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Why Is Hello Kitty a Unique Fashion Superstar? Hear from Her Fans

How can a character influence fashion all over the world? We explore Hello Kitty and her ability to inspire by talking to fans and brands like UNIQLO.



Hello Kitty, wearing her 50th anniversary dress, performs at Mynavi TOKYO GIRLS COLLECTION 2024 SPRING/SUMMER event at Yoyogi National Stadium on March 2. (©JAPAN Forward by Shaun Fernando)

Picture this: crowds cheering, camera shutters clicking away, models dancing, and fans holding Sanrio character goods. This isn't just any event. It's the TOKYO GIRLS COLLECTION 2024 SPRING/SUMMER, one of Japan's largest fashion shows. Among the guests of honor is Hello Kitty, Sanrio's stellar character.

Hello Kitty's presence at the show is a mark of her popularity and fashion appeal. She's appeared on collaboration products from countless world brands. Plus, she's considered a trendsetter by stars such as Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian.

One influencer attending TGC was Anshin Doyle. She has more than 200,000 followers on YouTube and nearly 70,000 on Instagram. A Sanrio fan herself, she was sporting a Hello Kitty bag on March 2. She makes it her business to showcase Japanese fashion and pop culture to the world.

The influencer explained how Hello Kitty is a superstar in Japan and worldwide. Besides, "TGC has many trendy goods, and Sanrio is very trendy in Japan," she remarked.

JAPAN Forward explored Sanrio and Hello Kitty's impact on the fashion industry, and how she's an inspiration for both designers and fans.

Hello Kitty Shines on the Runway

First started in 2005, TGC defines itself as one of Japan's largest fashion festivals, dedicated to "Spreading Japanese Girl Culture to the World."

Hello Kitty graces the stage with Meru Nukumi at the Mynavi TOKYO GIRLS COLLECTION 2024 SPRING/SUMMER event at Yoyogi National Stadium on March 2. (©JAPAN Forward by Shaun Fernando)

The theme for the 2024 SPRING/SUMMER event was "Hyakka Ryoran" (百花繚乱), a Japanese expression depicting a vibrant array of blooming flowers. It symbolized the event's essence — a gathering of diverse individuals in one place, each adding their unique touch to the celebration of fashion.

An impressive array of models, brands, and artists, including the boy band TWS from South Korea participated in the show. Among the guests, Hello Kitty, wearing her 50th anniversary dress, graced the stage with Japanese model and personality Meru Nukumi.


TGC Chief Producer Yukiko Ikeda explained how Hello Kitty fit so well with the event:

"She represents Japanese girls' culture, and I think she is the most famous figure coming out of Japan," she said. Expanding on the concept of girls' culture, she added, "In English, 'girls' might just mean 'young female.' But in Japanese, it's more to do with a state of mind unrelated to age."

She continued, "Girls' culture is often associated with kawaii culture, but it includes everything, being elegant, being fashionable, looking gorgeous."

"Hello Kitty is always so fashionable. I would love for her to keep inspiring us all as the symbol of Japanese girls' culture!" Ikeda concluded.

TOKYO GIRLS COLLECTION attendees crowd the venue entrance on March 2. (©JAPAN Forward by Shaun Fernando)

Why Fans Love Sanrio

The atmosphere before the event was electric. Once TGC started, devoted Sanrio fans filled the air with ecstatic applause as Hello Kitty waved to the crowd from the runway.

Hello Kitty fashion
Fans show off their goods featuring My Melody with their favorite idol picture inside. (©JAPAN Forward by Shaun Fernando)

One anonymous interviewee told us: "Many people combine a beloved Sanrio character with their favorite idol." Other attendees also said they put their favorite idol pictures in Sanrio card cases.

Miku Yamanaka (left) and her friend Miyu Matsumoto (right) share their excitement at attending the TOKYO GIRLS COLLECTION. (©JAPAN Forward by Shaun Fernando)

One fan was so happy that Hello Kitty was appearing on the stage that she did a little jig. "Really?! Yatta! [YES!] I love Sanrio, I was just at Sanrio Puroland two days ago," Miku Yamanaka said gleefully, referring to the company's theme park on the outskirts of Tokyo.

Reflecting on Hello Kitty's fashion appeal, she explained: "Hello Kitty always wears cute clothes — she's an inspiration for our fashion. There are styles that only she can pull off, as they have pizzazz. Even if we don't wear those clothes, it's fun to watch her fashion."

Sanrio Characters and UNIQLO: The Power of Design

To get a better sense of the creative process of designing clothes featuring characters, JAPAN Forward spoke to UNIQLO.

The collaboration with Sanrio really took off in 2011. The retailer was opening a store in New York, and they wanted to bring a Hello Kitty line to US customers. Since then, it has grown into a worldwide line including not only Hello Kitty products but those of other Sanrio characters.

UNIQLO's popular graphic T-shirt brand, UT, specializes in pop culture and is particularly suited to showcasing Sanrio characters.

"Customers always love to wear characters, whether they are fans of the characters themselves, or just appreciate the designs. There is something universal about a perfected character design, almost like a common language," explained the UNIQLO UT spokesperson via email interview.

UNIQLO Celebrates Hello Kitty's 50th Anniversary

In spring 2024, UNIQLO is releasing a line of products celebrating Hello Kitty's 50th anniversary. The UT T-shirts have been on sale in Japan since March 25 and will be available in the United States starting April 8.

Release dates for other countries and regions can be confirmed on the respective UNIQLO websites.


"The collection was designed with the concept of going back in time to the 1970s," says the spokesperson, in a nod to the era in which Hello Kitty emerged. "Even the other main characters featured are also dressed as Hello Kitty, to convey the cuteness that has remained unchanged since her debut."

Reflecting on the power of Hello Kitty and Sanrio characters, the UNIQLO spokesperson said:

"Today, Hello Kitty is popular across generations and is an evergreen presence. Sanrio's characters are always there for you – they cheer you up and are easy for everyone to relate to. What makes them so popular is their perfect combination of nostalgia and freshness."

Looking towards further collaboration, the spokesperson commented:

"We feel that the real strength of Sanrio is its ability to continuously create such creative and cute characters. And as a Japanese company, we are proud to help introduce as many of these characters as we can to the world."

"Characters are one of Japan's proudest cultural assets, and Sanrio holds a leading position amongst them. So the Hello Kitty 50th anniversary project with Sanrio is a symbolic collaboration between two universal and ever-evolving companies," the spokesperson concluded.

Sanrio's Enduring Power in Fashion

Influencer Anshin Doyle put in perspective Hello Kitty and Sanrio's wider appeal.

"Great artists like Lady Gaga have collaborated with Sanrio for outfits. She wore a dress made exclusively of Hello Kitty plushies," she recounted. Doyle also referred to collections by makeup brand MAC which featured Hello Kitty designs. "Hello Kitty is such a global fashion star!" she effused.

The influencer also highlighted how other Sanrio characters are growing in popularity. "Right now, Kuromi and Cinnamoroll are the most popular characters in urban fashion. Any girl in Japan that loves J-fashion will wear Sanrio."


Even a quick internet search reveals young women everywhere showcasing Sanrio fashion as a way of expressing their creativity.

Gina Galluccio features on her Instagram profile a picture celebrating her birthday with Hello Kitty decor. From San Diego, California, she shared with us how her love for Sanrio started.

"Since I was little, I remember my mom always taking me to the Sanrio store. We would go at least once a week! I started collecting everything."

Appraising Sanrio's fashion, she said: "I love that it's colorful and fun! It keeps my inner little girl alive." Gallucio described one of her favorite possessions as being a pink Hello Kitty purse from the 2000s. "It's super unique and cute," she effused.

Finally, she said that Sanrio's vision, "One World, Connecting Smiles," resonated with her as well. "I think smiles are universal and you can communicate through them."

Similarly, Doyle believes in Sanrio's universal appeal that resonates with everyone. "There are so many adorable characters in the Sanrio family that I am sure that anyone can connect with at least one of them!"

This article is published in cooperation with Sanrio Company Ltd.


Author: Arielle Busetto