Today, the ‘bear’ is as much a major icon in fashion as it is in the world of art. An intelligent creation, it effortlessly blends the simplicity of a plastic toy with the aesthetic impressionability of modern art and dynamic luxury fashion.
Bearbrick is a unique vinyl toy, which has been one of the most fervently desired collectables since its release around 21 years ago. Although a simple plastic toy, some of the world’s biggest fashion houses and designers have adopted it to showcase their latest designs and projects.
Despite being moderately priced, the plastic bear-shaped figurine is immensely valuable to collectors. Moreover, some of these are sold for tens of thousands of dollars at auctions. This is why American musician Joe Hahn popularly dubbed it as an “adult collectible toy”.
Bearbrick comes in specific sizes. The normal one is 70mm tall, which is also known as 100% on the size scale. Bearbricks of 35mm, or 50%, are usually sold as keychains. Larger sizes include 280 mm, or 400%, and 700 mm, or 1000%, the latter of which is the largest Bearbrick size available. Most collectors prefer the 400% and 1000% sizes.
The vinyl toys are nothing but simple plastic figurines and yet have disrupted the toy industry like nothing else.
Bearbrick was created by Tatsuhiko Akashi, who founded the Japanese company, Medicom Toy, in 1996. One of Medicom Toy’s earliest creations was Kubrick, a Lego-like humanoid figure named after the acclaimed filmmaker Stanley Kubrick.
Akashi created Bearbrick for the 2001 World Character Convention in Tokyo after organisers approached him to make a toy they could hand out as a gift to the attendees. However, the organisers requested hundreds of toys in a short time.
So, Akashi, encouraged by the fact that the teddy bears soft toy — those children have played with through decades — was celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2000, hit upon the idea of placing a bear’s head on the body of a Kubrick.
Thus, on 27 May, 2001, Medicom Toy launched Bearbrick, which is now less of a toy and more of a prized artefact.
In a 2017 interview, Akashi told Otaku Mode that he doesn’t conduct market research. Pointing at a Bearbrick, he said, “If I did, this wouldn’t have come out. There’s no way we would have put this out.”
Indeed, Bearbrick is so simple that its phenomenal popularity is confounding to most.