And of course so does the rest of Asia – she is an amazing phenomenon. When I first came to China I didn’t ‘get’ Hello Kitty (which I will refer to as HK from now on).
As far as I knew, this was a brand of small items of stationery which little girls really liked (but in my experience little girls from about 6 – 10 years of age love ALL stationery no matter what brand) and HK had not really featured on my radar.
What discombobulated me here in China was that SO many grown women love and buy into Hello Kitty. I see women in their 20s, 30s or older, happily carrying HK handbags, wearing HK T-shirts, and the HK shop here in Beijing (located in one of the most up-market malls in the city) is always full of women – not children – buying up expensive (for what it is) merchandise. They see nothing strange in a grown woman wearing clothing with the cartoon of of a mouthless cat emblazoned all over it, and will wear HK garments to high-powered business meetings as well as to an evening out at a swanky restaurant.
OK – time for a little history lesson. Hello Kitty was born in 1974 – thats right folks, in two years time she will be 40, quite an age for any cat! She was created in Japan by Yuko Shimizu a designer with Sanrio, a company who wanted a little character to adorn a range of stationery goods such as cards, rulers, erasers etc. The designer named her Kitty White – rumour has it this was influenced by the white kitten that Alice was playing with when she fell asleep in Lewis Carrol’s Alice Through the Looking Glass. Hello Kitty, we are told, lives just outside London with her twin sister Mimmi and her Mama and Papa, she likes playing with her friends, collecting cute things and studying English, music and art.
Within a few years of her creation Hello Kitty began her steady climb towards World Domination.
Her cute/kitch little face started to appear on everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING! If you live in Europe you may be a little startled to discover that you can buy bedlinen, luggage, microwave ovens, golf balls, vibrators ………VIBRATORS??? what the f*%&!! – (they are marketed as personal vibrating massagers and apparently they are a big seller!). What ever you could want is available from HK, from stuffed animals to steering-wheel covers, computer USB-port hubs, CD players and underwear (like a Christmas-themed thong decorated with jingle bells).
As if that were not enough, the Taiwanese (who are obviously gagga for HK) have the world’s first HK Maternity Hospital – yup, you can give birth to your child in the complete HK environment. Words fail me.
About the only things that are not marketed under the Hello Kitty logo are coffins – but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if someone contacted me to say that they too are available.
Hello Kitty could become a whole Birth-to-Death experience!
Here in Beijing a new Hello Kitty restaurant opened at the beginning of this year. On the opening night there were crowds trying to get in such is HK’s pulling power.
Dear readers, last week, on your behalf, I took myself off to Sanlitun to investigate the restaurant. It is on the 4th floor of a brand new glitzy shopping mall. A friend and I turned up at 7.30 on a mid-week evening. There were a more than respectable number of people dining – not a child to be seen. The restaurant is a pink-fest, with touches of red plush and lots of chandeliers and pink balloons. The waitresses are dolled-up in cutsy pink frocks with frou-frou petticoats, high heels, and Alice-in-Wonderland-like aprons.
My friend and I checked out the menu. A curious mix of food cultures eg: fish’n chips, mushroom pasta, sushi. A selection of fruit yoghurts is listed as one of the ‘starters’ which is slightly curious.
The open-plan kitchen allows the diner to see the chefs at work under large pictures of HK.
The beverages include ‘Pink Hello Kitty Cocktail’, ‘Chocolate Margarita’ and HK Red Wine. The prices were so-so for the area, which is high for China in general.
On balance, my friend and I, after taking photos, decided to dine elsewhere, it was all just too pink for us.