Mattel Canada creates Inuk Barbie doll

Young fashion student honours her Inuk grandmother


Next year Barbie plans to model an Inuit-art inspired design by Christy Marcus, 20, a second-year fashion student at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Marcus won the Mattel Canada competition “What will Barbie wear in 2005?” The contest challenged students to create an original design based on “their unique vision” for the world’s quintessential fashion icon.

Marcus’s grandmother was originally from Nunavik, although Marcus doesn’t know exactly which community she came from.

“My grandmother’s name was Mary Verhaegen, but her maiden name was Mary Shem,” Marcus said. “My grandmother lived a traditionally Inuit lifestyle when she was younger, although she was half-Inuit and half-Cree. When her parents died, she continued to embrace her Inuit background. When she met my grandfather, they married and eventually moved to Windsor, Ontario, where my mother and I were born.”

While growing up, Marcus said she had a very close bond with her grandmother, and even lived with her grandparents for a short period of time.

“Although she never talked about her background or her youth, on occasion we would watch Inuit television shows and listen to Inuit music. On a very rare occasion I heard her speaking Inuttitut with old friends that still lived in Quebec,” Marcus said.

This northern connection inspired Marcus’ winning entry dubbed “The Kenojuak Gown,” which features hand-painted, off-white crepe panels trimmed in braided suede and white faux fur accessories.

Her design beat out “Mysteriously Romantic Barbie,” “Butterfly Barbie” and “Let’s Paint this Town Red Barbie” designs to win Mattel Canada’s “What will Barbie Wear in 2005?” competition.

Marcus used acrylic paint to decorate the crepe with stylized images of birds based on Ashevak’s painting The Enchanted Owl, which was featured on a Canadian postage stamp in the early 1970s.

By winning the competition, Marcus joins the ranks of Kate Spade, Christian Dior, Bob Mackie and many other top fashion designers as the newest designer for the Barbie Doll.

Marcus receives a $1,500 cash prize, a designer profile on www.barbiecollectibles. com, and she will be profiled on the package bearing her design.

The competition, organized by the Ryerson University School of Fashion and Mattel Canada in honour of Barbie Doll’s 45th Anniversary, was intended to give young designers the chance to design the next Barbie Collector Doll to be sold in Canada.

“After my grandmother’s death I realized how little I actually knew about her background, and that really saddened me. Since then I have always been interested in Inuit culture,” Marcus said.

“Upon hearing that the Barbie that was chosen from this competition would be exclusively available in Canada, I realized this was a great opportunity for me to research not only my [own], but Canada’s roots. I look very much forward to learning more about Inuit culture.”

The doll wearing Marcus’s design will be on the store shelves in the fall of 2005.

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