Years: 1999 - Present
Notable works: Companion, Bendy, Chum, The Twins, Dissected Milo Companion, Accomplice
By 1999, after sharpening his graf game with skater kids in Lower Manhattan, KAWS traveled to Tokyo to continue his practice. Here, he'd enter the world of designer vinyl toy-making for which he has become so renowned. Inspired by Claes Oldenberg, he released his first figurine that year, an 8-inch tall version of his black and grey character he calls Companion, with the manufacturer Bounty Hunter. This would start KAWS on paths of commercial viability and also sculpture—an avenue he'd considered but had yet to venture into. KAWS continued to make limited edition toys in collaboration with KidRobot and under his own company OriginalFake, bringing the characters that appeared so reliably in his paintings in the past to life in an incredible way. This stage would also lead the artist to some of the most notable collaborations of his career, including with Bape in 2011.