Anime Goes Luxe

Anime and kawaii properties have become perennially popular on licensed products worldwide. For the past year, they have had a particularly high profile in the global fashion industry, with a large number of collaborations involving labels ranging from streetwear and sportswear to, most notably, luxury brands:

  • Undercover, the label of designer Jun Takahashi, created a womenswear collection, which debuted last month, tied to the classic property Neon Genesis Evangelion. The collaboration ranges from puffer coats reflecting the colors of the key robots in the show to hats taking inspiration from the heads of the show’s robot monsters—described by some publications as straddling the line between fashion and cosplay—to more standard graphic t’s.
  • Gucci highlighted the character Doraemon, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2021, on its Lunar New Year collection this year, using the initiative to debut its Tmall ecommerce presence in China. The pieces included ready-to-wear apparel along with bags, footwear, watches, scarves, and more. Gucci has also partnered with several other anime and kawaii properties over the years, from Sailor Moon to One Piece to Bananya.
  • Pharrell Williams and his Billionaire Boys Club and Icecream labels partnered with My Hero Academia last month for a line of five t-shirts, each available in six colors. Each item features a different character associated with the property, paired with Icecream branding. The shirts were available for a limited time on the Billionaire Boys Club Icecream Japan website.
  • Spanish brand Loewe worked with Studio Ghibli on a My Neighbor Totoro collection of ready-to-wear apparel and accessories. The grouping included hoodies, shorts, t-shirts, leather jackets, and button-down shirts, along with bags, wallets, and shoes. Imagery ranged from Totoro and other main characters to the black-and-white dust bunnies featured in the film.
  • In another collaboration tied to Neon Genesis Evangelion, sportswear brand FILA paired with Radio Eva, the property’s official merchandise label, in January for a 30-piece range of sweaters, graphic t-shirts, headwear, sneakers, and shoulder bags featuring a variety of characters, colors, and scenes from the series. The two brands have partnered for other collections in the past.
  • Longchamp, known for its leather accessories, created a capsule of Pokémon leather tote bags and backpacks featuring the franchise’s main pocket monster, Pikachu. The merchandise was available through the ecommerce sites of both Longchamp and The Pokémon Company and was promoted in an online event within the Pokémon Go augmented-reality mobile game.
  • Kappa featured One Piece on a collaborative sportswear assortment highlighting three characters as well as other imagery from the anime, including its familiar “To Be Continued” graphic. This marked the second time Kappa had worked with the property, following a collection in spring 2020. The newer range included a sweatsuit, straw hat, hoodies, t-shirts, pants, and other items, plus a bookmark.

This list represents just a taste of the wide universe of recent fashion collaborations involving anime and kawaii properties, with examples ranging from the world of fast fashion (e.g., Demon Slayer, Ultraman, and Sumikko Gurashi as part of Uniqlo’s UT line) to luxury menswear (Balenciaga’s 2020 Hello Kitty collection).

Anime and kawaii properties have a number of advantages in fashion licensees’ eyes. They have achieved mainstream popularity globally, making them appropriate for programs in multiple territories; the core fans of many properties are young adults, which is particularly appealing to luxury marketers; and there are a wide variety of properties from which to choose, offering opportunities for endless fresh takes that keep the audience coming back for more. It should be noted, however, that most of the major fashion labels, at least in the West, have stuck with the highest-profile classics to date.

A heads-up that Raugust Communications’ monthly e-newsletter comes out next Tuesday, April 20. The Licensing Topic of the Month will examine the experiential role licensed merchandise has played during the current COVID-driven yearlong-plus hiatus in live events. The Datapoint research spotlight will take a look at the composition of the licensed face mask landscape in 2020, along with a discussion of future prospects. If you are not yet a subscriber to this free publication, please sign up here.

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