Toons Get Trendy
Fashion brand Hype offered a high-end collection of items inspired by SpongeBob SquarePants
Fashion high on the agenda at Brand Licensing Europe as animation-inspired couture is paying off for licensors and retailers of all shapes and sizes. By Karen Yossman.
ly saw a ripple effect from our collaboration with Moschino,” Kingston says.
Similarly, last year, the Italian fashion house collaborated with Cartoon Network on a Powerpuff Girls line that included $550 sweaters and $450 purses. Six months later, Hot Topic released a similar selection of products featuring Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup at a fraction of the price.
For the designers, working with globally recognized characters such as SpongeBob, Looney Toons or Disney Princesses represents an opportunity to reach new audiences. “These (characters) are sort of keys into getting an immediate response out of people because they’re icons, so they’re sort of embedded in the public consciousness,” says British designer Philip Colbert, whose indie brand Rodnik has just launched a Mickey Mouse-inspired collection. Meanwhile, for behemoths such as Disney, it’s an opportunity to collaborate with a hip, young brand that “can re-engage the assets with a contemporary audience,” says Colbert.
And there are other, more practical, reasons why licensing animated characters can be especially lucrative. “A studio can license an animated character without having to worry about likeness rights,” says Jeff Trexler, an attorney and associate director at the Fashion Law Institute. “An animated character also tends not to summon associations outside the character itself —actors play multiple roles and have their own personal brands.”
But ultimately, perhaps the most simply reason that animation and fashion go so naturally together is because animators and designers are driven by the same creative impulse. “These characters also represent a fun and a fantasy world which in my mind is very much what the spirit of creativity and art is,” says Colbert. “I think the cartoon-fashion tie-up is a quite natural, fun, pop kind of vibe.” [