Why Are Squishmallows So Trendy Right Now? A Look at What's Driving This Plush Toy's Popularity

a person holding three squishmallows
Why Are Squishmallows So Trendy Right Now?Thomas Hengge

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Every generation has its “it” toy: Baby Boomers had Troll Dolls, Gen Xers collected Cabbage Patch Kids and Pound Puppies, and Millennials were obsessed with Beanie Babies. It was only a matter of time before Gen Z found its favorite collectible, and by the looks of their social media stardom, it would appear that Squishmallows have secured that title.

What are Squishmallows, exactly? A Squishmallow is essentially a hybrid of a pillow and a stuffed animal. These oval-shaped, plush toys come in all different characters and sizes, ranging from a couple of inches to 2 feet tall. Their pillowy form sets them apart from the average stuffed animal; they’re extra soft for optimal snuggles.

But what seems like just another cute toy has some serious star power behind it. Here's what to know about why Squishmallows are so popular and the forces that are marketing and promoting these irresistibly squishy collectibles.

The rise of Squishmallows on TikTok

Squishmallows rose to popularity the old-fashioned way: by becoming a TikTok sensation. Though the brand currently has just over 411,000 followers on the social media platform, its posts have racked up millions of views. But the Squishmallow phenomenon is driven less by the brand and more by its fans, as TikTok users have created billions of videos featuring their beloved plushies.

Celebrities have sung Squishmallow's praises on social media, too. In May 2021, Lady Gaga shared her collection of Squishmallows with her fans on Instagram with a selfie. “I love my friends. My real friends. That I come home to a pile of rainbows because they want me to smile and celebrate me,” she captioned the unedited photo. “I love you friends, all your colors and your uniqueness—your kindness, your curiosity, and endless love.”

In January 2022, Kim Kardashian put her millions of Instagram followers onto the brand by showing off her daughter North’s extensive Squishmallow collection, to which she had “added five new babies” at the time. Jessica Simpson wasn’t far behind in sharing her daughter Maxwell’s “dreams of Squishmallows covering her bed.” She posted a photo to her Instagram in May 2022 commemorating Maxwell’s birthday, which showed the then-10-year-old lying atop a pile of massive plushies.

Warren Buffet's firm gives Squishmallows a boost

While the Squishmallows boom is fairly recent, the toys have been around for a few years. The toy brand was launched in 2017 by the distribution company Kelly Toys Holdings LLC. It was acquired in 2018 by Jazwares, the parent company behind many viral kid-friendly brands, such as Hello Kitty and Friends, Pokémon, and Cocomelon.

cactus squishmallow against sky
thomas hengge

After the acquisition, Squishmallows began to take off. In 2021, The Economic Times reported Jazwares sales reaching a whopping $1 billion, 40% of which came from Squishmallows.

But where does billionaire Warren Buffet come in? In 2014, Jazwares was looking to expand, and its founders Judd and Laura Zebersky needed financial assistance. That year, the Zeberskys sold a stake in their company to the investment and insurance holding company Alleghany, which Warren Buffet’s conglomerate holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, would acquire in October 2022.

At this point, Squishmallows are just one of a multitude of brands in Buffet's investment portfolio, which also includes American Express, Coca-Cola, Apple, Duracell, Dairy Queen, and Geico.

Squishmallows sues Build-A-Bear over copycat claims

In February 2024, Squishmallows made headlines once again — for a very different reason. Per multiple news outlets, including the Associated Press, The Guardian, and Fortune, Jazwares filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District in California against Build-A-Bear, claiming the retailer’s new Skoosherz collection is a line of Squishmallow copycats.

The official complaint notes the similarities between Squishmallows and Skoosherz, which include the toys’ shape, colors, and cartoonish qualities. The attorney representing Kelly Toys and Jazwares said, “If a picture is worth a thousand words, comparing the Squishmallows original products to Build-A-Bear’s copycats speaks volumes.”

Jazwares has ordered that Build-A-Bear stop selling its Skoosherz immediately. Build-A-Bear has countered with its own lawsuit, claiming its products are not knock-offs but a natural expansion of its original stuffed animal offerings.

“If each aspect of the claimed trade dress were, in fact, protected trade dress, it would be virtually impossible for competitors to create alternative designs,” Build-A-Bear has stated.

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