Ever since the character’s first appearance in 1974, Hello Kitty’s parent company Sanrio (Tokyo) has done what many have tried and failed: remaining relevant while also staying true to the brand. Hello Kitty’s name alone conjures up a familiar image in all of our minds of the beloved character of our childhoods. The brand’s new store in Los Angeles capitalizes on that nostalgic feeling – the saturated, colorful lens of our memories – for its second flagship location at the historic Hollywood & Highland shopping and dining spot.
The store’s official name is Sanrio Presents Hello Kitty Hollywood, and it’s “a celebration of the nostalgia of Sanrio stores from the 1980s and 1990s with a modern experiential twist for today,” says Stephanie Simpson, Retail Merchandising Director for Sanrio. “We had the avid Sanrio fans in mind and showcased Hello Kitty in ways that we knew they would love. Of course, we stay true to our Japanese culture by promoting the message of ‘Small Gift, Big Smile.’ The smallest gift can bring the biggest smile, which is why we include a small trinket that hangs off of each package; it adds a special touch.”
The store’s front door welcomes visitors with the Japanese konnichiwa greeting repeated in neon colors under guests’ feet. Signage is a simple neon-patterned design with Sanrio’s logo and Hello Kitty herself standing before a rainbow – a brand so strong in its defining image within the cultural zeitgeist, you needn’t the words “Hello Kitty” to know where you’re shopping.
The space is touched by Hello Kitty’s liveliness and optimism. Orange, yellow, green, pink and white tones accent the store, whether by subway tile, decaled stripes or spot lighting. Wall graphics depicting variations of Hello Kitty and her friends are spread throughout the space and its inventory is just as varied, from clothing to traveling, eating to entertainment. The design is also precisely bookended: While konnichiwa welcomes shoppers inside, another display reading arigato bids a grateful farewell.
It’s both firmly planted in a contemporary world while also transporting shoppers back to the neon days of 1980s shopping malls. And it’s a design structured upon the brand knowing its identity from the inside out – a piece of advice Simpson recommends to other designers. “Understand your brand,” she says. “Celebrate where it started and have a clear idea of current customer expectations. Capture that magic and view it through a current lens. And most importantly, have fun on the journey of building it.”