The history of designer toys

Designer toys are artistic expressions in the form of collectible figures, sculptures, plushies, and other objects. They are often inspired by pop culture, graffiti, street art, comics, animation, and other forms of contemporary art. Designer toys emerged in the late 1990s and early 2000s as a niche market for artists and collectors who wanted to create and own unique and limited edition pieces of art.

The origins of designer toys can be traced back to Japan, where artists such as Takashi Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara started to produce vinyl figures based on their own characters and styles. These figures were influenced by the Japanese subcultures of kawaii (cute), otaku (geek), and anime (animation). They were also influenced by the American pop art movement of the 1960s and 1970s, especially by artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.

Takashi Murakami

The popularity of these Japanese vinyl figures soon spread to other countries, especially in Asia and Europe. In Hong Kong, artists such as Michael Lau and Eric So created urban vinyl figures that reflected the local culture and street fashion. In France, artists such as Kaws and Coarse created stylized and abstract figures that blended graffiti and fine art. In the UK, artists such as James Jarvis and Pete Fowler created whimsical and quirky figures that drew from British humor and folklore.

Designer toys also gained recognition in the US, where artists such as Frank Kozik, Ron English, and Kidrobot created figures that parodied or criticized popular icons, politics, and consumerism. Designer toys also became a platform for collaborations between artists from different fields, such as music, fashion, film, and gaming. Some examples of these collaborations are Gorillaz by Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn, Dunny by Kidrobot and various artists, and Be@rbrick by Medicom Toy and various brands.

Designer toys have evolved over the years in terms of materials, techniques, styles, and themes. They have also expanded into other forms of media, such as books, magazines, exhibitions, festivals, and online communities. Designer toys have become a global phenomenon that celebrates creativity, diversity, and individuality.


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