Meet Hello Kitty’s New Little Sister, “Rebecca Bonbon”

27 Jul

Text, Vivian Kelly

Today, a dream came true – I got to meet Hello Kitty’s creator. I invited fashion friend and die-hard Hello Kitty fan, L. to come along. We slid into the very tail end of the meet and greet at the Royaltie$ Brand Showcase, at the Altman Building. True, it was a complete hassle getting parking – lunchtime on a July Tuesday – but 110% worthwhile in the end.

Hello Kitty’s creator, Yuko Shimizu, turned out to be a tiny woman with a neat bob, Betty Boop Mary Janes and a big smile. She’s also a creative genius who’s a bit shy and very modest. The tip sheet I scanned before meeting her revealed that her favorite fashion designer is Coco Chanel and that she admires illustrator Osamu Tezuka, who she calls “one of the greatest animation artists of all time.”

Ms. Shimizu started a licensing empire in conjunction with Sanrio on the back of a little white cat who never smiles. Her Hello Kitty character was part of a collection of petite purses she created 36 years ago. Kitty “blew-out” as retailers like to say, to the point where she became an independent character, who’s from the London suburbs because Ms. Shimizu was inspired by the UK’s “lovely English gardens and romantic novels.”

Since then, Kitty’s mug is on everything from toasters, to vacuum cleaners to clothing children and adults, thanks to the Sanrio company’s considerable clout. She’s even had a TV show and acquired similarly adorable friends including “chocolat”. You can see Kitty and her pals in life-size form in front of the W Hotel’s Miami Beach entrance. Too cute!

The latest addition to Kitty’s family we came to the Altman to meet is little sister, “Rebecca Bonbon”, Ms. Shimizu’s idealized version of a French Bulldog. This dog star, does however possess some catlike characteristics. No wonder – the character was inspired by a French bulldog Ms. Shimizu saw in a Magazine crossed with  her own black and white cat who  she says, “reminded me of a French bulldog”.

And the Story is….

“Rebecca Bonbon’s character is the most stylish Bulldog on the planet. She is from Paris and currently lives in a fabulous New York apartment overlooking Central Park. She has a charmed life, wears, chic outfits, loves to shop with her friends and adores sweet treats.”

Who WOULDN’T want to be Rebecca Bonbon? Apparently, just about everyone. She is popular worldwide and appeals to fans in Japan, Paris, Brazil, the UK, Germany, Norway, Russia, South Korea and now, she’s extending her fan-base to include the  USA. She’s even got a brand ambassador – Jennette McCurdy, star of Nickelodeon’s iCarly as her brand ambassador.

Unlike Hello Kitty, Rebecca is not in the Sanrio camp but has given her licenses to FME [Freemantle Media Enterprises].

As we left, L. said, “I had to hold myself back to not hug her, she was like a little doll!” Ditto for me. We squealed in delight over the little gifts Bonbon gave us: a tiny pink and black fan and stamp set. I’m looking forward to the weekend, when I can hit Kmart, and stock up on Rebecca Bonbon tees and accessories. They’ll be great to wear with my skinny black suits and to give away as fun gifts to my gal pals.

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