Costume Designer Shiona Turini Collaborates with Barbie on Diverse New Fashion Campaign

Hanna Flanagan


For costume designer Shiona Turini, who’s worked with Beyoncé, Issa Rae and Future, Barbie is much more than just a childhood toy — the iconic doll created in 1959 is her first-ever “fashion icon.”

So collaborating with the brand to style a diverse group of dolls for the popular Instagram account @BarbieStyle during Black History Month is a career milestone: “It’s a huge deal for me,” Turini, costume designer of the film Queen & Slim, tells PEOPLE exclusively of the digital campaign, out today. “I have a really close family and when the kids hung out, a lot of our time together was spent playing with Barbies.”

The stylist and costume designer remembers the brand as being at the forefront of the diversity movement — the first African-American Barbie, Christie, was released in 1968, then Black Barbie hit shelves in 1980, and Mattel (the famed toy manufacturing company behind Barbie) has since launched petite, plus-size and curvy dolls with a variety of skin tones, eye colors, hair textures and more.

“I’ll never forget being in New York as a young black girl and finding a Black Barbie, and especially a Black Barbie birthday set,” Turini says. “Barbie is a historic brand that was inclusive before it was trendy.”

“I got to see and play with the first Black Barbie. I was really impressed because she had an Afro, she was very dark skinned and she even had this little red pick for her hair, which is so culturally significant for my community,” she shares. “I was really impressed and kind of blown away.”

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Her four-part campaign showcases several non-traditional Barbies, including a doll in a wheel chair, plus-size and curvy dolls, dolls with Afro hairstyles, traditional braids, wigs, bald heads and more.

And with more than 20 stylish looks, each collection features a different aesthetic inspired by Turini’s own life, career and personal style. The fashion guru says the campaign is rooted in the idea of “community and sisterhood” because many of her photoshoots are group-oriented and collaborative.

She continues: “There was one shoot in particular that I had done for Nylon magazine with models of all different skin tones in all different shades of nudes. It was one of my favorite projects I’ve ever worked on. I thought it came together beautifully, and I knew I wanted that to be reflected in this project.”

RELATED: ‘Most Diverse’ Barbies Ever Will Include Dolls with Prosthetics, Vitiligo and No Hair

As for the clothes, Turini (a former contributing editor at New York Magazine’s The Cut and the former Fashion Director of Cosmopolitan) explains that she was inspired by styles that already exist. She also put an emphasis on size-inclusivity and wanted to create pieces that she would actually wear herself IRL.

Mattel

“For the all black collection, I was inspired by all of the black activists in history,” she tells PEOPLE.

Mattel

There is also a monochromatic collection that features a printed green floor and backdrop to make the clothes really stand out.

“I was really inspired by this green coat that you see the Barbie with a really big Afro wearing,” Turini says. “I wanted to create this very sherbet, ice-creamy feeling in the clothing. And they’re all wearing classic Barbie Mule shoes. I wanted them to be uniform in that way.”

Mattel

For the all-red collection, Turini was inspired by the first Black Barbie doll. “That was the basis for this image,” Turini explains. “We decided to have her on her throne with the other dolls dressed in her likeness, also in the red to support her.”

Mattel

For the fourth and final collection, she was inspired by the clothes in Queen & Slim. “The lead costume is a dress with the snakeskin boots. I knew I wanted to have an image that played with texture, and I wanted to use this idea on Barbie. I also knew I wanted to bring prints in some way, even though I actually don’t style with a lot of prints in my work.”

Now that the campaign is out Turini says she’s most excited to share the project with her cousins.

“I’ve been looking through old pictures and found one of me and my cousins with a Barbie ice cream shop at a sleepover,” she shares. “I can’t wait to show my cousins, who I spent so many years playing Barbies with, what I’ve been working on.”