Barbie wedding gowns for grown-up Japanese brides

TOKYO Mon Mar 9, 2009 3:05pm EDT

1 of 3. A Barbie doll is seen inside the FAO Schwartz toy store in New York, March 9, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

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TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Barbie is having a hard time winning the hearts of Japanese children, so she's trying to charm grown-ups instead with a bridal collection full of bows, ruffles and gowns embroidered with the doll's logo.

The Barbie Bridal line, available in June, will only be sold in Japan, and is part Mattel Inc's attempts to bolster the Barbie brand in a country where the toy doll market is ruled by local rival Licca-chan.

"What's unique about Japan is that it's a very strong adult-apparel market," John Cullen, vice president of Mattel Brands, told Reuters during a visit to Tokyo to attend celebrations for Barbie's 50th birthday.

"We want to be where girls are... we want to create a fashion brand that appeals to girls in all generations," he added.

The bridal collection joins other clothing lines for adults that are only in sale in Japan such as the Barbie Golf collection.

Last year, a limited-edition collection of Barbie clothes and accessories by U.S. celebrity stylist Patricia Field, known for her work on hit TV series "Sex and the City" and "Ugly Betty," went on sale in Japan.

Cullen said Mattel was aiming to introduce more Barbie licensed products such as stationery and cosmetics in Japan as early as next year.

"Once our apparel brand is established, then we can go back to our core target, kids," he said, describing Mattel's business targeting Japanese adults "growing."

Despite Japan being one of the largest toy markets in the world, Mattel has always had a hard time marketing Barbie partly due to Tomy Co's Licca-chan, which has a Japanese body-type and facial features.

Barbie, with her Western looks and that infamously unrealistic body, was initially made in Japan and has sold some 1 billion units worldwide since she first hit U.S. shelves in 1959.

Licca-chan has sold 53 million units, mostly in Japan, in the past 42 years and her popularity has prompted companies such as Nissan Motor and East Japan Railway (JR East) use the doll in corporate and product promotions.

(Editing by Miral Fahmy)

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