If you’re on Instagram and follow young girls (that came out wrong), you might have noticed a revival of sorts. Hello Kitty, that once ubiquitous Japanese mascot, is having another moment. Produced by Sanrio, and originally designed by Yuko Shimizu, Hello Kitty made her first appearance in the form of a vinyl coin purse in 1976. Since its inception, the little Japanese bobtail cat, with her famous red bow and poppy seed eyes, has been licensed for thousands of products such as dolls, clothes, lunch boxes, stationery, kitchenware, Bank of America credit cards. She even modeled Dior and had her own Vogue cover. But as recently as two years ago, there were signs that Hello Kitty’s pop culture appeal was fading. In her native Japan, where she seemed invincible, sales continued to shrink for nearly a decade, while Sanrio struggled to tap into the next generation of Hello Kitty fans.
But something happened. The company stopped vying for the attention of Facebook-addicted kids, and instead reached out to older consumers who saw the iconic figure as nostalgic, instead of just some cute diversion. I know, because I’m one of them. Twenty years after Hello Kitty’s popularity peaked, I’m reminded of a time when my greatest responsibility was choosing which Hello Kitty pencil best matched my pencil case.
“If a character captures the heart of a little girl, she’s going to love that character into her teens, at least, then when she has children, she’ll again buy that character for them. That’s what we’re aiming for,” admitted Miyuki Okumura, a lead designer for Sanrio. Today, Hello Kitty has everything from her own Monopoly board, Vans sneakers, and even a sandwich-maker toasters that singes the Hello Kitty face onto your bread. This fall will bring more Hello Kitty kitchen appliances, like a cupcake maker, pancake maker and slow cooker, the Hello Kitty x KISS collaboration with the cute mash-up printed on t-shirts, the roller skates, Vans’ sportswear collection, Hanky Panky underwear and best of all, the Dial soap collection available at Target.