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Barbie with Wheels

 Ailbhe and Izzy Keane
Ailbhe and Izzy Keane Image credit: shemazing.net

The most diverse doll line in the world, this year Barbie evolved the Fashionistas line to include dolls with physical disabilities, including a doll with a wheelchair and a doll with a prosthetic limb.

The new collection is a celebration of championing diversity and self-expression through fashion. The line includes four designs that can be sized to fit any manual wheel chair, and miniature versions in Barbie scale that are designed to fit the Barbie with Wheelchair doll.

The Barbie x Izzy Wheels collaboration presents four limited-edition wheelchair wheel cover designs, created by some of Barbie’s favourite U.K. based artists and designers; including London-based inclusive fashion label ART SCHOOL, and graphic artists Malika Favre, Hattie Stewart and Annu Kilpeläinen, who were invited to reimagine Barbie in her 60th year.

To create the wheel covers, Barbie has collaborated with Izzy Wheels, a Dublin-based brand founded by two Irish sisters Ailbhe and Izzy Keane. Initially a college project, the idea was inspired by Izzy who was born with Spina Bifida and is paralysed from her waist down. Ailbhe saw that her sister’s chair was the first thing people noticed about her, but it wasn’t a reflection of her bright and bubbly personality. Ailbhe began designing a range of stylish wheel covers that expressed wheelchair users individuality and personality, transforming a medical device into a piece of fashion and self-expression.

Izzy Keane says "Izzy Wheels empower wheelchair users to make a statement about themselves, it makes a person's wheelchair into a friendly object rather than something purely functional. Having stylish wheels on your chair that match your outfit or show off your interests immediately addresses the chair and opens conversation.

Having a Barbie in a wheelchair meant so much to be as a little girl, and I love that a whole new generation of kids with disabilities can play with a Barbie that represents them.”

Izzy Wheels has been featured in some of the world's top global publications including Vogue, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Good Morning America, Elle, Forbes, WWD, Oprah Magazine, It's Nice That, and TechCrunch. Izzy and Ailbhe were the first Irish people to be asked to take over Instagram’s official account, have been the recipients of numerous awards including Accenture Leaders of Tomorrow Award, were named one of Forbes 30 under 30, and were shortlisted for the Cosmopolitan Innovation Influencers of The Year earlier this year.

"Our mission with Izzy Wheels is to challenge negative associations with wheelchairs and let users celebrate their individuality by personalizing their source of independence. We want to show the world that wheelchairs can be so much more than a medical device, they can be a piece of artistic self-expression.

Fashion and fun are at the heart of what we do, and we’re thrilled to work with talented designers to pay homage to Barbie in her 60th year and celebrate dolls with even more diversity" - Ailbhe Keane.

Since 1959, Barbie has inspired girls to be anything. From pilot to president, astronaut to zoologist, there isn’t a plastic ceiling Barbie hasn’t broken. Today, with over 200 careers and counting, she continues to inspire the limitless potential in every girl. As the #1 fashion doll in the world, Barbie represents a broader view of society for the next generation of girls and in 2019 Barbie continues to offer evolved diversity through body types, hair colours, hair textures, ethnicities, introducing 100+ different looks in Fashionistas since 2015 alone. The AW19 line of Barbie dolls include a Barbie with a wheelchair and a ramp, and a Barbie with a prosthetic limb. These are the first Barbie dolls with disabilities since the much-loved 1997 Share a Smile Becky doll – which has been a mascot in the Izzy Wheels office since the brand began.

ART SCHOOL is a fashion label started by Eden Loweth and Tom Barratt comprising a collective of collaborative designers. Described by Vogue as “instrumental in rewriting the language of fashion in London over the past two years” the ART SCHOOL aesthetic is non-binary queer-luxury decadent minimalism, specialising in evening wear. The duo refuses to categorise their clothing within gender binaries, cast their shows from within their own community, and design clothes to accommodate for evolving body shapes.

The Barbie x Izzy Wheels by ART SCHOOL design is formed around the idea of using accessories to communicate identity - merging Barbie’s iconic accessories with ART SCHOOL’s signature spray painted Swarovski jewellery, and how a wheelchair user can in turn transform a wheelchair into an accessory by customising. ART SCHOOL say “We wanted to investigate the act of playing with Barbies as a child and how this can translate into a feeling. The designs are formed by creating kaleidoscopic patter-nations using edited scans of archive crystal pieces. As the wheel spins, we considered how the design could look like an ever-changing patter nation when moving so it remains engaging for the owner and beholder.”

Hattie Stewart is an Artist and Illustrator based in London. A self – proclaimed ‘professional doodler’ her unique and playful style extends itself through Fashion, Music and Contemporary Art, working with designers such as House of Holland, Marc By Marc Jacobs and Adidas, and exhibiting in Miami, L.A, Bangkok, New York, Berlin and London.

Of her Barbie x Izzy Wheels by Hattie Stewart design Hattie says, “My design is all about Girl Power – fun and playful with interacting characters and bold patterns. I was drawn to the iconic Barbie graphics from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, and incorporated diverse Barbie doll characters to show all the different facets of ‘girl power!’ the characters and logo complimented my cheeky and irreverent doodle graphics.”

Malika Favre is a French illustrator and graphic artist based in London. Her style of works could be characterised by pure minimalism within Pop art and Op art, where it sometimes described as 'Pop Art meets Op Art'. She combines simple illustrations with geometric patterns and has developed a unique style of illustration by using positive and negative space and colours, elegant layouts, especially of the female body and the curves. Her unique graphic style has been featured in Vogue, New York Times & Vanity Fair, Malika has designed the cover of the New Yorker 7 times, and the award-winning cover of Arab News depicting a Saudi Arabian woman driving to commemorate the women’s driving ban being lifted.

The Barbie x Izzy Wheels by Malika Favre design was inspired by her the feeling Barbie evoked in her as a child. Malika says “As a kid, I was fascinated by Barbie, I thought her world was so sophisticated and glamourous. My favourite was the 80’s Barbie studio and all its accessories; I remember that I couldn’t wait to grow up and become a woman. This wheel is an homage to that feeling but also to the diversity that Barbie embraces today.”

Annu Kilpeläinen is a Finnish illustrator now based in the UK, known and loved for her radiant tropical depictions of cars, flowers and landscapes. Her work has appeared in magazines such as The Gourmand, Lucky Peach and Yen and her vivid patterns can be found on anything from book covers to blankets to skateboards. Her feel-good aesthetic and flirtatious scenes are inherently euphoric while her confident use of lurid and rich colours embraces the extravagance of youth, existing somewhere between a comic and a painting.

The Barbie x Izzy Wheels by Annu Kilpeläinen design is inspired by Barbie’s brand message ‘You Can Be Anything’ – celebrating and championing the limitless potential of girls. Rendered in a striking colour palette, strong and empowering bold hands are seen holding the sun, casting a peace symbol and breaking a symbolic glass ceiling. Annu says “I was inspired by the idea of the power of play and how Barbie can be anything.”

Barbie with Wheelchair RRP £16.99. Available at toy stores now. Barbie-Sized Wheel Covers RRP £6 per pair available from the Izzy wheels website.