The Rainbow Loom is a playground must-have that has made its inventor a mint

Alice-Azania Jarvis reveals how everyone is banding together

It is neither particularly hi-tech nor, at around £20, terribly expensive. Yet the Rainbow Loom has become the children's must-have item of the summer.

All 20 of the best-selling toys on Amazon at the moment are either looms or loom-related. Owners use the plastic contraptions to weave colourful elastic bands – which can be bought for as little as £1.99 for a pack of 1,800 – into bracelets, necklaces and bags. Or, indeed, whatever else takes their fancy; the US talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel recently appeared in an elaborately patterned suit made with Rainbow Looms.

"They're easy and fun and you can make anything," says Giulia Galli, an 11-year-old fan from London. "They don't make a mess and they keep you busy."

More than three million looms have been sold around the world. David Beckham, One Direction's Harry Styles and the Duchess of Cambridge have all been spotted wearing so-called "loom bands" around their wrists.

The toy is the brainchild of Cheong Choon Ng, a Malaysian-born, Michigan-based seatbelt designer. He created the original Rainbow Loom three years ago to impress his daughters, whom he'd seen weaving elastic bands over their fingers to make bracelets. When he'd tried to join in, his fingers were too large and clumsy. So, using a wooden board and a handful of pins, he built a primitive "loom".

It was his eldest daughter, Theresa, then 12, who suggested that her father market his creation. Unable to afford the cost of manufacturing in the United States, he spent $10,000 having the first batch made in China. They were shipped over to his home in parts; he and his wife assembled them in his living room.

Initial attempts to sell the results online were unsuccessful – but when Ng and his daughter began posting YouTube videos demonstrating how the loom worked, things turned around. In summer 2012, the Learning Express Toy Store, which has 130 franchises across America, placed an order for 24. Within two days, they sold out. In the past year, Ng has sold four million starter sets at £20 each.

Soon, retailers were clamouring to stock Ng's toy. He left his job at Nissan, hired a distribution warehouse near his home, relocated the assembly line from his living room to a factory in China, and began exporting around the world. Since then, they have become a word-of-mouth hit.

Bella Triggle, aged seven, from Purley, Surrey, says that she heard about the Rainbow Loom through friends: "They all make bracelets so I thought it would be a good idea, too."

In this, it is reminiscent of another recent playground fad: Silly Bandz. The malleable bands of rubber, which can be shaped into animals, letters and jewellery, prompted a comparable frenzy in 2010. They were created by an American concert promoter Robert Croak, who spotted plastic wristbands being sold by a designer in China, and began selling similar ones online in 2008.

Indeed, it may be the organic development of the craze which in part explains its success, says Professor Jeffrey Goldstein, founder of the International Toy Research Association: "Big companies sometimes try to engineer these things, but kids are aware when something is the result of a big marketing campaign."

He credits the social element of looming with turning the toys into must-haves: "Children can make the bands and trade them. They provide the opportunity to engage in a safe, simple, social activity."

Avowed loomer Molly Street, aged six, from London, agrees: "My friends and I all sit around in big circles making rings and bracelets, in different colours and combinations."

So will we tire of the looming craze? Undoubtedly, at some point – but for the moment, looms are here to stay.

John Lewis says that recent weeks have seen stronger sales than ever. John Baulch, publisher of Toy World magazine, believes this is a trend with longevity: "This is a great, good value toy – I can't see it disappearing this year."

Indeed, he may be right – not least because several schools have recently banned the looms following reports that they were causing playground fights. And if there's one thing that's guaranteed to fuel a children's fad, it's adult disapproval.

Arts and Entertainment
Supporting role: at the Supreme Court, Rhodes was accompanied by a famous friend, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch
booksPianist James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to stop the injunction of his memoirs
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
filmDheepan, film review
Sport
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool
sport
News
peopleComedian star of Ed Sullivan Show was mother to Ben Stiller
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
News
George Osborne became Chancellor in 2010
peopleChancellor accused of reneging on pre-election promise
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
News
Lena Headey plays Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern