Hello Kitty: Origin Of Sanrio's '70s Phenom (Who Isn't A Cat)

By | October 30, 2020

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

Who's British, loves apple pie, and looks like a cat but is actually a pre-teen girl and definitely isn't a cat? Clearly it's Hello Kitty, the Japanese character created by Yuko Shimizu and "born" on November 1, 1974, that anchors Sanrio's line of clothing, jewelry, and pretty much anything else that can be branded. Hello Kitty is so much more than a well performing brand, she's a icon of Japanese fashion that's become a global sensation thanks to an early '90s resurgence that turned a simple character into one of the highest-grossing media franchises in the world.

Hello Kitty's designer never received a cut of the character's profits

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source: pinterest

Founded in 1962 by Shintaro Tsuji, Sanrio began as a small company that sold small cute items like sandals and coin purses. Tsuji realized that the cuter an item was, the more they sold. The most logical step for Tsuji was to bring on designers to create cute characters that he could add to his items in order to move them as quickly as possible. In 1974, Yuko Shimizu created a simple line drawing of a cat with a red bow on its head. Floating above it was the word "Hello," and just like that Hello Kitty was born.

The first product to showcase Hello Kitty was a coin purse showing the character sitting on the ground with a bottle of milk on one side and her pet fish in its bowl on the other. It's remarkable how little the design has changed from the early '70s to the modern era. As popular as the character was, Shimizu stepped away from Sanrio two years after Hello Kitty's creation and didn't see any of the profits from her design.

The same year that Shimizu left Sanrio Hello Kitty made her way across the pond to the United States where she appeared on everything from jewelry boxes to stickers.