GUND is America’s oldest and most prestigious soft toy company and dates back to 1898, when Adolph Gund set up his fledgling business in Norwalk, Connecticut. Gund always believed in innovation and spent hours upon hours designing mechanisms and visualising ideas. Gund worked hard to make the company a success, and on his retirement in 1925 GUND was taken on by a loyal employee – Jacob Swedlin. Over the years GUND has continued to manufacture and sell popular soft toys, today the company is lead by Bruce Raiffe, and is part of the Enesco LLC group.
When it comes to soft toys you will struggle to find a brand that has worked so tirelessly to improve the soft and cuddly toys you see on offer today. They have put in countless hours developing design and manufacturing techniques and were the very first company to employ the under-stuffing method.
To Stuff or to Under-stuff That is the Question!
Once upon a time soft toys were not quite as “soft” as the name suggests. Teddy bears were quite stiff, and dare we say, their fur could even be described as a little bit scratchy and rough. This was due to the fact that soft toys were often made with acrylic fabrics, which meant they felt quite coarse. In the 1980s acrylic made way for polyester and there was a noticeable difference between the two (polyester felt much softer and smoother to the touch).
Soft toys of the past were also stuffed differently than those made today. Years ago, it was standard practise to stuff a soft toy full to the brim – renowned German bear makers Steiff favoured this approach and their jointed bears were firm to the touch. But attractive as these bears were to look it, we can hardly describe them as “soft and cuddly!” The market was crying out for something super-soft to snuggle up to, a cuddly and loveable soft toy that could offer comfort and warmth, and toy manufacturer GUND answered that call.
GUND began to under-stuff their soft toys, adding less fluffy polyester to create a suppler feel. This resulted in soft toys that can be best described as squishy and squashy! These “plush” toys stormed the market, and appealed to consumers of all ages. Soft enough for babies and toddlers to lie on and comforting enough to provide solace to children, tweens, teens and adults looking for cosiness (it’s a cold, hard world, we all need a hug from time to time)!
There’s been a lull in the demand for hard stuffed toys, but in reality, there’s room for both the firm teddy bears from the likes of Steiff and the plush under-stuffed soft toys that have been growing in popularity over the years. Together they can still give the modish gadgets, gizmos and tech toys a run for their money. Nowadays kids start getting into technology at a younger age, toddlers watch cartoons on tablets and it’s not unusual to see school kids almost walking into lampposts on their way to school (often texting the friend they will be meeting up with in five minutes time)!
With that in mind it’s comforting to think that there’s still a place for soft toys. That’s good news for all – as snuggling up to a mobile phone or an iPad wouldn’t be very heartening! Perhaps that’s why “soft” toys have now been manufactured to be even softer? Producers are certainly responding to market trends, but they could also be thinking about our emotional well-being. The world is a tough place to live, surely cuddling an ultra-soft toy appeals to us more nowadays than ever before?
The Wonderful World of GUND
GUND are responsible for the production of some of our most loved soft toys, including Pusheen – a rather smart cat who enjoys having fun, eating snacks and offering her “expert” opinions on all manner of topics. Then there’s Boo – a little Pomeranian, who is extremely cute and appeals to dog lovers around the globe. Traditionalists will love Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit range, and those seeking super soft cuddly toys suitable for babies and toddlers should check out the Baby GUND range. The seasonal GUND range is also worth a look, and features a handful of soft toys that would be perfect for the forthcoming festive season. Take a look for yourself and treat a friend or relative to a thoroughly huggable soft toy, in fact why not treat yourself? You deserve a hug too!