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Taiwan: A Pink Palace for Barbie Lovers

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

Welcome to the Barbie cafe.

54 years after the doll first hit the toy shelves , fans of the pink princess can now relax in a cafe designed with them in mind

It's pink, and sparkly, and Barbie is everywhere.

Here the waitresses wear princess skirts, sparkling tiaras, and bring the magic of Barbie to life.

The themed restaurant opened its door in Taipei a month ago, and has proved to be a hit.

40-something year-old Casey Zhen is here with a group of girlfriends to reminiscence about their childhoods.

Zhen says its a fantasy come true: "It's very dream like and very youthful. When we were young, there were no places like this to go to. So we decided to come and check it out. This what we would have loved to do when we were little girls".

Her friend, Cherry Chen, likes the idea too: "Everything inside, the interior, the atmosphere, all is very beautiful. It transports me back to when I was a little girl. It makes me happy".

Themed restaurants are popular in Taiwan. There is already a Hello Kitty coffee shop, a noodle store where everyone is sitting on toilet seats, and even a prison-themed bar.

So the Barbie cafe concept is not stretching the powers of Taipei's culinary adventurers.

The US Toymaker, Mattel, agreed to license the brand to a Taiwanese restaurant operator, and the doll has not looked back.

The cafe operators hope the new establishment located in bustling downtown Taipei will help promote Barbie to younger generations and attract an older, more nostalgic crowd too.

Vivian Wu, a spokesperson for the Barbie Cafe , says they wanted to create a place to interact with the world's most popular doll: "So we thought Barbie has been around more than 50 years but there has never been a place where customers can interact with Barbie. So we have asked for the rights and discussed with partners on cooperation to set up the Barbie coffee shop".

Wu says the restaurant is attracting male customers too - when on the arm of their girlfriend or mother.

And she says there are portion sizes for Barbie-wannabes, and hungrier clientele too.

"Actually we cater for male customers too. Although the menu and the place is designed for women, with low calories food served, we also prepare menus for male customers with staple, filling foods. That's because that female customers bring their male family members, boyfriends, fathers or sons. Actually, numbers of male customers is pretty high".

Taiwan's relationship with Barbie and its manufacturer Mattel is well documented.

When US toy maker Mattel began outsourcing Barbie-production jobs to Asia, Taiwan was among the first to get a factory. Manufacturing methods were crude at first. Rice cookers are used to steam Barbie's hair and chopsticks to curl it.

The plant was closed in 1987 after Mattel found cheaper labor in China and Indonesia.

Many of Taiwan's younger generation are not aware of the historical connection between the blue-eyed doll and Taiwan's workforce.

Three-year-old Prairie has come to see her favorite doll.

She loves Barbie because: "Barbie grew up to be so beautiful."

The cafe operators are hoping that Barbie's appeal will be big - and beautiful - across Asia.


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