Disclaimer 26th June 2020: Due to change and education, I have made a pledge to promote only sustainable brands and garments from now on that both fight for a circular economy in fashion and pay garment workers a fair living wage. I have decided to keep all of the former brands and items listed in this blog post as well as keep the original writing for future readers and portfolio. Enjoy reading, shop sustainably. 

Hello Kitty, a friendly, adorable cat that has captured the hearts of children around the world. A symbol of modern Japanese popular culture, one can find any sort of hello kitty merchandise through the click of a button on google. But why only recently has this small creature become such a fashion icon among our high street stores and arguably the cool it girl accessory. When I was little, I loved hello kitty, her charm was ubiquitous and I was a lover of all things cute, pink and fluffy. Through the years of adolescence I still loved all things cute, pink and fluffy but it became embarrassing to appear so childish, as we were all desperate to appear older and grown up. But in the past year Hello Kitty has had a revival with the young adult market, she is now the ‘it’ collaboration having collections with ASOS, Converse, Puma, Lazy Oaf and Anti Social Club.  In some ways, we are all seeking to reignite our former childish fantasies by wearing pieces donned by her in early adulthood without being judged and I am kind of loving it. Its cool to be cartoonish and young.

When one thinks about the influence of one culture or trend upon on another, your mind may instantly jump to food, art, fashion and architecture. Or your mind might think of cultural appropriation arguments and debates. Cultural appropriation, for me is a sticky mass for me to get into in this blog post especially regarding hello kitty as truthfully I do not know whether this is or if this isn’t so I cannot comment. Are these fashion collaborations using hello kitty as a means to promote their own brand or are they doing that simultaneously with celebrating Japanese culture. I would love to know your thoughts on the matter so please comment below or message me.

But this cartoon, youthful aesthetic is ripe in other forms, for example millennial pink? Need I say more. ASOS has recently announced a collaboration with Simpsons, Missguided has done 2-3 collections with Barbie, and Topshop has done a range of Disney themed pyjamas over the years. Not to mention that our societies obsession with cutesy unicorns, mermaids, cactuses and emojis has dominated high street stores.

Another example is My Little Pony collaborations – now that really takes me back. Instead of us growing up with fashion and wanting to dress beyond our age, rather we are going backward to our childish days. Are we nostalgic for how we dressed as cutesy 12 year olds with little fashion and common sense? Take Pastry shoes, I used to own a pair when I was 12/13 but was repulsed by them a few years later. Could they now easily make a comeback? Is Hello Kitty similarly a fad or is she timeless? In some ways this could be argued as another form of our nostalgic yearning for noughties fashion, I’m sure Paris Hilton would happily say ‘that’s hot’ towards Hello Kitty paraphernalia. Below is some of the examples from ASOS, Topshop and Missguided.

In my opinion, The Hello Kitty collaborations and fascinations seems to go beyond the never ending Primark collabs with Disney, Friends and Harry Potter to name a few. Hello Kitty has become more than just her icon on a t-shirt, she is inspiring designs, emblazoning her red bow on every hem, sleeve and leg. What I love though is that as much as I love the collaborations and would happily spend money on it – something stops me. I think you have to channel a certain era of cool and nonchalance to pull the collaborations off. Perhaps I am too insecure of a being to wear these with confidence and not be judged for dressing like a 5 year old girl. Take the Hello Kitty converse range for example, the pink high tops – I love and is it really that dissimilar to the infamous comme de garcon range – just pink and adorable? But would I buy them? Probably not, like I said for fear of being judged and also whether I could pull them off – but isn’t that the point of streetwear fashion these days is that you are meant to be an individual and not to be judged?

Below is my fave picks of the hello kitty collabs out the moment – have your own opinion – would you buy?  Also vote in my Instagram polls im genuinely interested to see what people think 😊

Final thoughts:

A few of my friends had a few things to say on the hello kittyization (if that is a word on fashion):

Poppy Malby: ‘Hello kitty is and should always be a children’s cute thing… Should definitely not be made overpriced and inaccessible to older fans like me lol even though I am easily led and still would spend £50 on a stripey pink hello kitty tee’

Hannah Lewsey: ‘I think it comes from a more western interest in Japanese fashion – like if you look there’s a lot more cutsie stuff on the market which is definitely influenced by ‘kawaii’ fashion in Japan – think of brands like Lazy Oaf – a lot more pink and cute animals and stuff – and hello kitty is the ultimate cute Japan emblem.’

I have done a few bits of reading around the subject and if you have any further interest, insights and opinions please comment or message myself like I have said as I am genuinely interested in what people have to say. But what is apparent is the power of hello kitty, a recent trip to the V&A confirmed to myself this as there is a hello kitty toaster, rice cooker and kettle on display in the Japanese 21st century collection. Undoubtedly, these are being treated as culturally significant art objects, despite the fact that they are not a rarity and can be bought off the internet!

My research links are below! Please remember to vote in my Instagram polls (Insta: mollychatterton1) and also please comment below!

Molly x

Research:

https://blog.gaijinpot.com/kawaii-culture/

http://www.readersdigest.com.au/travel/culture-kawaii-japans-obsession-cute

http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/29761389/kawaii-culture-in-the-uk-japans-trend-for-cute

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/19/kumamon-the-new-science-of-cute

https://www.ft.com/content/7b9b7fbc-823e-11e5-a01c-8650859a4767

https://www.heroine.com/the-editorial/disney-fashion-collaborations

https://www.highsnobiety.com/2016/10/06/disney-vans-a-bathing-ape-collaborations/

https://www.popmatters.com/170350-pink-globalization-hello-kittys-trek-across-the-pacific-2495764007.html?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1

https://collections.vam.ac.uk/search/?q=hello%20kitty

http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2014/05/in-defence-of-avril-lavigne-racism-cultural-appropriation-and-the-meaning-of-hello-kitty/

 

 

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