What's urban vinyl?

If you come to read this page, you probably have realized the popularity of the term "urban vinyl". Some urban vinyl figures become very collectible and worth hundreds even thousands dollars. But what exactly is urban vinyl? It refers to a type of art, namely action figures, which is stylish, unique, and reflective of the culture we are living in. Perhaps the best way to understand it is to read the story about Michael Lau, who many believe was pioneering this concept. 

Lau was an artist working in advertising in Hong Kong. In 1996, he did an exhibition of paintings called Watergarden, which showed creative people in everyday life reflected in water. The water symbolized the way creative people saw the world differently. The type of creative people he showed were those who did not care about what other people thought of their lifestyles, however were all positive role models.

In about same time, Michael was doing a cover for the band Anidoze. Instead of painting, he used an action figure. That's a transform of concept from 2D to 3D art. It struck a cord in the segment of the art world that was into urban designs (Graffiti, Album Covers, etc).

In 1998 Michael began the Gardner comic strip in East Touch magazine. Eventually all of the characters he illustrated became figures. From there, he did an exhibition of 12" action figures called Gardenergala. The figures are free to develop relationships, get married, go to work, move out of town and allow new members to be introduced, etc. Starting with 101 Gardeners, in development since 1998, Michael hopes to continue the Gardener Universe growing.


Gardenergala took the ideas from Watergarden and extended them into 3D, 12" action figures representing modern positive lifestyles (No Drugs, Booze Smoking and War). Each figure had it's own personality, and was strongly influenced by hip hop culture. Collectively it produced a fascinating insight into today's urban culture. It was quick enough to attract the attention of the world's press and contemporary enough to catch the eye of the art world; but where Gardenergala really won fans was with people who empathized with the culture Lau was representing.

As a result, Urban Vinyl is most popular with those into lifestyle products; those people who will go as far as to import a pair of sneakers from Japan because they are stylish, but avoid the big designer labels. In short, people who are stylish because they had their own style, rather than those who just followed the crowd. In fact, you will find a lot of Urban Vinyl fans who are not big fans of action figures, but are big fans of the styles used.

Urban vinyl is about creativeness. What the urban vinyl fanfare teaches our toy artists or developers is, when comes to design, give special thoughts to style, characteristics, culture, and the changing technologies. From this prospect, products in relate with history, culture, living style, story, science, fiction, game, and technological development would have their appeal to those who share the same belief.