Shiona Turini has had her hand in many influential projects. From her marvelous Queen & Slim costume design (who can forget Queen’s snakeskin boots) to her work in the HBO series Insecure, Turini has a special gift in dressing Black women to represent the royalty that we uphold. Her take on style and how she incorporates it into meaningful projects demonstrates a true love for fashion and what the Black experience can contribute by wearing certain pieces.
For her latest project, the costume designer has collaborated with Barbie to style a diverse set of dolls in looks that exude confidence and empowerment. ESSENCE got a chance to chat with Turini about the first Black Barbie, the takeaway she hopes to achieve, and how she manifested this project.
ESSENCE: How has it been working with Barbie to create this Black History Month project?
Turini: For me, it was such an honor because Barbie is basically my first fashion icon. I actually had it on one of my vision boards. I’d been going through Instagram and seeing the Barbie style account and was like, “I would love to do a project with Barbies.” I felt like I manifested it and then I was really happy to be a part of it. It’s an iconic brand.
ESSENCE: What does this mean to you to provide a diverse shade range of barbies?
Turini: It means a lot because I remember growing up and taking trips to New York searching for the brown Barbies. They did exist when I was growing up. The first black Barbie was in 1980, so it was there. You did have to look a little bit harder for it sometimes, but now the amount of options is so impressive, the skin tones, the hair textures, the braids, the twists. I love that so many young black girls can see themselves when they want to play with this doll, they have so many options.
ESSENCE: What goes all into styling a Barbie? I know it’s probably pretty different than you styling your clients.
Turini: It was only different because the Barbies don’t talk back. It was pretty similar. got to go to the office, which was a dream come true. There was such great energy there. I went into it knowing some images that I wanted to create, for example, the nude image. I had done a shoot for Nylon once that I was really inspired by and I’ve always loved. I wanted to do that but make it a little bit different by adding a twist, and the twist for me was the snakeskin, which obviously for me came from my project Queen & Slim.
ESSENCE: What is a takeaway you want young girls or just women in general who pick up the Barbie and purchase it?
Turini: I want them to be able to see themselves in this iconic brand. I was excited to partner with a platform to celebrate diversity and further reflect Barbie as an icon through the lens of black culture. She was technically our first fashion muse and to be able to see ourselves so beautifully represented within this brand, I just think it’s a special thing.