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Embrace, Release, Sustain: A Plush Revolution in Lifelong Relationships

MA 2023
Stuffed toy, Lifespan, Off-boarding experience, Sustainability

It is an over six-month, critical, exploratory project around closure narratives, off-boarding experiences, plush toys, and sustainable design.

It is driven by the dual objectives of assisting parents and children in easily and effectively caring for their beloved plush toys, fostering a lasting intimate relationship, while also facilitating the acceptance of pre-loved soft toys within the second-hand market to extend their service life. And the weapon we choose is standardisation covering hygiene and safety.

We believe that protecting what we love deeply and happily saying goodbye to those who are no longer loved will also be a sustainable behaviour in line with the laws of nature.


Strictly speaking, we do not have a formal partner. Largely because this was a 6 month, self-directed project where we frequently changed and explored different fields. Although we have established connections with many experts from different fields, we are still in the stage of testing and iteration.

We would like to thank Joe Macleod, the founder of the AndEnd; Yiying Wang, the founder of the Noodoll; Nikki Gaddo, the founder of the Goodmine; Andrei Cornea, the manager of the Three Corners Adventure Playground, who gave us great support both in theory and practice.

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Soft toys are in desperate need of sustainable intervention.

Comparable to fashion, plush toys are constructed with similar workmanship and materials; areas that are seriously neglected by sustainable forces. Plush toys are hard to recycle, and people easily establish an intimate emotional connection with them. This makes it very difficult to let go of. This leads to a common phenomenon: there are a large number of plush toys hoarded in people's homes (especially those with children) from hundreds to even thousands.

But hoarding isn't a solution, it's more likely people's hesitation and procrastination towards a product that is about to enter the next stage of its life cycle - the end. What's more, based on our ethnographic research, the end of hoarding will always be indifferent to discarding, and the scarce, monotonous and cumbersome recycling and utilisation system can seldom meet people's expectations for value exchange. Countless plush toys have been left idle for a long time, which represents a waste of life; and they will eventually be thrown into landfills without any other options, which represents environmental pollution.

The reality looks ridiculous and pathetic, so we felt, something needed to be done.


The lifespan and value of plush toys are threatened by health, safety, and standardisation issues.

From our ethnographic research, we found that there are basically two types of plush toys at home:

1) residents, which are those we fall in love with, and

2) passers-by, which are those who have just been played for a little while.

People want to keep resident toys for a long time. To keep the intimate bonds between toys and their children. But the continuation of that relationship is hindered by parents not knowing how to keep the toys intact, clean and especially child-safe. 

People do not want to keep passers-by. They actually take up a large part of their soft assets. Parents do want to get rid of them, and most importantly, they want to feel good letting go of them. But a rewarding farewell experience is hindered by people, especially the next owner's hygiene, safety and standardisation concerns.

Thus, to quote a sentence from a mother we interviewed, “For those stuffed toys in my home, I really want to do something, but I really do not know what is the answer”. And here we can see intersecting problems: Hygiene, Safety and Standardisation. They are not included in the services we buy, but they have been, or are, or will soon be, seriously hindering the continuation of a good relationship.


How might we establish a standardised framework to reinvigorate and extend the lifespan of used stuffed toys?

We had a wonderful, rich and industrialised starting experience. But what about the closure experience? The off-boarding is currently barren of emotion and meaning. Closure in narratives attempts to preserve the moral and social order. Only by addressing the importance of closure experience can we honestly meet human-product relationship needs and master the ability to improve these relationships.

For those beloved stuffed toys:

How might we empower parents with the knowledge, resources, and capabilities to consistently maintain the optimal condition, cleanliness, and child safety of children's beloved furry companions?

For those passers-by stuffed toys:

How might we develop a seamless off-boarding service that guarantees hygiene, safety, and a rewarding transition for used stuffed toys, facilitating their acceptance and suitability for new owners seeking to provide them with a second life?


We make caring for plush toys no longer mysterious.

We would like to introduce our company, Starffy! As a company, we are dedicated to making stuffed toys shiny again. Partnered with stuffed toy companies, we offer caring knowledge and tools to families and second-hand businesses to help them take better care of their stuffed toys. Our service consists of three parts, Starffy Hub, Starffy Tools and Starffy Support.

Starffy Hub

This is a platform that provides consumers with knowledge on the care of stuffed toys. We collaborate with toy companies to create tailored care processes for different types of plush toys. By scanning QR codes printed on the tags, consumers can access the Hub for specific care information. When they decide to part with their toys, they can easily find nearby second-hand toy businesses through our platform. For those lacking cleaning products, Hub offers direct purchase options for care tools.

Starffy Tools

Starffy tool is a set of tools specialised for stuffy toys. We are different from the existing cleaning products on the market, as we will directly work with toy companies to develop customised cleaning products for different stuffed toys. Our products are professional and easy to use.

Starffy Support

We also provide a cleaning consulting service for businesses around second-hand stuffed toys, which is called Starffy support, so that we can remove the current barriers to reselling stuffed toys. With our professional cleaning knowledge and tools, these second-hand businesses, represented by charity shops, are able to sell stuffed toys with hygiene and safety guarantees.

To summarise, Starffy is using its expertise in hygiene and safety to reinvent the future of stuffed toys


We are building a sustainable league for stuffed toys.

Starffy, a groundbreaking project, aims to bridge the information gaps among toy companies, consumers, and second-hand businesses, ultimately revolutionising the reuse of stuffed toys. By facilitating the attachment and delivery of caring information from companies to consumers, Starffy ensures that products come with comprehensive care instructions. Additionally, Starffy guarantees hygiene, fostering trust between consumers and second-hand businesses. This trust enables more pre-loved toys to find their next loving home.

Together, we are establishing Starffy League. It draws a future landscape of enhanced customer loyalty, extended service chains, and social accountability for toy companies. Moreover, the project empowers second-hand businesses to gain professionalism, expand their reach, and earn consumers' trust. With its focus on hygiene, safety, and easier customer care, Starffy paves the way for a more sustainable future by extending the lifespan of plush toys.

We are redefining what the term sustainable means in reality.

Sustainability encompasses more than just saving, environmental protection, or new energy. While these terms have adorned countless green organisations' websites, have they truly influenced our everyday lives? This project aims to convey a powerful message: by embracing and caring for cherished possessions, joyfully bidding farewell to assets we no longer love, and nurturing all relationships with an active and progressive approach, we embrace a model that aligns harmoniously with the laws of natural development. This sustainable way of life seamlessly intertwines with our daily existence, forming a meaningful and interconnected tapestry.


In the past six months, our research and design process has been supported by many excellent practitioners, such as Kamalini Ramdas (London Business School), Joe Macleod (AndEnd), Yiying Wang (Noodoll), Nikki Gaddo (Goodmine), Wendy Phillips (Toy Safety Experts), Andrei Cornea (Three Corners Adventure Playground), Fred Wordie, etc. We would like to express our sincere thanks for their enthusiasm and help.

Special thanks to Judah Armani for all the feedback he gave us.

We would like to end with a special tribute to our tutor, Richard Atkinson, for his knowledge, kindness, patience, and sincerity.

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