So, Hello Kitty.
I don’t know what it is about this mouth-less cat with a red bow that makes people obsessed. Even Balenciaga made luxury bags emblazoned with the iconic cartoon figure’s face—and for men, no less!
In Singapore, the Hello Kitty mania is alive and real. And it all started on January 1, 2000.
At the dawn of the millennium, for the first time, McDonald’s in Singapore had collaborated with Sanrio by releasing a 40-day Wedding Design Hello Kitty (alongside its male companion Dear Daniel) toy promotion with their Extra Value Meals. There were six different sets to be collected, and each week, Hello Kitty and Dear Daniel dressed in matching costumes that ranged from Japanese wedding costumes to Chinese traditional wedding outfits.
A Carousell post on the original 2000 edition McDonald’s x Hello Kitty plush toys
These plushies very quickly became a must-have for collectors, sparking a queuing frenzy in the thousands all over the island. I was 11 that year and got in on the frenzy early. And while I wasn’t really a fan of Hello Kitty, I still forced my parents to get me one.
Yes, one. Solo. And not even of Hello Kitty. I insisted on getting just a solo Dear Daniel plushie in a blue astronaut’s outfit just because I wanted to be ~*dIfFeReNt*~. I never played with it or even displayed it with pride. I just wanted it because everyone wanted it. And it was so stupid of me to just get one because, without its counterpart, the resale value of it was practically worthless.
For what it’s worth, I was always more of a Bad Badtz-Maru fan. I just enjoyed his apathetic attitude and expressions much more compared to others in the Sanrio family. And as time went on, I added lethargic egg Gudetama to my list of favourites but that is a story for another time.
So needless to say, when McDonald’s continued to drop more Hello Kitty merchandise (because, hello capitalism), I passed on each and every one of them. And, of course, when news hit last week that the carriers were to be available for $7.90 with the purchase of any Extra Value Meal™ or Doubles Feast, I just lazily scrolled past it on my Facebook news feed.
Until one landed on my table. And when I say landed, by that I mean Associate Digital Editor Hidayah dumping one she received as part of a press kit on me. And then the following words were exchanged.
“Hi, Cheryl. I need you to carry this Hello Kitty carrier as your purse for a week.”
“But I don’t even like Hello Kitty!” I replied indignantly.
“That’s why it’s funny,” Hidayah responded.
“Then why am I not laughing,” I said in annoyance.
But it was too late. As the resident ~*fAsHiOn ExPeRt*~ (aka the fashion editor on the team) I was now assigned this fashion challenge.
Scroll through the gallery to see what I wore.
As you can see from the lack of glee on my face, I was in no mood to have this as my purse. Hidads had sprung this on me mid-day and thus I declared this was going to be Day 1 of the challenge. I’m not even sure if the outfit complemented the bag but I didn’t care. “Take it or leave it.” I snapped at Hidads as she continually snapped photos of me while giggling under her breath.
Now that the anger had dissipated, I took a step back and decided to evaluate my closet and style a bit closer. Like the earlier challenge I had with wearing slippers to the office, it was always better to look at these style challenges with a more… positive outlook (aka to quote Jamie Chua, “Good vibes only.”). So I decided to take it seriously and plan looks that complemented the bag instead.
While I was pleased to finally have an occasion to wear this polka-dot top and skirt I had picked up from ZARA in June, the overall effect coupled together with my red lipstick felt a bit like Cruella De Vil. Only, instead of skinny Dalmatians, I had chopped off Hello Kitty’s head in anger to wear as my purse. Which, in hindsight, is also not a wrong evaluation.
The good thing was, it was a hit amongst my fashion peers. A fashion PR friend of mine even took a photo of me. But I had to rush off after work for a wedding rehearsal. Running into a church with this crazy bag in hand whilst my friend’s parents and extended families looked on in confusion? Yep, it wasn’t that big a hit among them. I felt (and probably looked) like a crazy person.
This turned out to unexpectedly be my favourite look. I decided to tone it down a bit and chose to pick up the red accent of the bow by adding a hint of red with this Prada top and rainbow earrings from Pomelo. This definitely felt a lot more me with the addition of the T-shirt and jeans as well. While I still felt ridiculous, it didn’t feel as OTT and attention-grabbing as the previous day.
Oh, and the pouch that I added and tied to the handle really worked with this outfit too. As the carrier is pretty much like an open basket, I needed a little pouch to prevent my belongings from falling out—just a little tip if you would like to reuse your carrier as more than just a table ornament!
I was off from work on this day, but it was Day 4 and I was committed. I had to run some errands before my friend’s wedding but I wanted to stay true to the challenge by toting the carrier around. Having a red accent really worked for me yesterday, so I chose to continue that with this pyjama-esque jacket I had gotten from H&M four years ago. Paired with shorts and sneakers, I did feel this was an outfit that would have been perfect for brunch—Hello Kitty carrier and all. After all, brunch was one of the places I would work my ridiculously-sized tiny bags, so I guess this was a good alternative.
It was Day 5. Freedom was near. I could almost smell it. And at this point, I thought, why not just go all the way out? Why don’t I just do Hello Kitty… on Hello Kitty? I was gifted this Levi’s x Hello Kitty overalls about a month back (which I had given to Senior Features Writer and Hello Kitty fan Adora) and decided I might as well just borrow it from her and go full-on cray.
Besides, Hello Kitty’s outfit of choice is also a pair of overalls, only I draw the line at pairing the overalls with a striped tee.
A stylist friend of mine also suggested adding a strap to the carrier to change up the look, and to be honest, it really wasn’t all the bad. It was also much easier to go about my day without carrying it in my hand.
While in my mind I thought I looked like a crazed Hello Kitty friend, no one really seemed to really blink an eye. Friends of mine who had seen me throughout the week were also conditioned by then and just thought I looked very normal.
Perception is a strange thing. While I was initially appalled to tote around the carrier, my attitude towards it started shifting on Day 3 of my experiment, which was the actual public launch date of the carrier.
People had started to come up to me to compliment me for carrying the bag. Some even expressed their jealousy at my good fortune at procuring it. Many, of course, had anticipated long queues and did not bother taking the chance to purchase one.
As many of my peers and strangers alike pawed at my bag, I basked in the admiration and the compliments (sorry, I know I sound really big-headed right now!). Was this how people felt like when they bought their limited edition designer purses? Is this my version of flexing a hard-to-get Louis Vuitton x Supreme purse? Maybe.
After spending five days with the carrier as my purse, I was slowly getting used to seeing Hello Kitty’s face. And design-wise, it really wasn’t the worst thing in the world to carry. Trust me when I say there are some really ugly luxury bags out there that you couldn’t even possibly pay me to use.
(And no, Hidads, this isn’t an invitation to another fashion challenge.)
Not only did I secretly enjoy planning kitschy outfits around the carrier (I am, after all, really competitive and hate to back down from a challenge), but as someone who prided herself on wearing anything, it was a truly an interesting way to push my own style boundaries. So, no regrets on taking this on.
P.S. If anyone wants my Hello Kitty carrier, feel free to drop me an email. But first come, first served! [Edit: It’s been claimed!]
To read more of Cheryl’s fashion challenges, click on the links below.