Hello Kitty aficionados will be swarming upon Los Angeles this weekend. 2014 marks the 40th anniversary of Sanrio’s signature character, and they’re celebrating with the first official Hello Kitty Convention in LA’s Little Tokyo. My husband and I were hoping to attend Kitty Con, but sadly, that’s not going to happen. He has to travel to Asia for work, and even if his schedule suddenly changed, Kitty Con has sold out.
Our one consolation is that the exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum celebrating the event will be on view through April 26, 2015. Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty explores the evolution of Hello Kitty through a display of rare and unique pieces from Sanrio’s archives. We’re planning on being in LA in March, and you can bet that the Japanese American National Museum will be our first stop.
Hello Kitty has gone a long way in her forty years. The two of us are roughly the same age, and I remember when her products are only available in specialty stationery shops. Now she’s on jewelry, electronics, car accessories, home furnishings, food products–she’s even wrangled deals with Major League Baseball! One market that she has yet to take over is male clothing, but my husband holds out hope for a line of Hello Kitty menswear in the United States.
Before you scoff, check out these pictures. The United States is not the only place celebrating Kitty’s 40th. While my husband was in Hong Kong this summer, he stumbled across Giordano, a fashion retailer that was honoring Kitty’s anniversary with a special line of women’s and men’s clothing. Granted, the men’s selection was smaller than the women’s, but it was still there. As far as he’s concerned, it’s just a matter of time before American men are sporting garments featuring Japan’s most famous cat.
An odd consequence of the Hello! exhibit is the shock Kitty fans got last August. When curator Christine Yano was preparing her written texts for the Japanese American National Museum’s exhibit, she described Hello Kitty as a cat, and “was corrected–very firmly.”
According to Sanrio: Hello Kitty is not a cat. She’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She’s never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature. She does have a pet cat of her own, however, and it’s called Charmmy Kitty.
Perhaps that was clear to the Japanese, but on our side of the Pacific, all sorts of minds were blown. It did answer one question for me and my husband. We had always wondered about Charmmy Kitty being Hello Kitty’s pet. After all, for a cat to own another cat sounds like a bizarre kind of indentured servitude. But if Hello Kitty is a little girl, then obviously the relationship is okay. Of course, it raises a lot of other questions that have made for some interesting conversations.
But whether she is cat or a mutated human child, her goods remain adorably appealing. Which means we’ll continue to buy them. Since the announcement of Hello Kitty’s official not-a-cat status, my husband has bought three additional Hello Kitty plushies to add to the collection that is starting to take over our bookshelf.
Happy 40th, Kitty!