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Industry News

When characters meet high end fashion houses

By Francesca Ash, Publisher of Total Licensing

Characters on fashion is not a new concept. Disney have had fashion licensees for well over 80 years. Over the past years however, the trend for High End Fashion Houses and characters to come together has become more prevalent. Certainly, linking your brand or character to a high-end fashion house, can widen its scope by making it aspirational to the masses. Both brands and fashion labels have done well to turn Nostalgia and child-orientated characters around and make them cool for adults. Here we look at a selection of recent successful partnerships. 

Moschino has successful deep roots in character collaborations. Franco Moschino, the founder fell in love with Olive Oyl in 1989. When he died in 1994, his assistant Rossella Jardini continued his legacy to embrace the collaboration with Olive Oyl. The first perfume was launched in 1995, the bottle being in the stylized shape of Olive Oyl, still popular after over 20 years. The fragrance has many different versions, but all have kept with the Olive Oyl inspired bottle.  



Today Moshino are still at the forefront of brand collaborations, having had successful recent collections with My Little Pony, McDonalds, Barbie they revealed on an LA catwalk in June, that King Features’ Betty Boop will star in their new Spring Summer collection for 2018.  It includes jackets, pants, skirts, dresses, sweaters, T-shirts, tank tops, crop tops, sweatshirts, hoodies and swimwear, plus accessories (bags, backpacks, clutches, phone covers, scarves, ties and umbrellas).  Betty’s adorable puppy Pudgy will have his own mini collection of T-shirts and sweatshirts, sweatshirt dresses, backpacks and scarves. A capsule men’s group of T-shirts, sweatshirts and swimwear featuring Betty’s companion Bimbo is also included. Although not showing at the L.A. Preview, a children’s range is included as well, so the entire family can be outfitted in Moschino style!

Grazia Bussandri from Premium SRL (King Features Licensing Agent in Italy) who negotiated the agreement recognises that collaborations work well for both the brand and the fashion designer, being coupled with a prominent high end brand, means to conquer the tribe of fashionistas as well as becoming aspirational for the wider public. It is the prestigious positioning which reverts favourably towards the character and promotes the more traditional licensing activities of the character itself.  


Fashion is an extremely important party of the new online generation who constantly need to feel trendy, fashion designers with their eclectic ideas are the best vehicle to reach that audience.  From the prospective of the Fashion Designer, using a brand/character which is part of a different world, for example in this case entertainment, it permits the designer to add to their garments the emotional flow of an immediately recognisable cartoon character.



Another Italian Fashion House which has also long realised the benefits of collaborations is Iceberg. Premium SRL has worked with Iceburg for over 30 years, using classic cartoon characters on their apparel lines. The first collections with cartoons were designed by the legendary some have said king of “cartoon couture” Jean Charles de Castelbajac, who turned the label into a postmodern, pop-art fashion house, selling a bunch of hijacked Snoopy, Daffy Duck, and Felix the Cat imagery to Britain’s working class. Iceburg continued the tradition with its own brand, working with many well-known characters. The Iceberg main collection this Fall/Winter is dedicated to Popeye and Olive Oyl. The collection has been covered up by the esteemed fashion mags Vogue, Elle, Grazia as well as others. 

Smiley have been setting trends for decades and have always been at the forefront of popular culture. Smiley has a unique position whereby they have collaborations on the catwalk with some of the world’s leading fashion designers and at the same time have collections accessible to the mid-market through some of the high street’s most popular multiple retail stores. This allows consumers to buy into the brand across various segments. They are one of the few brands in licensing that can take the catwalk to the sidewalk which is quite an outstanding USP really.

Matt Winton from Smiley comments, “Our strategy for brand collaborations is really based primarily on authenticity and a meeting of shared values. They have to be shared positivity and like-mindedness. We only want to work with people who are enthusiastic and can contribute to our vision and mission of ‘making the world a happier place’, otherwise there is no way the partnership can be successful. This is how we build our co-creations. It’s not about names, it’s about contributing to our values.”

“Our strategy then is to try and do at least 2 brand collaborations each season and ensure we position Smiley to be seen by the world’s leading fashion journalists and buyers. This way it has a trickle down effect, whereby the journalists put the images in the magazines, the opinion formers wear the brand, buyers put the products in their stores and new consumers then engage meaningfully with the brand and want to buy our products.”

Wonder Woman, the iconic DC Super Hero brought to life by Gal Gadot on screen last year, attracted collaborations with some of the most prestigious fashion houses in high couture, including Louis Vuitton and Givenchy, and so more. These partnerships were part of a multi-layered retail strategy for the film, which enabled fans of all ages inspired by this great character to be able to have the opportunity to wear their fandom. High couture relationships like this, position the property as aspirational, drive impressive interest and engage the Wonder Woman brand uniquely with trendsetters and influencers.

However, it’s been important in this case to Warner Bros that specialty and mass market retailers like Hot Topic, Torrid, GAP, Walmart, Target, and Kohl’s also had collections inspired by Wonder Woman. Warner Bros Consumer Products’ Chief Creative Officer, Soo Koo, sees Wonder Woman as more than just a fashion icon. “She’s a true Super Hero, someone that can empower and who has the confidence to be strong, kind, compassionate, resilient. We should all be inspired by Wonder Woman,” she says.   

Wonder Woman is celebrating her 75th anniversary this year and the fashion collaborations involving the brand continue to celebrate the positive messages she is associated with. They are also vital in helping to introduce new fans to the power of the brand, with fashion appeal as part of it so fans of all ages can wear and enjoy. As the highest grossing action film ever directed by a female director –Patty Jenkins, this film embraces empowerment from beginning to end, and is utterly of its moment. Wonder Woman is a brand for the inner Super Hero in all of us.

Another strong girl brand The Powerpuff Girls showcased at London Fashion Week an all new collaboration with Fashion label Fyodor Golan. Featured on the runway during the event were seven of the 15-piece collection. The full range of products from The Powerpuff Girls x Fyodor Golan collection includes an assortment of outerwear, tops, sweatshirts, skirts, dresses and trousers, as well as a “mini-me” collection for powerful women and their aspiring girls. The Autumn/Winter 2017 collection will be available for sale beginning in July at select department stores and boutiques worldwide.

Fyodor and Golan said: “We grew up with The Powerpuff Girls and are still huge fans! For us, these three characters empower you to be yourself. Encompassing strength and standing up for yourself against all odds and being overly cute at the same time. Designing with the girls in mind was really liberating and felt very naturally relevant. We love the iconic quality they come with, in the simplicity of line, colour and mood. Staring in our own The Powerpuff Girls cartoon was like a dream come true.”   

It’s been 20 years since the Teletubbies sprung onto the screens in the UK. And as the Teletubbies strut into their third decade they are also attracting an additional audience.  The cult appeal of the Teletubbies have truly become part of the fabric of global popular culture.

Today’s young millennials, who watched the show as children, now flock to social media to fervently create wacky Teletubbies-inspired gifs and memes. Tapping into the millennial Teletubby fever, the brand recently formed a collaboration with leading menswear designer Bobby Abley which saw outlandish Teletubbies inspired outfits hit the catwalk at London Fashion Week Men’s. 

It caused a huge stir online and on social media across leading fashion websites and blogs. DHX Brands is now actively pursuing additional partners to cater for this older fanbase proving you are never too young or too old to love the Teletubbies.

Spongbob Squarepants is currently in the middle of his year-long SpongBob Gold campaign. Part of a year-long SpongeBob Gold international campaign, the SpongeBob Gold fashion collection is an innovative collaboration with six international designers – Peter Jensen, Bobby Abley, Bad Denim, Salar, Maria Francesca Pepe and Suecomma Bonnie.

Featuring clothing for men and women as well as footwear, accessories and jewellery, the SpongeBob Gold collection is inspired by Nickelodeon’s incurably optimistic and earnest sea sponge, SpongeBob SquarePants. Each item in the 27-piece collection features classic SpongeBob iconography embellished with a golden twist.

In addition to in-store availability at the Wonderland Shop in London, the SpongeBob Gold fashion collection will be available from UK fashion site Farfetch from the end of May.  SpongeBob Gold designers will also make select products available for purchase through their websites this summer as well as in select international retailers.


(Source: Total Licensing)

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