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What inspired you to work with Hello Kitty? Soyeun Yang in Superior, Colorado
Hello Kitty debuted in March 1975. From about 1978, she stopped selling well, the second designer left and just when I thought that the company would not be looking for a third one, the president said that Hello Kitty came to an existence as a symbol of friendship and therefore he could not allow her demise. I won the company's competition and became the third designer in January 1980.
When did Hello Kitty spread across the globe? Sonika in Edison in New Jersey
Nobody knew her in 1984 in the U.S. where I spent a year designing and people referred to Kitty just as a cat. In Japan it was in 1997 that the celebrities began to talk about her as being a cute character thus generating a boom. The same phenomenon occurred in the U.S. and later, from around 2002, in Europe.
What brought it from a simple character to the global icon it is today? Andy Walderman in Rockford, Illinois
I used to be told that Americans would never wear black. However, I think that the Americans have changed since Anna Sui featured black in her debut collection in NYC and received the plaudits for it. Anna Sui loves Hello Kitty and we have a similar taste. So I thought that if she were accepted in the U.S., so would be Kitty. Later, coincidentally Hello Kitty black handbags, rather than purple and pink, started to sell well in the States.
What drives you to create and design? Gabriela Labastida in Langley, Canada
I try to see everything. I look at what fashion houses do, read magazines, record films and TV programs, see everything with high ratings with my own eyes. In short, everything. Also, I am an ardent collector. It is a pretty scary hobby. The amount of money I spend on it can get out of hand. My recent favorites are vintage Blythe dolls and I have about 200.
As an artist and designer has there been any point in your career that you've wanted to try something new? Frederick Watson in Watertown, New York
I am doing what I want to do. I am not only drawing, but constantly wondering what would please fans most and whether I can do something new. When I did the 'Kabuki' series, I saw a lot of Kabuki plays. I had a dresser to show me the costumes and they are so heavy that I nearly tripped. I don't draw from an imagination, so I have to study.
How do you feel about the Hello Kitty imitations? Thomas Du in San Gabriel, California
Personally, I don't mind that much, but I am always wondering why they are doing it when everybody else can see that they are fakes and fans are not going to buy them. Kitty looks simple but she is not. She is very hard to imitate and I am sure that fans can spot it immediately.
Hello Kitty has been with her companion, Dear Daniel, for quite some time now. What does their future hold? Chien Tong in New York, New York
About 15 years ago, Japanese entertainers began to admit to their boyfriends and girlfriends, while before that it was a taboo because they were afraid of losing popularity. I didn't want to miss out on that, so we admitted that Daniel was her boyfriend. I don't know myself what I want to do with their future. (laughs) I am open to any suggestion. If everybody wants the two of them to have a baby, then they will have a baby. [Laughs.]
Is there any message that you would like to bring forth through Hello Kitty? Serena Yong in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
That through Kitty, which is a symbol of friendship we can all be friends. I want her to be a character that encourages people to become friends. Not rivals, but friends whose starting point for friendship is Hello Kitty. I want her to be a link between all people around the world.