12 hours inside the Shanghai Barbie store

12 hours inside the Shanghai Barbie store

We issue a dare: spend a full day inside the Barbie kingdom and live to tell the tale. One sucker takes the bait. But is she up to the challenge?

Barbie isn’t just for girls. Every woman has a bit of Barbie in them, too, and the Shanghai Barbie store’s six-floor emporium has enough to keep them going for an entire day.

How do we know? Hard-earned experience.

When we recently dared one of our writers to lose themselves for a full 12 hours at the Barbie store, Sophie Lloyd took the bait. Follow the experience through her eyes and read about her day inside the Shanghai Barbie store:

My journey into the Shanghai Barbie store begins with this mysterious-looking escalator. Is there a 'Star Trek Barbie' I haven't yet heard of?

  10:15am. I arrive at Barbie’s 'dream home' on a Thursday morning, just after the doors open. The unfinished lobby doesn’t exactly fill me with excitement, but at least I’m greeted with a big Barbie smile.

10:30am. First stop, the passport counter. I fill out a form, pay RMB 20, smile for the camera and get my very own pink Barbie passport. I’m now an official citizen of Barbie world, with several nice discounts that go with it.

11am: Next stop, the Barbie spa. Leafing through the extensive menu of very Barbie sounding spa treatments, I decide on a Plastic Smooth facial -- RMB 380, 75 minutes. I’ll save the Barbie Bust Firming treatment for another day.

11:15am: I’m shown into a cozy treatment room where I’m treated to a 'plastic' facial and massage over the lulling sounds of classical music. Is Barbie a classical music fan? Job done, my hair is a mess, but my skin feels refreshed and (almost) smooth as plastic. I’m impressed. Maybe I’ll come back later and have my hair done.

12:30pm: Hunger strikes, so I head to the Barbie Café. I order into a surprisingly sophisticated and tasty selection of very pink-tastic dishes -- seared pink tuna on crispy wontons (RMB 58), mini-veggie burgers with pink sauce (beetroot juice is the secret pink ingredient) and coffee along with dessert. Only problem? Atmosphere. There aren’t any other customers in sight.

2pm: I try my hand at styling my very own Barbie doll at the Design Center. I’m going for the Barbie on the Bund look -- a red cocktail dress with heels and a clutch. After five minutes, as if by magic, my new personalized doll appears ready to take home in its very own box.

2:30pm: I walk through the Robert Best Designer Collection exhibition showcasing the dolls designed by Mattel’s top dog, which also fetch triple the price of the standard dolls. My personal favorite has to be Movie Mixer Barbie -- she's dressed in a 1950s satin pink ensemble. But Goldie Hawn Barbie comes in at a close second.

3:30pm: It’s time for high tea in the Pink Room, an offspring of the Barbie café. I eye the cupcakes and chocolates, but settle for a glass of pink lemonade -- if I want to be Barbie I have to start watching my waistline. I also check my email -- yes Barbie provides free WiFi.

4pm: I watch a girl living the dream by posing on the Fashion Runway in her best Barbie attire while her mum proudly takes photos. I ask if I can take part, but am informed that this activity is reserved for little Barbies only. But, come the end of next month, big girls can play, too, when a collection of adult-sized Barbie Fashionista costumes are due to arrive.

4:30pm: I sashay down the spiral Barbie staircase -- it features 875 pink-clad Barbies -- and shop around for a Barbie souvenir on the third floor. I spot the famous Vera Wang wedding dress designed exclusively for Barbie. It can be made-to-order for a mere RMB 7 million. I suddenly notice a surprising number of men wandering around. The floor is the busiest it’s been all day.

5:30pm: Feeling inspired to introduce more pink into my life, I purchase a ‘Dreamy Pink’ lipstick from the Barbie cosmetic counter (RMB 108). I flash my VIP card, but don’t get a discount. I’m informed it’s only good for ‘selected’ items.' I didn’t read the small print. Oh well, at least I get a stamp in my passport.

6pm: I’ve made it through the whole day, but I'm exhausted. So I head to the sixth floor for happy hour in the Barbie bar. Like a cross between Barbie and Carrie Bradshaw, I sip on imaginatively named cocktails: Bubble-licious, Barbie-tini and a Glamour-politan, all sickly sweet and deliciously pink. Unfortunately, there are no Kens to enjoy.

8pm: I’m done. Drunk on pink, I realize I’m one of the last customers in the store, so I throw in the towel two hours short of my 12-hour goal. I’ve had all the pink I can take in a day. I bid farewell to the pink palace, but for some reason, I know that I’ll be back for more.

getting there

Barbie Shanghai, 550 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Maoming Nan Lu
淮海中路550号芭比上海, 近成都南路
Hours: 10am-10pm
tel. +86 400 620 8181