Fandomoid brings the creativity of independent artists to life and into your home. When consumers shop through Fandomoid, they can rest assured that they are directly supporting real people with a desire to create beautiful things.
The company’s Purrmaids by Kikidoodle are designed domestically in Oregon by Christine Knopp. The Purrmaids are huggable, unique, plush characters that are inspired by Knopp’s love of cats, ocean life, and fantasy creatures. Each Purrmaid is designed with a central story with her love of conservation and wildlife and education at the forefront.
The Toy Insider spoke with Christina Gaona and Didier Donné about Fandomoid as a company, its dedication to the artists, products made with the environment in mind, and its unique Purrmaids brand.
The Toy Insider: Tell us a little bit about your background.
Christina Gaona: Fandomoid started with the goal of helping artists and creators in creating unique products. It’s something I greatly enjoy doing. In hindsight, I feel like this path was a really natural step for me. I consider myself a life-long artist and creating things that stand out has always been something I strived for in all of my work. I started exploring the idea of crafting items for sale instead of fun when I was 17, when I got my first vinyl cutter and experimented in silk screen printing. Most artists can tell you that collecting supplies for various mediums can very easily spiral out of control, and I was certainly no exception, especially in my personal quest for discovering those extra details that would set my work apart.
While participating in Artist Alleys and conventions, I met many other artists who shared similar goals. We seemed to run into very similar hurdles. Costs, sourcing, logistics … Nobody goes to art school because they love doing administrative work.
However, these things are a necessary part of the development process for just about any product you can imagine. After a long development process, holding a physical plush in my hand is the second most satisfying part of the process. I would say that the most satisfying part is when the artist receives positive reviews on a new product.
Didier Donné: I first got my start in the video game industry and joined the film entertainment industry shortly after this. I spent about 8 years working for a big animation studio where I got to meet some of the most talented people out there.
I have an art degree with a focus on Character Animation, but somehow ended up on the tech side of the equation. I essentially was fixing hardware and software issues across all departments, which allowed me to make great friends across the company. I feel that my blend of artistic and technical background allows me to recognize the artists’ needs from a perspective that may not have been considered otherwise.
It wasn’t until our first conferences representing Fandomoid that the reality of what we were trying to achieve really set in. The response was overwhelmingly positive and we knew there was something there for us to pursue.
Christine Knopp is the designer behind the Purrmaids brand. She has combined more than a decade of experience teaching design as a freelance artist and in the video game industry working for companies such as Disney and other international studios.
TI: Fandomoid’s product line is so unique, but combines things kids love: kittens and mermaids. What was the inspiration behind the design of these huggables?
CG: The Purrmaids were designed by Christine Knopp, who we work closely with. Years ago, Christine put her beloved cat in a mermaid costume and entered a pet costume contest! The idea took off, and as an artist, Christine drew inspiration from that.
Fandomoid’s product line is so unique thanks to the amazingly talented and creative independent artists we get to work with. With Christine’s Purrmaids, her love of cats shines through and touches the hearts of fellow cat lovers across the globe. You can really see the love she pours into all of her work. We believe that everyone can benefit from that type of expression.
We’ve heard of many children and adults alike who have bonded especially close with their Purrmaids, keeping them to serve as an anti-anxiety companion. We’ve had people tell us stories of how their children had their Purrmaids keeping them company during difficult times. It really paints a different picture, one far greater than just pumping out toys as a business. It tells us that these toys can, have, and do make a real impact on many people’s lives, and in a positive way.
Our mission keeps us focused on helping Christine, as well as all of our artists, to be able to focus on creating more beneficial experiences for kids and adults alike.
DD: We have a very close relationship with the artists we work with. Specifically, for Purrmaids, we are able to spend time with Christine Knopp and really get to know what her interests and inspirations are. Art like this always has a personal expression within it and we have to be careful to honor that.
Think of it as a part of yourself you’ve spent a lot of time and emotional energy in. It’s hard to let something like this go and allow it to be handled by someone else. These items aren’t just physical objects. Instead, they represent years of personal attention toward something you want to share with the world.
TI: How does Fandomoid directly support artists?
CG: When it comes to the Purrmaids, we worked alongside Christine as her brand grew, sharing ideas and navigating trade shows together. Trade shows are a great place for artists like Christine to showcase their work, but that can come at a cost.
A lot of an artist’s life is driving across the country for several days, living out of hotel rooms, eating all your meals out of boxes, and talking to hundreds of people just to cover your bases and make a living. All of this stress just for the hope that your weekend might have helped bring you closer to your dream.
These days, Fandomoid works to help bring Christine’s work to more people than she can reach on her own, which gives her the ability to focus on building the world of the Purrmaids.
We do this through social campaigns, offering the products directly to consumers and doing everything we can to show the world these Purrmaids exist and that they are pretty darn cool.
DD: We have strong roots with the artist community within the entertainment and tradeshow industry and we ourselves have worked alongside these amazing artists. Through this experience, we came to realize that many of these people have aspirations to turn their creativity into tangible products.
Unfortunately, there’s a massive learning curve to build this kind of business especially when it comes to complex products like plush or apparel. Fandomoid is born out of the idea that we can help them build and grow their brands and help them reach a wider audience.
TI: What considerations toward environmental impact does your company take into account?
CG: Figuring out how to leverage the economical benefits of mass production for artists while minimizing the environmental impact is a challenging balancing act. We’ve had companies who asked us to compromise on those ideals in the past, in the name of saving a few cents per unit.
It’s been very eye-opening and unfortunate to see that side of things, which has made us all the more dedicated to finding mutually beneficial solutions where we can. Fandomoid believes that taking responsibility for the impact our business activities may have on the environment should not be an afterthought, but a vital and active part of our design and development processes.
DD: There’s a widespread initiative for finding new procedures that have a less negative impact on the environment. There’s a demand from our clients and we also pay close attention to the factories we choose to work with. If they have processes in place that fit within that narrative, we will consider them.
For example, we’ll soon have new products available from a new brand for which we’re producing silk/cotton scarves. We found a digital printing solution that requires up to 90% less water compared to traditional fabric dyeing techniques. We also wanted to use natural fibers rather than synthetic. These ambitions drive us to make better things not just for the customers but for the environment.
At the end of the day, we want to make a positive impact. It’s my sincere hope that a Purrmaid or any of our future products can bring some joy in someone’s life.
TI: Tell me a little bit about your favorite toys from your childhood.
CG: This might not be the kind of toy you were expecting with this question, but I had this giant rock in my backyard. It was — maybe — 6 feet long and 2 feet high. I took crayons and drew a lion with an ornate, carousel-inspired saddle on the side of the rock. That lion took me on all kinds of imaginary adventures.
As we get older, it feels like that imaginative magic can fade into the background. I personally believe that creative play is very educational and important for personal development at any age.
DD: My favorite toys as a kid were LEGOs and Nintendo NES. I especially loved the ‘90s space-themed LEGO sets. I was born and raised in Belgium where Dec. 6 is the holiday all kids look forward to since “Sinterklaas” pays each household a visit and leaves lots of candy and toys behind. I got the LEGO Space Monorail one year, which was probably one of the best toys I ever played with. I suppose one could argue even then I was more interested in technical aspects.
My first NES game I ever played was The Legend of Zelda. I actually think this may have been another Dec. 6 holiday. I remember not being able to attend school that day I had the flu and, considering which day it was, I wasn’t too unhappy about this. I played way too much Nintendo and my parents were not too thrilled about this. I got so good at playing these games that people at school would lend me their games, so I would finish them and tell them about the ending.
TI: How do you think your experience with play as a kid shaped the designer you became?
CG: As a kid, I loved to read … sort of. Craft books were my main go-to. I loved following along to create something new from whatever scraps I could find, and I ended up building a lot of my own toys from paper tubes, milk cartons, random beads, yarns, you name it. I always wanted to be left alone at the library to browse and find the perfect book with the perfect project for me to craft something new.
In hindsight, it’s kind of painfully obvious how that shaped my perspective when it comes to what I do now! I suppose I never really grew out of that entirely, but now I get to craft things a little bit differently, and on a much bigger scale.
DD: I can say without much doubt that LEGOs and Nintendo pushed me toward computers and eventually digital arts. It led me to move from Belgium to the U.S. more than 20 years ago and it’s been a great adventure. It’s strange to consider that I made such a drastic change at 19 to study Character Animation and ended up as a software engineer, just to loop back and work with artists again. Sure, my plan was to become an animator and work on video games and movies, but I couldn’t be happier with where I am today.
Fandomoid is a work of love inspired by wildly talented people. It feels good to be part of that group.
TI: What can we look forward to from Fandomoid in the future?
CG: We’ve been working with a lot of awesome clients on projects that we can’t announce yet, but I’m very excited to share more of our work soon. In our toy department, we look forward to offering more of the Purrmaids. Our next immediate product is more for the grownups, with some beautiful scarf designs coming soon that I’m excited to say really showcase our flexibility and attention to detail, no matter what project we’re working on.
Thanks so much for checking out the Purrmaids, and maybe consider adopting one of your own sometime!
DD: We’ve got an ambitious plan outlined that builds on our product development and online store front. We hope to expand our online presence with more brands and more fun and exciting products for sale. We’re selling directly to the end consumer now, but we’re looking forward to working with other retailers both nationally and internationally.
Perhaps I’ll find myself back in my home country to talk about Fandomoid. I hope to see Purrmaids in many different countries one day!
To learn more about Fandomoid, and to adopt your own Purrmaids, visit fandomoid.com!