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Beyond Play: The Intriguing World of Designer Toys

Updated: Apr 28



If you think toys are meant solely for children, you're missing out on a vibrant and fascinating side of artistic expression—the world of designer toys. These aren't your mainstream action figures or dolls, but rather carefully crafted collectibles infused with personality, unique artistic vision, and a dash of rebellion.




 

Picture of Jimmy; Half Ghoul. Half Kraken. All Dead.
Meet "Jimmy" one of many, "The OG White Edition" designed by @8pm

Feast your eyes on Jimmy!  Snagged by Ronnie D of Zillion Marketplace, this photo showcases the unique "Half Ghoul, Half Kraken & All Dead" figure. Designed by 8pm and sold exclusively at Plastic Empire, a toy shop near Atlanta, Georgia, Jimmy is a collector's dream and a shoe junkies dream.

While various versions exist, Jimmy releases are known for their subtlety and slow pace. Despite the limited releases, he's consistently sold out at events like Designercon and other art and fashion platforms. This particular picture features the "plain white OG Edition." With its prototype aesthetic, it's the perfect canvas for a creative DIY project this weekend!


 

So, What Exactly is a Designer Toy?


Designer toys, also known as art toys or urban vinyl, blur the lines between traditional toys and high-end art pieces. Here's what sets them apart:


  • Artistic Origins: Unlike mass-produced toys, designer toys usually start from the imagination of a single artist or designer. These figures are their canvas for unique characters, stylized figures, and a sprinkle of pop culture references.

  • Material Matters: They might be called toys, but designer toys use a wide range of materials, from classic vinyl to resin, plush, wood, or even metal. This adds a tactile dimension and contributes to their collectible appeal.

  • Limited Production: Designer toys are about exclusivity. They're produced in limited editions, making them highly sought-after by collectors and art enthusiasts alike.


Why the Fascination?


The rise of designer toys is a testament to our desire for unique and expressive forms of art. Here's why they're so captivating:


  • Self-expression: Designer toys are a statement. Collectors carefully curate their displays to reflect their tastes and interests.

  • Nostalgic Connection: Many designer toys tap into the nostalgia for pop culture icons, cartoons, and retro aesthetics, but with a modern, artistic twist.

  • Community: There's a thriving global community of designer toy collectors and enthusiasts, building connections through online forums, meetups, and conventions.





Where Did It Start?


The designer toy scene has roots in Hong Kong and Japan in the 1990s. Artists began to experiment with alternative toy forms, leading to an explosion of creativity that eventually spread to the Western world.


Key Players and Styles


The designer toy world is diverse! Here's a peek at some trends:


  • Urban Vinyl: Stylized figures, often with bold colors and exaggerated proportions. Think characters from artists like Michael Lau and KAWS.

  • Designer Plush: Soft, huggable creatures with unique personalities, created by artists or companies like FriendsWithYou.

  • Pop Culture Mashups: Artists remix iconic characters with their own signature styles.

  • Art with Attitude: Many designer toys incorporate elements of underground art, graffiti, and social commentary.


Want to Know More?


If you're intrigued, here are ways to explore the designer toy world:


  • Online Marketplaces: Sites like Tenacious Toys: [https://tenacioustoys.com/] or myplasticheart: [https://www.myplasticheart.com/] offer a curated selection.

  • Designer Websites: Follow the work of artists like Kaws, Ron English, or Coarse.

  • Conventions: DesignerCon and similar events are a great way to immerse yourself in the community.




Designer toys challenge definitions and open doors to a world where play, artistic expression, and a love for the unconventional collide. Get ready to discover your inner art collector!

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