Born Brian Donnelly in 1974, the artist KAWS did not start out creating the figurines he’s known for today. Graffiti was his original medium, running around New Jersey and Manhattan tagging anything he could with the name “KAWS” simply because he liked how the letters looked together. Upon graduating from the New York School of Visual Arts, he became a background painter on animated series’ such as Disney’s 101 Dalmatians and Doug.
In 1999, KAWS was approached by the cult toy and streetwear brand Bounty Hunter to create his own toy. He came up with the Mickey Mouse inspired, skull headed ‘Companion’ and a collection of 500 toys was produced and sold out immediately. An icon was born.
After two decades of massive popularity, KAWS and his Companions have found their way into a variety of clothing collaborations. With the help of hip-hop artists like Pharrell, Clipse and Kanye West, KAWS x Original Fake became a moment in streetwear history. Subsequent collaborations with BAPE and Uniqlo were massive hits as well. Since Kim Jones’ appointment as the men’s artistic director at Dior, KAWS has played a significant visual role in the historic house as well. With the Companion being featured prominently in runway shows and other KAWS designs appearing on various pieces, it’s clear that the KAWS is having as big of an impact in fashion as he is in art.
What are KAWS toys?
KAWS toys are collectible figurines typically depicting the KAWS Companion character or other KAWS graphic signatures. KAWS has also collaborated with institutions such as The Simpsons to create toys resembling its characters as well.
What does KAWS stand for?
KAWS is not an acronym, the artist Brian Donnelly simply chose the name because he liked how the letters looked together.
What do the X’s in KAWS designs mean?
The X’s on a KAWS character's eyes and hands symbolize the virtual deaths of the human-like characters.