Bearbricks, formerly known as Be@rbrick, is the flagship item of the enormous Japanese toy manufacturer Medicom and has had its paw thoroughly immersed in the honeypots of arts, design, and streetwear for the past 18 years.
Celebrity jeweler Ben Yang would buy as many Bearbricks as he could because of Lee Mobius being one of only a few places in Los Angeles that imported them. Yang would carefully place his treasured items in children’s car seats. By way of explanation, Lee describes Bearbricks to be Yang’s “babies.” Yang would drive away with all the joy of his vehicle full of clacking Just-Married cans.
Yang is currently and arguable the most well-known Bearbrick collector there ever was. Yang was initially exposed to the KAWS 1000 percent Bearbrick by Eddie Cruz, the previous owner of Union Los Angeles and one of the earliest importers of the toys in 2002. It was love at first sight for Yang.
Yang ultimately acquired so many Bearbricks – those created in conjunction with brands like Fendi and Chanel or designed by well-known artists like KAWS – that he had to turn an entire wall into a showcase space for the items. Yang, however, was not the only one who wanted them. Others such as comedian Bobby Lee and members of hip-hop group The Far East Movement also wanted Mobius’ limited supply of Bearbricks.
Despite the competitive rivalry for the toys, Yang was still able to build an incredible collection himself. In preparation for the birth of his child, he sold an entire collection of 40 Bearbricks and showcased them at the Guy Hepner gallery in Los Angeles in early 2012. The gallery mainly specialized in blue-chip artworks.
Bearbrick’s popularity may have been one of the oddest occurrent in the peculiar history of streetwear. As we live in a world where hot brands and trends come and go, the longest-running and most reliable hit was a plastic bear. Yet somehow, creating one’s own Bearbricks design has become prevalent for both upcoming and established labels, with streetwear heavyweights such as BAPE, Fragment Design, Staple, and Stussy flocking towards the toy.