At a recent perusal of my local drug store’s shampoo aisle, I was trapped, paralysed by indecision, torn between the benefits of coconut water, blue ginger, apple cider, Greek yogurt and avocado for my hair. The lines between beauty products and menus blur.
The curious thing about recent trends, whether it’s a colour like millennial pink, or a social media declaration like hot girl summer, is that they quickly transcend their original boundaries, leaping from fashion to food, from TikTok to… tinned fish (seriously, #hotgirlseattinnedfish is a thing). According to my social media feeds and even CNN, ‘Barbiecore’ is next to transcend.
“It’s definitely all over social media. Celebrities and influencers are all wearing it,” says Tammy Veneza, herself a fashion and food influencer with a significant following. Influencers don pink for Barbiecore bar crawls and enjoy hot pink cocktails around the country that even Forbes has issued a listicle about. Pierpaolo Piccioli sent hot-pink-dressed models down a hot pink Valentino runway in March 2022, and since then, the prevalence of the hot pink hue has converged with the dawn of the next Barbie movie, to be released in summer 2023.
Scrolling through my email inbox, I’m nudged towards ‘glamorous cocktails’ at precisely one dozen bars in Philadelphia, where I live. “La Vie en Rose is a magenta elixir made of gin, luxardo bitter bianco, lime cordial, and Lillet rose,” reads a dispatch from contemporary French bar Forsythia. “Stratus Rooftop Lounge…offers the Pink Robin, a flavorful twist on a Barbie Girl classic, the Cosmopolitan.” “Royal Boucherie features Rue de Fraises, [a] rose-tinted infusion [which] is comprised of tequila, Montenegro, crème de Pamplemousse, lime juice, peach bitters, and strawberry syrup, from which it gets its coral-pink hue.” You guessed it, every single one of these cocktails is unapologetically hot pink. They understood the assignment.
La Vie en Rose. Photo by Max Mester
Where will Barbiecore take us? Will its trajectory mimic that of millennial pink?
Philadelphia is a curious market that is often overlooked. We came to national food crazes like poke that resembles a salad, or unlikely foods constructed out of ramen, later than, say, New York City and LA. I’ll never forget watching a national report that said a blizzard was going to hit “in between New York City and Washington DC.” There’s a city there. It’s called Philadelphia.
From here, I’ve been able to watch trends reach us and then unfold – Thai rolled ice cream, specialty bagels that don’t hew to tradition, renegade pizza pop-ups (this is not to say that Philadelphia hasn’t started its own trends.) Once I saw Barbiecore cocktails invade my TikTok feed, I knew it was only a matter of time before Barbiecore jumped out of my phone and into the rest of my life.
In 2019, when Gabriela Guaracao, founder and creative director of AMERICAE, was placing orders for hot pink fabric for its sharply tailored suits, she encountered a lot of trepidation from textile mills – “Are you sure about this? These are not common colours. Are people going to want it? It’s a difficult concoction to colour the fabric.” Guaracao was prescient and her bold coloured suits out-sell the same versions in white.
“Millennial pink was in every conversation for years and hot pink is almost a backlash. Barbiecore is a rebellious version of millennial pink that says, ‘I’m strong, powerful’. Fashion is responsive, going the opposite direction of culture. Millennial pink is very basic, and society and fashion brands have responded to that vibe with this bold palette,” says Guaracao.
AMERICAE. Photo by Gab Bonghi
Julia Dalton-Brush, make-up artist and owner of skincare brand B3 Balm is over it. “To say bright colours, specifically pinks, in the summer is ‘Barbiecore’, is just renaming and redefining something that is and was already a thing as far as makeup is concerned. For years, Hollywood has put down Barbie for being an unobtainable beauty standard and yet here we all are pushing it because Hollywood money is backing a huge movie and they made it a trend.”
Bartender Barry Johnson says: “I will say that when you focus on colour, you run the risk of losing quality in some cases.” But Johnson clearly knows what he’s doing and sends me recipes and photos of two of his latest cocktails: “Daydreaming… is summer in a glass – St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, watermelon shrub, sparking rosé, and club soda.” Sweet Thang is “made with rum, strawberry ice cream, lemongrass tea syrup and condensed milk.” Sweet Thang is also served in a glass rimmed with rainbow sprinkles.
Are we paying more attention to pink-decked food brands? Marti Lieberman started Mac Mart’s hot pink food truck almost a decade ago and her mac and cheese storefront is also unabashedly hot pink. “Hot pink is always going to be a colour and vibe that grabs people’s attention, so it works in so many industries and mediums.”
But Lieberman had to break some boundaries to defend the colour, like Guaracao, even de-gendering it. “In food, we have had to educate some of our customers that it doesn’t always only apply to ‘girly’ things or desserts, and that for us it is an attention-grabbing colour. We need more brightness these days and if hot pink nails, cocktails, or restaurant decor is gonna do it, do it! And if anyone wants to donate a Barbie pink Bottega Veneta basket bag, I’m here.”
Daydreaming, cocktail by Barry Johnson
Christina Carmona is founder of NYC-based accessories brand Island to East Side, and has long existed in an ecosystem that celebrates pink. “We use a lot of pink in our branding. Everyone else is validating it [now]... The concept was we wanted to show three limited edition colours: lollipop, lip gloss, hot girl pink – each super loud and fun, and we had an amazing reaction to the collection.” Ordering each bespoke bag is an experience that culminated with emblazoning one’s name “or affirmation” on it. Carmona observes astutely, that tucked inside trending pink colours, we’re seeing “personalisation as a trend –in fashion, food and hospitality.”
Carmona has a point. After all, as I’m sitting in my outdated millennial-pink-accessorised kitchen, I twirl my hair, freshly shampooed with a personalised cleanser blended for my hair type (It’s called ‘Kiki’. I ditched the drugstore brands), inhaling the cologne that my husband custom-ordered for me as a wedding gift (it’s also called ‘Kiki’), and marvelling over a recent menu from a winery that printed my name on its header, which of course I saved and affixed to my refrigerator.
Tammy Veneza thinks Barbie has a promising future beyond Barbiecore saturation. “Back when I was a child, Barbies were all the same. They were all blond with the perfect body and beautiful face. I love how the doll evolved and how today they are all races and colours. I can’t wait to see the movie with [my daughter] Chloe. This trend is a splash of colour and mood-booster after the last couple of years.”
When is a cocktail not a cocktail? When is a soup not a soup? In her latest column, Kiki Aranita considers the fine lines that define what we drink with her very own Hard Soup Nights. Read on to find out more.