Lifestyle

Social media sparks popularity of toys among Gen Z and Millennial women


Jellycat toys for sale at Hands in Sydney’s Newtown.

Jellycat toys for sale at Hands in Sydney’s Newtown.Credit: Brook Mitchell

Sophie Barker, 21, has been building her collection since 2021, when she stumbled across the stuffed toys in Toys R Us. She is now the proud owner of 103 Jellycats. Her most expensive? It was a gift, worth $500.

A community has been created around both of these collectible toys, with regular trades being made on Facebook groups or the occasional swap meet. Kuellmer and Barker are both “top contributors” in these groups, often posting to look for specific toys to add to their collections.

“I’d say it’s a great community to be in,” says Barker. “It makes you feel like this isn’t something to be embarrassed about. But also what comes with the increased craze, comes, I guess, prices hiking up and resale prices skyrocketing because people now understand how valuable these toys are.”

Sophie Barker and her collection of Jellycat toys.

Sophie Barker and her collection of Jellycat toys.

Hands, a gift and homewares store in Sydney’s Newtown, is known for being one of the few Sonny Angel and Jellycat sellers in Sydney and has become a crowd favourite because of it. Business owners John Luckman and Frances Zhuang have had a long love for the dolls but never expected them to become so popular.

“Usually they sell out in a day or so. The first order we made [of Sonny Angels], we thought they’ll do OK, but without people knowing that we sold them, they sold extremely fast.”

Sonny Angel toys, boxed and ready to buy, at Hands.

Sonny Angel toys, boxed and ready to buy, at Hands.Credit: Brook Mitchell

Since its opening in April 2022, the store has amassed an impressive following of 12.1k followers on Instagram and its very own hashtag on TikTok where many have taken to showcasing the unique stock the store holds.

Luckman and Zhuang tell us that there’s a definite link between these collectables and the rising popularity of Japanese cartoons and just a general love for all things cute and cuddly. Beloved Sanrio characters like Hello Kitty are now being sold by big retailers, including Big W and Peter Alexander, while Dutch character Miffy recently sold out at Target.

But for Kuellmer, Sonny Angels aren’t just there for aesthetic purposes – well, not completely. Soeya released the little angel to be a “small boyfriend” for customers and Kuellmer wholeheartedly supports the sentiment.

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“I feel like with your partner, you’d want to have matching outfits. Or if you’re seeking comfort, you’d obviously talk to your boyfriend, but instead of having a boyfriend you just pull out your little Sonny Angel or just look at them, and it brings you peace.”

That peace does come with a hint of nostalgia. Luckman and Zhuang find the Sonny Angel hype to be similar to the “old days” when collecting and trading Pokémon cards was popular. Kuellmer enjoys spending the money she never had as a child and treating herself, while Barker describes them as the friends she lacked as an only child.

But at the end of the day, collecting these toys is a fun hobby that helps decorate the home and sometimes, an outfit.

“They’re just cute. They’re fashionable. They just bring you joy,” says Kuellmer.

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