Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty

The Hello Kitty craze is global, from breathtaking fashion statements to almost any piece of merchandise you can think of. And it all started in March 1975 with a simple coin purse that cost less than a dollar.

At the new Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty now at the EMP Museum in Seattle, you can get a look at one of those rare coin purses, along with more than 500 unique pieces from Sanrio on display. The traveling exhibit is fascinating for anyone who has ever owned their own piece of Hello Kitty merchandise or been intrigued by her rise to pop culture stardom over the past 40 years.

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

Fashion inspired by Hello Kitty has been in spotlight by several celebrities, including Katy Perry and Paris Hilton. Their one-of-a-kind outfits are on display in the halls of the EMP, like glittery beacons showing you the way to the biggest treasure trove of Hello Kitty merchandise you’ll ever see in one place.

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

With no official backstory for the character, Hello Kitty “can be anything to anyone,” says David Marchi, Sr. Director of Brand Management and Marketing at Sanrio. This leaves the character open to interpretation and expression, inspiring artists to craft their own versions of the little girl, several of which are on display in the exhibit. (That’s right—Hello Kitty is a girl, not a cat.)

“She has a unique look and feel that draws people to her,” says Marchi. While at first the character stuck to red and blue as her primary colors, over the past 20 years Hello Kitty has explored all sorts of colors and designs through artist and brand collaborations. Through it all, her signature yellow nose and accessory over the left ear keeps her essence true, says Marchi.

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

Sanrio has created just about any item you can think of with Hello Kitty on it, including kendo equipment, motor oil, blow dryers, rotary phones, toothpicks, and more. “We make everything,” says Marchi. These items and hundreds more from the past 40 years are on display in the traveling exhibit, highlighting how her look has changed over time.

In recent years Hello Kitty has started to explore her cultural roots with Japanese-inspired products and designs; the case housing the bento products is one of the most adorable in the exhibit (and that’s saying a lot when there is so much CUTE in one place).

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

Hello Kitty’s fans are age “4 to forever,” says Marchi with a smile, and the exhibit makes it clear that those fans hail from all over the globe. If you’re a Hello Kitty fan yourself and you have the chance to catch the touring exhibit when it’s in town, you’re certain to leave with a smile—and probably with the urge to buy yet another item featuring the enduring pop culture icon.

Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty is now at the EMP Museum and is included with the price of admission.

Top image: Kelly Knox

GeekMom attended a media preview of the exhibit. 

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Kelly Knox is a freelance writer in Seattle, WA, where she contributes to local parenting magazines. She also writes for StarWars.com, Geek & Sundry, Forever Young Adult, and more. You can find crafts and art projects for geeky families at her blog The St{art} Button.