Why Bearbrick’s Collab Magic Is Still Winning Over China

    Bearbricks have become the go-to partner for a diverse roster of brands, from Jimmy Choo to Andy Warhol. What makes the Medicom Toy figurine so special?
    Chinese streetwear label CLOT is one of Bearbrick's favorite ongoing partners. Photo: CLOT
      Published   in Retail

    Luxury groups are dishing out co-released collections at a record rate, but no one has quite reached Bearbrick's level of brand collaboration. Since being launched in 2001, the Medicom Toy-owned figurine has become the quintessential blank slate for just about every IP, from Kellogg’s to Coco Chanel.

    Illustrating its influence, the hashtag for Lancôme’s new Bearbrick is currently trending on Weibo, with 2.3 million reads on the day of writing alone. Although this is partly down to some netizens misreading “Bearbrick” as Blackpink, the shiny plastic bear’s presence in the mainland isn’t dwindling. In the words of collector Jeff Staple, the country sees the Medicom Toy protagonist as the “Faberge-Egg for the new generation.”

    The Guinness Book of Records named Beijing-based fan Gao Ke as the world’s biggest collector in December 2020. Despite originating in Japan, the art toy combines the blind box trend, art toy fascination, and resale appeal that has China’s young luxury consumers hooked. In the neighboring region of Hong Kong, consumers purchase Bearbrick products at a rate 15 times higher than the world average, according to StockX’s merchandising director Drew Haines.

    It’s therefore no shock that, as one of the Asian market’s leading luxury houses, the Coco Chanel Bearbrick is currently fetching around $19,000 (132,186 RMB), despite retailing at just $2,500 (17,316 RMB). In every case, the height of a Bearbrick’s resale value is dependent on who the collaboration is with — the bear is the stage, the label is the performer.

    (Left to right) KOLs @草莓_tt and @徐璐私服时尚穿搭日记 DevilWears are both proud owners of the Coco Chanel Bearbricks. Photo: Weibo
    (Left to right) KOLs @草莓_tt and @徐璐私服时尚穿搭日记 DevilWears are both proud owners of the Coco Chanel Bearbricks. Photo: Weibo

    Unlike those that might utilize co-branded drops to extend marketing exposure from time to time, Bearbrick has built most of its success by joining forces with external names. The bears are a universal key to unlocking cultural capital. Haines explains how “the various collaborators and designs — from luxury fashion houses to nostalgic cartoon characters — provide a diverse range of offerings and price points for every type of collector.”

    There are some ongoing partnerships with companies and artists such as BAPE, Clot, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Andy Warhol which have people constantly coming back for more. These consistent releases feed collector fever while simultaneously continuing association with names that have cult followings. It’s a win-win scenario.

    Haines notes that in 2022, in terms of popularity, the Bearbrick series 43 and 44 collections have been in the lead, which include 24 random 100 percent figurines. “You can get everything from basic colors to rare artist collaborations. That element of surprise has led to these products being the top sellers in the Bearbrick category on StockX this year.”

    Eric Haze and Jimmy Choo collaborated on a Bearbrick model as part of their 2021 collection. Photo: Jimmy Choo
    Eric Haze and Jimmy Choo collaborated on a Bearbrick model as part of their 2021 collection. Photo: Jimmy Choo

    Blind boxes are a hit among Chinese consumers, making these Bearbricks ideal for players to jump on the trend in a way that enhances their identity at the same time. One might not find Bearbrick brand collaborations as unexpected as those between competitors like Gucci and Balenciaga, or luxury houses crossing with gaming IPs such as Pokémon and Balmain, but they’re still as effective as they ever were — if not more.

    “The Bearbrick product line has become a global phenomenon,” says Haines. “A collaboration with Medicom Toy is a chance to be a part of a legacy that transcends fashion, music, art, and style. Bearbrick has been around for over two decades and continues to disrupt the collectible toy industry and attract fans worldwide.”

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