Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Small stuffed hanging toy sells for $6.

In the pink

Sanrio product designer helps
bring a new character to life

Anniversary celebration

Marking the Sanrio store's third anniversary with games, gifts for the first 100 children, prize drawings:
Party time: 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday
Place: Sanrio, Ala Moana Center
Admission: Free
Also: Take pictures with Hello Kitty and Cinnamoroll, 11 a.m. to noon and 2 to 3 p.m. both days. Cost is $3.
Call: 949-2990

Donna Suzuki-Gilbert's world has never been "pinker," having worked as a product designer and art director for Sanrio Inc. for 14 years.

Born and raised in Honolulu, Suzuki-Gilbert was lured to San Francisco by her job, but she still considers herself a local girl. Before leaving Honolulu, she earned her BFA in graphic design from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

"I worked at Media Five doing more corporate design, so when I started working at Sanrio, it was totally different."

These days, she says, "Hello Kitty exists as part of my daily life and always will be a part of me."

Suzuki-Gilbert will be at the Sanrio Ala Moana Center store this weekend at the store's third-anniversary celebration. There will be photo and craft opportunities, games and other activities. Suzuki-Gilbert will help kids embellish "color-your-own T-shirts" she designed ($5 fee). She will sign shirts as well.

Sanrio designer Donna Suzuki-Gilbert will appear at the Sanrio party.

The store will be transformed into "Café Cinnamon" to honor Sanrio's newest character, Cinnamoroll, a cute pup with a tail that curls like a cinnamon bun.

Suzuki-Gilbert's main responsibility at Sanrio is to develop new designs for existing characters, essentially giving them new life. "I have worked on a lot of different characters from the past, including Pochacco, Keroppi, Pekkle, Spottie Dottie and Badtz-Maru," she said. "It's great fun."

Suzuki-Gilbert designed the new Cinnamoroll Starlite collection and denim and light blue nylon bags.

At Sanrio, designers aim to satisfy specific age target groups, from young children or teens, she said. "Items created for the teen or adult market focus on practical and fashionable items. Pop culture and trends play into the decision. Each design promotion normally includes 20 to 25 items, she said. Everyday lines displayed throughout the year have many more selections.

Designs change with the seasons to meet back-to-school or holiday themes. "It is ever changing -- that is the challenge," Suzuki-Gilbert said.

One thing she hasn't done is create an original Sanrio character.

Striped Baby Cinnamon bag is $17.50.

IKUKO SHIMIZU was the original designer of Hello Kitty, born as Kitty White in 1974. The white kitten -- wearing a red bow and with no mouth -- made her way from Japan to the United States two years later.

Hello Kitty remains Suzuki-Gilbert's favorite character. Her personal collection consists of Hello Kitty items sold exclusively in Japan. "She is timeless," Suzuki-Gilbert said. She's also a fan of Chococat and Cinnamoroll.

Suzuki-Gilbert's 5-year-old son, Zackery, does not share the same passion for Sanrio products. "He collects dinosaurs, reptiles, insects, zoids and Bionicles ... the scarier the better," she said.

She has only one regret about moving to the San Francisco corporate office: She misses her mom's home cooking and local foods. "I don't know how to cook a rice dish anymore," she laughed. "I always enjoy that chance to go home."

Cinnamoroll writing accessories include a star pen, $2.50.

Meet Cinnamoroll

The basics: He was born March 6 and lives at Café Cinnamon
Name: Cinnamoroll, because his tail is curled up like a cinnamon roll
Personality: A tad quiet, but he really likes people, especially their laps (for snoozing).
Special skills: He uses his very large ears to fly
Likes: Café Cinnamon's famous cinnamon rolls, of course!

The Story of Cinnamoroll

One day while the owner of Café Cinnamon was admiring the sky, a tiny white puppy came floating by, looking just like a small fluffy cloud. She thought, "Maybe he caught a whiff of the cinnamon rolls and came to check them out."

She was right. The curious pup took a shine to the cafe owner and her delicious cinnamon rolls, so he decided to stay. Because his tail was plump and curled up like a cinnamon roll, she decided to call him Cinnamoroll.

Sweet little Cinnamoroll was instantly popular with customers and soon became Café Cinnamon's official mascot. Now, when he's not napping on the cafe terrace, you can find him flying around town looking for fun and new adventures with his friends Chiffon, Mocha, Espresso, Cappuccino and Little Milk.

Source: Sanrio

A Cinnamoroll pencil case with mechanical and ballpoint pens, $6.75.

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