Hello Kitty has made her mark in just about every market you can imagine. Originally started as a character decoration on a coin purse geared towards children in 1974, Hello Kitty has evolved into a pop culture staple- and has been the subject of television shows, theme parks, clothes, stationary sets, home appliances, and even laptops. As she grew in popularity, she was rebranded to be appealing to people of both genders and of all ages- something that was likely in the minds of the designers who put together Kate Spade‘s newest campaign.
‘Hello Tokyo,’ is a retail campaign launched by Kate Spade that revolves around the idea of 17 days in Tokyo. It includes Tokyo themed products like handbags featuring sushi patterns and iPhone cases with geishas printed on them, but also has a significant number of pieces that highlight a cat that bears a close resemblance to Hello Kitty, who has been an extremely lucrative licensed character in Japan since her creation. While the famed moon-faced cat, with her signature pink bow, is obviously a big part of Japanese culture, the campaign has taken a few measures to separate their cat, ideally preventing any legal issues.
The Kate Spade cat has a mouth and does not have a bow. These may seem like simple unimportant distinctions, but Hello Kitty’s bow position is one of the few ways of seperating her from her twin sister (who wears her bow on the opposite ear). In addition, Hello Kitty’s lack of a mouth was a very intentional part of her design. According to The Independent, Hello Kitty creator Sanrio designed her without a mouth because she’s meant to speak from her heart, something the Kate Spade cat clearly can’t do. In fact, the Kate Spade cat more looks more like the generic Japanese fortune cats, who send good luck and wealth waves to all they encounter. The decision to call the collection ‘Hello Tokyo,’ however, speaks volumes.
Regardless of whether the line was meant to draw from Hello Kitty or not, the fact is there is a large cat-culture throughout the world. The Independent reports that Hello Kitty accounts for £500 million of Sanrio’s annual turnover, a number that undoubtedly began a sharp increase when Hello Kitty products made their debut on the scene. Only time will tell if the Kate Spade cat has a similar effect on the brand, but Businessweek is reporting that the brand is already showing a sales boost.