|a hug from the famous Kitty|
|with my swag bag and several Hello Kitty girls|
|cupcakes featuring Hello Kitty and her iconic bow|
This was the first-ever Hello Kitty convention, which lasted for four days in Los Angeles and completely sold out the 25,000 tickets available. Organized by Sanrio in celebration of Hello Kitty's 40th anniversary, fans came from all over the country to attend (and perhaps all over the world, although I didn't talk to any from abroad). Like Comic-Con, Star Wars cons, and other such events, the four days were filled with exhibits, expert panels, workshops, costume contests, art classes, and of course, plenty of shopping opportunities. The press preview had just a few hundred guests, so it was great to be able to see all the exhibits without the huge crowds that were there when I came back with my regular ticket on Friday. The convention was held in the Geffen Contemporary, a large, warehouse like space in Little Tokyo that is part of Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). It is conveniently next door to the Japanese-American National Museum, which is also hosting a special Hello Kitty exhibit (Hello! Exploring the Supercute world of Hello Kitty) which runs until the end of April. The museum (and of course its store) was open to all convention attendees free of charge.
|Japanese-American National Museum|
Sanrio was founded 55 years ago as a company to promote friendship through small gifts, and the first Hello Kitty product produced cost less than the equivalent of $1 (in yen, of course). The company was known for small inexpensive products such as pencils, stickers, and small toys, although now Sanrio licenses with celebrity designers such as Tarina Tarentino (see my last post for more on that topic) for more upscale products as well. As one would expect, the exhibits were full of Hello Kitty products on display, including the original first coin purse, now kept in a vault in Japan but sent to the convention for exhibit.
|original Hello Kitty coin purse|
In a Hello Kitty house, each room was filled with Hello Kitty merchandise from over the years. I particularly admired the office.
|Hello Kitty's office|
The highlight of the convention for me was the pop-up designer shops, set up as a Japanese marketplace, complete with Zen garden.
These pop-up shops included special items produced for the convention by Sanrio licensees such as Sephora (which was doing free makeovers), Dr. Dre (who knew he liked Hello Kitty?) Dylan's Candy Bar, Spam, and a variety of toy and clothing manufacturers, including Japan LA, a fashion designer who featured special SimpsonsXHello Kitty clothing.
There were lots of fun photo ops with very kawaii (Japanese for cute) Lolita girls decked out in Hello Kitty gear, and even a chance to have a photo with the Kitty herself. Art was also a big part of the displays--there were lots of Hello Kitty inspired paintings, ceramics, and even a tattoo studio tattoo where you could get free tattoos. Sanrio artists were even signing free personalized drawings.
I returned on Friday for the actual convention, and was exceedingly grateful I had been there for the press preview since during the regular convention the place was packed with happy Hello Kitty fans of all ages! Lots of fun but lots of lines. Luckily I had had a chance to peruse all the exhibits when I was there Wednesday night. I was impressed by the very well-behaved smallest fans--I didn't overhear any whining from the kids about lines or anything else. Kids and grown-ups could participate in special art classes to learn to draw Hello Kitty (not as easy as she looks), decorate a Hello Kitty pumpkin, and make Hello Kitty sand art and coloring sheets, among other activities. There was even an arcade where you could play games for free and win Hello Kitty prizes, all lots of fun for the kids. Hello Kitty fans attending ranged from babies in strollers to an elderly Japanese couple I noticed, who must have been in their mid-80's at least. I even met a group of 3 generations of Hello Kitty fans--a mom, grandma, and daughter, all decked out in costumes.
|grandma and granddaughter Hello Kitty fans|
On Friday I was able to attend a highly coveted workshop (these all sold out well in advance) with jewelry designer Onch Movement. We were all able to make a special Hello Kitty necklace that was designed by Onch and available only to those who participated in the workshop--very exclusive! Onch himself was adorable and came around to help everyone and pose for pictures. Luckily I was sitting next to a very nice lady who had lots of jewelry making experience because I needed a lot of help working with those tiny rings.
|Onch and there I am in the second row with my red Hello Kitty shirt!|
For more on Hello Kitty and reading, I will be doing a guest post on the ALSC blog later this month.
If you're a real Hello Kitty fan, you can check out my on-line photo album at Flickr--lots more really fun pictures. As you scroll over the pictures, you can read my captions as well.