Akin to the designer-toy phenomenon that’s been winning over the bleeding hearts of collectors, hobbyists and admirers alike, designer plush pieces are exactly what they sound like: soft, squishy, unique characters that are sometimes available in limited-edition sets and are usually handmade.
Some are incredibly popular, such as the Uglydolls, some not-so-ugly monster-type creations by David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim that have since made their way into mainstream outlets and expanded into other products.
There are plush toilet-paper rolls, bowls of udon, depressed doughnuts, Pepto-Bismol-pink bears with bloody mouths and dwarf-sized Henry Rollinses—plush-toy creators know no bounds and much of the time consider their works a form of art.
Chin specializes in plush food items with a personality: Cheeseburgers ($20), pastel Creamsicles ($20), a rainbow of juice boxes ($20 each) and chocolate-chip cookies ($10) share small smiles and round, friendly eyes. The half-sandwich ($20) doesn’t have a mouth, but it does have a slice of American cheese, some lettuce and tomatoes.
There’s even a “Lunch Pak Special”—$40 gets you a plush cookie, sammie and juice box.
Chin’s most popular seller is also on my current list of future purchases to justify: a slice of French toast complete with two eyes, a curly mustache and, of course, a tiny beret that goes for $20.
“I think people really respond to the pun. And mustaches are so hot right now,” says Chin. “I’m really going to explore other ‘French’ items. He either needs a nemesis or friends. Or both.”
The No. 1 problem with most handmade plush offerings is the price tag—which also happens to be the most common thing handcrafters agonize over. But remember, each small detail on that grape-juice box is a result of Chin, a self-described perfectionist, cutting out miniscule pieces of felt, slaving away at her machine and hand-sewing ends closed.
The best thing about designer plush, though, is easily its universal appeal.
“Plush objects have always been associated as children’s toys,” explains Chin. “But now, because of clever designs, the toys speak to older generations as well.”
Which leads to one question: Just what does one do with a mustaschioed, beret-wearing, felt slice of French toast?
“The only reply I have to that question,” responds Chin, “is ‘fun.’”