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TTC Chats with Riki Toys!

There are amazingly great Designer Toy collections around the world, but then there are EPIC collections such as that of Riki Toys. If you have yet to lay eyes on this vast collection, you’re in for a treat today as we caught up with Ilya, owner of Riki Toys and probably one of the most varied & interesting collection of Designer Toys you will ever see. Don’t believe us, check it out below with our interview with Ilya….

Hi Ilya, thanks for taking the time to chat with The Toy Chronicle today. 

We want to catch a few words with an avid collector of Designer Toys and your own collection of Designer Toys is one of the most impressive that we have ever laid our eyes upon, what drives you when you are collecting Designer Toys?

Hello-hello, Gary! Thank you for having me!

For me, as a designer and creator of animations, games, collecting toys is primarily a hunt for interesting characters. Just imagine, each toy character has its own personality, its own story, its own aesthetics. Collecting Designer Toys is not merely about collecting figurines; it’s about collecting meanings, stories, artistic embodiments.

I visualise these characters; I know who they are, remember their stories, and this is precisely the factor that quickly hooks me. A single glance is enough to evoke certain emotions, a surge of endorphins. Putting a new figurine on my shelf, at some point passing by and taking a fleeting glance, this emotion pops up somewhere.


What first got you into Designer Toys? 

I began collecting in 2001, just as the industry that had emerged in the 90s was starting to take shape. Back then, I acquired designer toys through what I called “toy-hunting”, travelling to different countries. I’ve always been interested in not just standard collectible figures but those designed by artists, who creatively reimagined their characters. I started bringing these figures from everywhere, then people began gifting them to me, and the collection of a few dozen pieces turned into the collection of several hundreds. As our animation studio grew, we moved into a larger space, over 5000 square metres, where it became possible to showcase the collection. 

Watching this industry develop before my eyes, I began to closely follow it, getting to know the designers. As a result, I’ve amassed a collection that now numbers over 10,000 figures. I strive to gather diverse toys, representing all sorts of creators and styles.

Interestingly, some of the first figures in my collection were by Michael Lau. So, my collection began with the figurines from ‘the godfather of designer toys’ and continued to evolve alongside the movement’s growth. To this day, it serves as a record of the history and trends within the movement.


You get to travel the world attending conventions & shows, when you are at these shows, which artists most inspire you in the Designer Toy community?  

Yeah, I really love conventions and shows – the atmosphere, the chance to meet artists. For me, it’s a big loss every time I miss an exhibition. It’s hard to single out someone specific. I like it when an artist’s persona becomes a part of their characters’ world, like with Doktor A, Touma or Hariken.

I also enjoy exhibitions because they provide the opportunity to discover new names. I like supporting newcomers. Some toys in my collection were purchased even before their creators became well-known artists.


Do you have a special, favourite Designer Toy that stands out in your collection?   

Well, there are several.

One of the jewels is a figurine of Karl Lagerfeld by Simone Legno. It has an artist’s illustration and signature, and was gifted to me from the personal collection of Simone Legno.

I am a big fan of the brand Unbox Industries, collaborating with many talented artists, and the Instinctoy line created by Hiroto Ohkubo.

In my collection, there is a custom Munny made by the duo Horrible Adorable, commissioned by me. I was involved in selecting the colours; it’s very exciting to be a co-creator of a piece. Not to mention that Horrible Adorable are among my favourite creators.

I also have a Michael Lau figure that I assembled piece by piece from his Gardener Action Figures series. Remember that series where, in blind boxes of spray cans, there was an additional element besides the figure itself?

I’ll also mention a figure from the Chiko Roko art club. It’s created by Waxbones, highly detailed, visually appealing in terms of colour combination, and it brings together several themes in designer toys: Kaiju, cyclops, comic aesthetics, and, of course, the wonderful Chiko platform. Hehe.


Is there a particular grail (most sought after) Designer Toy that you are on the hunt for?    

Sure, let’s name three. The first one is the Sponge Brain Resin Figure by Emilio Garcia. SpongeBob is one of my favourite characters, and one of toy designers’ favourite characters to experiment with. Emilio Garcia’s version seems very well-executed, and it could add to my extensive collection of variations on this character.

The second is “The Lost Wood ‘Gotcha’ Sculpture” by Steven Harrington. I’m a big fan of this artist; my collection includes his various vinyl and metal figures, but honestly, I haven’t even seen a wooden one for sale. 

The third is the Be@rbrick 1000% ‘Yummy-looking bear’ by Fumiya Fujii. He designed it for the platform’s 10th anniversary. This Be@rbrick is covered in breadcrumbs. Fast food is another endless theme for toy designers’ experiments, and I haven’t come across this interpretation of the theme anywhere else.

I enjoy finding rare figurines by iconic artists; it even sparks a sort of competitive interest. For instance, in my collection, there’s a particular figurine that I spent a while searching for. It’s the collaboration between KAWS and Hajime Sorayama, the No Future Companion Figure. A collaboration between two artists who are already at a museum level of recognition. I appreciate the fusion of KAWS’ irony and Sorayama’s sleek aesthetic. And, of course, it’s a figure cherished by numerous designer toy enthusiasts.


What projects in the realm of character design have caught your attention recently?

As an animation producer, I really enjoyed the early collection of vinyl Ugly Dolls by David Horvath and San-Min Kim, and I’m impressed by the journey this project has taken from illustrations to a big Hollywood production.

And this year, the long-awaited film “Scarygirl” was released, based on characters by Nathan Jurevicius. While creating his own world, he has also released many cool designer toys.

Additionally, the animated series called “Mermicorno” is in preparation, based on the Tokidoki character lineup by Simone Legno.

I anticipate that in the near future, we will see many more projects in which not only designers play with the images of popular media characters, creating their own versions based on licences, but also conversely, the creators themselves will turn their own worlds and invented characters into major media projects.

I see tremendous potential in “Delusionville” by Ron English, characters and worlds created by Gary Baseman, Chris Ryniak, Bruce Whistlecraft (Doktor A), and many other vibrant creators.


You’ve taken your love of Designer Toy collecting and used that love to create your own brand of Designer Toys in the Chiko Roko brand. How did this come about?

Indeed, it was connected to my deep passion for collecting and my background as an entrepreneur, creator, and producer. I have assembled a large collection of figures from all over the world, from different continents, a kind of chronicle of 20 years. The collection is exhibited in the animation studio, and anyone can come there for a tour. However, it’s clear that taking this collection somewhere, showing it in another country, is a separate challenge, not easily done. And here lies the downside of physical figures. 

A few years ago, when I realised I had some free time that could be invested elsewhere, I decided to explore the realm of digital collecting solutions. At that time, NFTs emerged, and there was an initial hype. But hype comes and goes.  However, the main thing is that a new technology was revealed to the world, showing that digital objects can also possess uniqueness, have limited editions. You encode information onto the blockchain, just like in the physical collecting world – let’s say you release a limited edition of 100 figures, or 10,000 figures. You create the same number of NFTs as digital twins. 

Now, the majority of my resources are dedicated to this project. We are building a bridge between the physical and digital worlds. In music, we’ve already witnessed this transition. Roughly 95% of music is digital now, and only dedicated collectors listen to music on vinyl records. So, my choice is not accidental: it’s both my hobby and my interest in new technologies.

Having conceived the idea of building a bridge between physical and digital collecting, and also aiming to create a community marketplace specifically for collectors and creators of designer toys, our team initially decided to test all mechanics on a single collection. And that’s where Chiko Roko came in as precisely that collection. Starting at the Dubai Expo in late 2021 as a creative and technological experiment, the Chiko Roko collection became a new discovery for many collectors and one of the largest digital collections in the world (both in terms of the number of original designs created – now numbering over 3,000 toys, and in terms of the number of collectors – whose number is steadily approaching 1 million people).

While born as a digital collection, Chiko Roko is now stepping into the offline realm as well. In September, at PTS in Singapore, we introduced a special line of designer phygital toys Chiko Roko, created in collaboration with Tokidoki. With each physical copy ordered, the buyer will simultaneously receive an identical digital twin added to their collection.


The Chiko Roko brand is very much focused on the digital & AR aspect of collecting, do you see this as the future for collectors?

I believe the future of digital collecting lies in pushing the boundaries of the designer toy medium. Digitization allows for introducing performative elements to artworks.

Art objects that utilise NFT technology are emerging, embedding intriguing features into smart contracts, essentially creating a new form of performance and interaction. Dynamic NFTs are coming into existence, altering based on the actions you perform with the object. Programming code within the smart contract activates, altering the artwork according to the circumstances established by its creator. This is a new kind of art, which hadn’t existed in this form before.

Chiko Roko precisely encompasses the best practices and tools that current digital technologies provide, and it serves as an example of how physical and digital collecting of designer toys can evolve in new ways right now.


What are the long term plans for Chiko Roko?

Chiko Roko will continue its development as a collection, and we anticipate that in the long-term perspective, it will attract even more designers and collectors, becoming as iconic and successful as lines like Medicom’s Be@rbrick, Kidrobot’s Dunny, or the relatively young Superplastic’s Janky.

However, Chiko Roko is a separate collection. Our main project that is just beginning its journey is ArToys. ArToys is a platform that combines social media and a community marketplace, catering to character designers, IP owners, brands, and designer toy collectors. For toy brands it offers digital twins, so basically we help artists and brands go digital. It will provide an artist with a QR code to place on a physical toy packaging to get a digital twin. The digital twin is available for the toy owner for free and collects all the characteristics and details of the original piece, such as rarity, artist info, and authenticity. Furthermore, the platform functions as both a direct sales platform and a social media platform: each artist has a personal page with all social media features (feed, subscriptions, likes, etc.). Additionally, artists gain marketing tools for promotion and the ability to sell digital and physical assets through the ArToys marketplace. 


Do you have any artists that you would love to work with on the Chiko Roko brand?

Perhaps, it’s Ashley Wood, Steven Harrington, some foundations like Andy Warhol’s and Kit Harington’s. In general, we are open for collaboration with any talents and brands. Write to us, and let’s create! 


What is next for you, Ilya, in the collecting world? 

I plan and dream of creating a designer toy museum, both in the form of a real interactive physical space and in the digital realm, as part of a larger metaverse project.

With my team, we will continue our research work (both in terms of cultural and technological aspects) to create a kind of chronicle of everything happening in the world of designer toys. As we expand our collection and build the ArToys project, I aim to draw attention to this vibrant and incredibly interesting field of contemporary art, attracting as many collectors from around the world as possible.


Thanks for your time answering our questions, let our TTC family know where they can find you online?



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