Meet the Gen Z creatives taking advantage of Y2K Bratz art

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There is no doubt that we are living in a Y2K renaissance. Amid the chaos of the past year and a half, we return to the seemingly simplistic days of techno-futuristic aesthetics, Paris on our TV screen and pop- punk dominating the charts. On the internet, there doesn’t seem to be a better place for that dose of nostalgia than creatives using toys to reimagine pop culture moments from the early 2000s. Cruel intentions – esque dramas with Sylvanian families taking over our FYP TikTok; chaotically recreated pop star album covers with Furbies; or, more recently, the myriad of creatives celebrating the 2000s with Bratz dolls.

“Girls with a passion for fashion,” as the mantra goes, have taken to social media as we emerge from the pandemic for a hot summer for girls. The hashtag #bratz alone has over 1.1 billion (!) Views on TikTok from videos of makeup artists recreating the dolls’ iconic faces and outfits on themselves on the theme of the Bratz TV show from 2005. But our favorite Y2K dolls don’t just rule on TikTok. On Instagram, young creatives are using the dolls to recreate 2000-era pop culture’s most beloved icons, trends, and moments like Cher and Dionne in Distraught (1995), The Cheetah Girls in their cheetah print tracksuits and Drew Barrymore with his cable-knit sweater in the first five minutes of Scream (1996).

“There is a great community of artists who love and photograph Bratz dolls. A lot of them are incredibly talented and have so much knowledge about fashion and trends, ”says Mar, a 25-year-old Los Angeles-based creative who makes commissioned Bratz images, often for the official Bratz account himself. “In college, I took a series of photos with Bratz dolls, and the CEO’s daughter started following me on Instagram.” But it was in 2019, after launching her Madison Beer and Ariana posts online, that she realized she had started a trend (“suddenly everyone was recreating my photos”) and counted it. Bratz contacted her for content on their social media and website. “Since then, I have been working with the company,” she adds. “I’ve been a lifelong fan so I know the brand inside out. “

The Art of Mar features highly accessorized looks, cute slogans, and super fun backgrounds. In one post, a block-fringed doll wearing a bralette, fluffy jacket, and polka-dot satin shorts sits on magenta sheets with a teletubby (minky-winky) in one hand and a silver-thread fixed line in the post. ‘other. The not-so-innocent phrase is written on the image “oops, I did it again”. “I’m self-taught in photography, design and animation and it’s all thanks to Bratz dolls,” says Mar. “These were my first models because they are so visually striking. ”

It was their visually striking appearance that made the dolls both immensely popular and extremely controversial when they first hit shelves in 2001. The creative child of a former Mattel worker, right from the start , Bratz was everything that was a toy back then, Barbie was not: diverse, cool, and contemporary. Parent company MGA was unsure whether racially diverse dolls that mimicked the styles of Lindsay, Beyonce, and TLC would sell in conservative America, even giving each doll intentionally ethnically ambiguous names. However, earning over $ 97 million in the first year, Bratz has proven to be a strong opponent to the industry monopoly Mattel once held. At their peak in 2007, Bratz would have been the number one doll on the market.

But with dramatically exaggerated proportions, lifted and outfitted makeup in the fashion of the day; “Fashionable girls” were quickly accused of making children grow up too fast. “I wasn’t allowed to have a Bratz growing up, but I was still obsessed and sneakily bought one or two that then went into a collection of hundreds,” says Mar. Interestingly, an Israeli study of 2013 revealed that young girls were more likely to own Barbie dolls – presumably purchased by their parents – but preferred Bratz dolls. But for many kids at the time, especially those from minority backgrounds, the Bratz were exciting and, with 75% of their original dolls being PoCs, representative. It was the first time they had seen themselves accessible as a toy alongside the styles of their favorite celebrities.

Others, like 19-year-old Mexican digital artist Kev, admired them from afar. “When I was six, I took my sister’s ‘Magic Hair Cloe’ to school and was badly bullied. It wasn’t until around 2017 that I started collecting Bratz dolls and taking pictures of them, ”he tells us. Now her Instagram account is an ode to dolls while also expressing her own style, with Bratz in vintage Chanel looks, a Gaga-style fem-bot aesthetic, and gritty fetish fashions. “I do everything. There is only me behind the pictures. I sew most of the doll’s clothes and make the sets. A post can take about a week and most dolls end up bald and destroyed afterwards. He continues. For Mar and Kev, those same dolls they loved as kids have become their business.

In both of their works, the era when Bratz invaded the doll scene is linked to contemporary culture. From photos of EuphoriaAlexa Demie reimagined with curly hair and butterfly clips, to a 90s Gaultier-inspired tapered-breasted dress coordinated with a face mask. “I always find myself looking back at the few Y2K magazines, print ads, and 2000s celebrities and designers like Lindsay Lohan, Marc Jacobs and Baby Phat. Japanese fashion from that era also inspires me a lot, ”says Mar.“ But at the same time, I stay invested in current trends. ”

Even the makers of Bratz dolls have now realized that their customers wanted trendy looks with 2000s nostalgia, although it took a while and during the 2010s Bratz struggled. The company has been hit hard by a lengthy legal battle with Mattel over intellectual property, as several rebranding and a move to make the doll wardrobe more contemporary proved unpopular. Fans didn’t care to see the dolls in the skinny jeans and #selfie t-shirts of the new decade. But unsurprisingly, their fashion power was cyclical. Recently, in the midst of the nostalgic Y2K revival, the brand made a concerted return to their original Y2K style with the company last month by launching a 20th anniversary line that replicated the fashion of their very first dolls, with a new logo designed by Mar.

“I dare say that Bratz was ahead of their time in the 2000s and now they’re a pop culture phenomenon,” Kev says. These diverse dolls with the styles that their youngest wanted to emulate, clearly hold a special place in the hearts of Mar, Kev and all the creative Bratz. They are more than just a tool of their trade or a childhood toy, but a means of self-expression. “The Bratz aesthetic is something daring, funky and ruthless. It is a state of mind of trust. As a trans woman, they were everything I wanted to be, but I felt out of reach growing up in the early 2000s, ”says Mar. She used her Bratz art to celebrate her Latina and trans identity, creating posts with the official Bratz account celebrating music star Tejano Selena, revolutionary trans sex worker Christina Ortiz and late producer SOPHIE.

Other accounts like @melanin_bratz are a space dedicated to celebrating black pop culture and styles across Bratz, with odes to the East Compton Clovers and the “WAP” music video. In creating their Bratz images, Gen Z artists pay homage to the cultures that raised them and made them feel seen. For Kev, presenting iconic moments of Mariah was especially special, recreating his famous sexy Santa Claus look and the cover of his 1999 single “Heartbreaker.” “It was such an honor to make Mariah a Bratz doll. a huge fan of her and her music, especially the song “Outside” made me feel understood. “

For those creatives using the dolls as an outlet, the digital artwork they create is incredibly personal, visible in the way many messages present themselves as well. Mar is seen alongside Cady Heron playing the Jingle Bell Rock, while Kev is pictured in the posters decorating a doll’s room, almost as if he and the dolls he once loved from afar have changed places. On TikTok too, after beauty designers pretend to deliberate between Bratz and Barbie, inevitably choosing the former, they draw their eyes, eyebrows, and lips before donning crop tops, necklaces, and excess barrettes. hair to complete their metamorphosis into their favorite childhood toy. .

For over 20 years, a generation of children have used Bratz dolls as an extension of themselves to explore their identities and cultures from the comfort of their bedrooms. For artists like Mar and Kev, they have never stopped, keeping their creativity and expression online and sharing it with the world. “I truly believe that Bratz’s values ​​and aesthetics have shaped an entire generation towards the political change in feminism that we are seeing,” Mar says of Bratz’s rebirth. “A freer mindset and identity that celebrates femininity in all its forms.” Even women whose feet turn on and off.

Follow iD on Instagram and TikTok for more year 2000 nostalgia.



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