Hello Kitty Is The Ultimate Style Icon (2024)

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Photos Courtesy of Jeanette, Kellen and Chyna.

Everyone knows Hello Kitty. She’s the friend we all wish to have and the girl (cat) many wish to be. She’s cute, cheerful and recognisable by her signature red bow and seemingly infinite wardrobe of dresses, overalls and playful, themed outfits. The Japanese-created bobtail cat, who turns 50 this year, is more than just a fictional character loved by children. For many, she’s been part of their life and style for years.

The character first appeared in 1974, created by the Japanese entertainment company Sanrio.She is portrayed as a fun-loving girl’s girl living in London and remains a prominent symbol of Japanese kawaii culture (all things cute). The first piece of Hello Kitty apparel emerged in 1975 in the form of a vinyl coin purse; since then, endless licensed products and brand collaborations have established a massive Hello Kitty subculture.

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The term “Hello Kitty girl” (which can be applied to all gender identities) is another popular social media aesthetic that is frequently used to describe her biggest fans and commonly overlaps other fashion trends like “coquette girl” and “e-girl.” To date, the hashtag #hellokittygirl has over 85,000 posts on TikTok and with several new brand collaborations to mark her 50th anniversary, that number will undoubtedly grow.

Forever 21 CEO Winnie Park tells Refinery29 that the demand for Hello Kitty products has been huge. “We’ve seen diehard fans line up at Forever 21 retail stores on launch day before stores open to grab their favourite items,” she says, referring to bestsellers like printed jackets, jumpers, swimwear and accessories. This summer, Forever 21 will launch its ninth co-designed Sanrio collection following its latest one earlier this spring. “We’ve seen a double-digit sales increase this year on our co-branded merchandise and recently opened pop-up shops within top market locations,” Park says.

Photo Courtesy of Open YY x Hello Kitty.

Photo Courtesy of Forever 21 x Hello Kitty.

South Korean streetwear label Open YY paired up with Hello Kitty for the first time on their High Summer 2024 collection and has also seen sell-out successes. “When we first considered the existing customer base and Hello Kitty fans, we realised Hello Kitty has a much broader appeal than we thought. We encountered a diverse fanbase, from children to middle-aged men and various other enthusiasts,” founders and sisters Jiyoung and Boyoung Kim tell Refinery29. The brand’s most popular Hello Kitty items include further intersections of popular aesthetics via Y2K-inspired trucker caps and parachute trousers.

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Other recent Hello Kitty collaborations include platform Adidas Stan Smith mules, leather handbags by British accessories label Cambridge Satchel and embroidered tops by knitwear brand YanYan x Nordstrom. As the Hello Kitty universe continues to evolve and expand in popularity beyond its 50th year, we spoke with seven self-proclaimed Hello Kitty girls about their love for the character and how she plays a role in their personal style.

Chyna, The Streetwear Hello Kitty Girl

Photo Courtesy of Chyna.

Law student and kawaii content creator Chyna, 24, defines her style by comfort and owns various Hello Kitty streetwear pieces including her limited-edition Adidas Sambas and Nike Air Prestos. “I love that Hello Kitty is multigenerational. It could be a little girl that tells me she loves my shirt or it could be an older woman in her 50s who also used to love going to the Hello Kitty store. And I love that she's a part of brands that I wear organically anyway,” Chyna says.

Alongside various tops and jackets, she also owns plenty of Hello Kitty accessories that she can add to her outfits, like bags, hair clips and jewellery. Chyna enjoys scouring secondhand sites like Depop for Hello Kitty items that are more unique and one-of-a-kind. “It's not just straight-up what everyone else is wearing. I love to throw in small details like bows to intersect cuteness with streetwear and make it more me.”

Ghia, The Creative Hello Kitty Girl

Photo Courtesy of Ghia.

“Wherever you see Hello Kitty, there is someone embracing the softer side of life,” says Ghia, 34, a New York-based writer who says the character has helped shape her fashion sense over the years. She describes her style as doll-like; red gingham is her favourite print because it matches Hello Kitty’s hues and signature bow. “Her simple design makes her easy to draw, dress up or visualise in an endless variety of situations.”

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Unlike other characters who have more fixed aesthetics, Hello Kitty has adopted various looks over the years, including a darker side. “When I was younger and mostly wore black, I’d choose shirts and merch that featured Hello Kitty wearing alternative fashion. It reflected my interest in punk rock and goth culture,” Ghia says. These days, she creates her own looks with headbands and ears, and is also inspired by other Sanrio characters including Kuromi, Cinnamoroll and Hangyodon.

Seanny, The Self-Expressive Hello Kitty Girl

Photo Courtesy of Seanny.

Seanny, 31, has loved Hello Kitty since she was a child. “To me, Kitty represents not only the childhood innocence and fondness of the past but a space where everyone can be at peace and express themselves with no judgement,” says the content creator, who has worked with Sanrio. Seanny owns Hello Kitty bags, clothes, toothbrushes and plushies. Her favourite piece is a rare Judith Leiber Hello Kitty jewelled minaudière from her mum.

Currently, Seanny is a fan of princess-core and coquette aesthetics and loves pink and pastels. While her style has naturally changed throughout the years, Hello Kitty’s versatility has remained a constant. “I am a stern believer of fashion being genderless and that if you feel cute on the inside, then you are cute on the outside.”

Kellen-Pippa, The Coquette Hello Kitty Girl

Photo Courtesy of Kellen-Pippa.

Kellen-Pippa, 19, has a Sanrio and anime-centred TikTok account (@hello.kittys.prisoner) where she shares her coquette and doll-style outfits, kawaii thrift finds and content surrounding shoujo (Japanese comics aimed at young women). Since she discovered Japanese culture and J-fashion at 13, she hasn’t looked back. “What first drew me into Hello Kitty was her image — I mean, she's adorable — but also the things that come along with her. So she's got this whole franchise of friends, the merchandise is out of this world, and she’s quite an iconic female presence in our world.”

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Usually she’ll seek out unique Hello Kitty apparel and merchandise by scouring charity shops, eBay, Vinted and brands like UK-based Irregular Choice. One of her favourite pieces is a pair of wedge heels from the same label that incorporate a Hello Kitty snow globe. “I've always been very, very feminine and very, very girly. I get a few odd looks when I go out but I just love dressing hyperfeminine every day,” says the Essex-based creator. “The thing I’ve noticed with internet trends and aesthetics is that they overlap so much. The Hello Kitty style overlaps with things like coquette and dollette — basically anything cutesy is in one category at the moment.”

Jeannette, The Maximalist Hello Kitty Girl

Photo Courtesy of Jeanette.

Thirty-eight-year-old Jeannette's style is inspired by Hello Kitty because she loves maximalist fashion and adheres to a “more is more” attitude. Like many others, Hello Kitty was Jeannette’s first introduction to Japanese culture. “I’ve been a fan since middle school. She was super cute, fun and every Hello Kitty thing was vibrant and colourful so that drew me in.” Since then, Jeannette has built up a collection of clothes, stationery and household products, and has two Hello Kitty tattoos. “My favourite apparel would definitely be the ModCloth x Hello Kitty collaboration. The colours are insanely gorgeous and the brand is known for their retro flare so it was very cute.”

Maia, The Dark Hello Kitty Girl

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Photo Courtesy of Maia.

Maia, 27, got into Hello Kitty as a child and is now a fully fledged Hello Kitty girl. She’s not a big fan of pink, though. “Black is my colour,” she says. “I would like to see more of that with Hello Kitty and I think others would, too. Nothing wrong with the colour pink but, you know, it is harder for me to match with.”

One of Maia’s favourite pieces is a black Hello Kitty-printed blazer from Forever 21, which she has worn to work and job interviews. This year she’ll be having a vampire-themed Hello Kitty birthday party. “Hello Kitty has so many different aesthetics and I guess I can relate to her because I don't think that I have one aesthetic,” Maia says. “I can dress like a hippie. I can dress from the '70s, '80s, '90s. I can have pink, I can have black or whatever. Hello Kitty can change so many things and I love that about her.”

Tisha, The Colourful Hello Kitty Girl

Photo Courtesy of Tisha.

Tisha is a content creator and self-proclaimed “curator of cuteness” from LA, who says her childhood trips to the Sanrio store were like being a kid in a sweet shop. Today she owns Hello Kitty dresses, shoes, handbags, jewellery, headbands, sunglasses, slippers, pyjamas and more. “For me, Hello Kitty stands for happiness, joy and friendship,” Tisha says. “I'm obsessed with colour and feel that clothing is wearable art. Don't wait for a ‘special occasion’ to wear bold colours or to get dressed up.”

Hello Kitty brings people together across generations and styles while maintaining a longevity and relevance that even the biggest social media stars and celebrities couldn’t achieve. Maia puts it perfectly: “I think anyone can be a Hello Kitty girl. That's what Hello Kitty is here for. She's here to be the cute, adorable little creature that she is and have a whole bunch of people go crazy for her. And she did her job.”

Hello Kitty Is The Ultimate Style Icon (2024)
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