Etsy creators who typically make colorful toys, scrunchies, and home goods have a new top product this Halloween: Squid Game masks.
The Korean hit television series amassed 111 million viewers and became Netflix’s biggest launch ever in its premier 28 days on the platform. With Halloween approaching, the show’s popularity has driven up demand for Squid Game apparel, including black masks with different shapes on them. In the show, the masks are worn by soldiers and the front man whose responsibilities include organizing the game, policing the participants, and removing dead bodies.
Shop owners on Etsy are tapping the show’s virality and the upcoming holiday to sell Squid Game masks, and many say it’s been extremely successful. The show deals with themes darker and more politically explicit — class tension, poverty, murder, and social unrest — than usually found on Etsy, where pony-tail holders, candles and t-shirts that read “I’m Just WTF’ing My Way Through Life” (as well as ribald gag gifts) are top sellers. But some creators say Squid Game spoke to them personally, since they are facing their own struggles with debt, and they wanted to provide customers with related merchandise.
“I think people can just kind of relate to the series because I think most of us have some kind of debt,” Silvina Fakharian, co-founder of JigglyWigglyToys, a Los Angeles, California-based 3D printing Etsy store said. “If it’s credit card debt or student loan debt or car loan for example, I think people just want to become the front man because it has all the power, it’s not in the game itself.”
Fakharian, her husband, and a friend of theirs typically use their 3D printer to make colorful toys and fidget objects for kids. But once Fakharian and her husband started watching Squid Game, they got the idea to use their printer to break into a new market. Now they’re selling around 10-20 masks each day.
“We usually sell very colorful stuff and mostly we cater towards kids,” Fakharian said. “This is just a black mask and I can see mostly adults buying it so it’s a very different market for us. But I think it’s a good product that people seem to like, and people are starting to buy it. People just love the series so they want to be that for Halloween.”
The JigglyWigglyToys founders are not the only ones who have had success selling Squid Game masks.
Sophie, the founder of NewChapterNewHome, a home decor Etsy store where the most popular products include “Love Handle” and “Donut” vases, has also started making Squid Game masks.
“We watched it on Netflix and we were hooked,” she said. She used her 3D printer to make masks and sold around 40 in a week.
At the NewChapterNewHome Etsy shop, one of these things is different.
While some creators are using their own 3D printers to make the costume, Johnmartins Ago was so overwhelmed with orders he outsourced production to a Chinese manufacturer.
“The profit is not much, honestly,” said Ago, who typically sells personalized gold jewelry he makes on Etsy. “But I just have to continue because I’ve started. I can’t go back.” He explained that he began making the masks because he enjoyed the show, not necessarily to generate income.
Much like Fakharian, Einas Afif, the founder of AppleBlossomsCA, felt personally impacted by the show. Afif, an immigrant who fled Yemen due to its Civil War, lives in Canada with her two children and sells her scrunchies online. She’s currently on maternity leave with her second child. Afif watched Squid Game recently, noticed “the hype” online, and decided to try selling masks.
“The night I posted it, I woke up the next morning and I’m, like, swamped with orders. I was shocked,” she said. “So that made me happy because, to be honest, I have [a] past due mortgage that I need to pay and I have visa and credit card bills that I need to pay also. It was like a desperate measure for me to do this.”