl” and “weird girl” fashionistas.

High-end fashion isn’t the one defining force behind these trends – they’re arising from character ideas and attitudes online. The most common factor they all share is the way they embrace Gen Z’s love of ironic style. Often, the ‘characters’ (think coastal grandmother, side character, and villain) are equal parts aspirational and tongue-in-cheek.

What this means for brands:

Remember that your audience are also creators. They’re just as active in online spaces as you are – and often, they’re actively creating the trends you hope to respond to. That means it’s vital to understand why an aesthetic is gaining popularity, and what kind of content is being created around it – including which trends are rising in direct opposition – in order to meaningfully convert online fans into real-world buyers. 

3. It’s all about the timing

While neither the Barbie movie nor Valentino’s Barbie doll-esque looks are solely responsible for the rise in the Barbiecore trend, there’s no denying that the heady combination inspired a sharp uptick in interest around the fashion doll aesthetic. 

It’s also far from the first trend to have stemmed from a perfectly captured moment

Take Regencycore for example. With over 54M views on the TikTok hashtag, the trend arose after the huge success of Netflix drama Bridgerton, with users inspired to try looks incorporating long gloves, corsets, and lace.

@asta.darling WHO IS WATCHING BRIDGERTON?! I am on episode five and I am simply ✨obsessed✨ also peep my version of the #strawberrydress 🍓🍓#bridgerton #grwm #gettingdressed #regencycore #regency ♬ Richter: Spring 1 - 2022 - Max Richter & Elena Urioste & Chineke! Orchestra

What this means for brands:

Timing is more important than ever. Just like releasing a branded post with a trending sound months after the initial wave, there’s no point jumping onto a trend when the majority of users have already moved on. 

Fashion brands have always had to monitor trends. Now, to anticipate the next big thing, they have to monitor not only what people will want to wear, but also what they’ll want to feel – and what they’ll want to feel a part of as more and more young people become creators themselves, using TikTok videos to join a fashion trend and thus spread it further.

Getting to the core of the issue

The fashion industry has always had to anticipate the next ‘big thing’. The key to a successful season, line, or release is to successfully predict the garments and styles your customers will be interested in wearing in the next few months. 

Now, more than ever, the key to understanding what customers want is decoding their online behaviour. With TikTok aesthetic trends more and more often being linked to trends in entertainment, keeping an eye on the up-and-coming conversations, the social media memes, songs and Gen Z’s favourite new video styles – and then replicating their behaviour – is the key to high-performing results. 

At Fanbytes by Brainlabs, we’re always keeping ahead of the trends. Why not sign up to our weekly trends newsletter, or contact us about your next campaign. We can help you explode your reach on TikTok – and convert your online presence to real sales. 

As the birthplace of trends, TikTok is the home of the next big look – now you just need to find it. Our insight blogs are the perfect place to get started:

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