As Simple as Black and White

A black-and-white color palette—expressed in patterns, prints, or blocking—remains a top choice for designers in home furnishings, streetwear, hair accessories, and other sectors. Licensors and their licensees have been taking note of this trend in a variety of ways over the past year or more as they develop style guides and products:

  • Many of Disney’s pieces celebrating Mickey’s 90th anniversary in the apparel and home categories, especially for adults, utilized black-and-white designs and patterns, sometimes combined with color accents.
  • Kiss’s Paul Stanley paired with Puma for the 50th anniversary of the latter’s Suede sneaker, creating a black-and-white shoe that takes its cues from Stanley’s Starchild character and the well-known face-paint designs used in performance by the rest of Kiss’s members.
  • Leading up to the 65th anniversary of Dick Bruna’s Miffy in 2020, licensor Mercis has created 10 style guides around the look of the classic book illustrations, using the author-illustrator’s black-and-white artwork as the central inspiration for products being developed. The Joester-Loria Group recently joined as the property’s U.S. licensing agent.
  • One of the selling points of Panda Panda, a new property for preschoolers, is the bold black-and-white look of the characters, which is billed as attractive to the youngest of babies, as well as adults. The property, created by Mona Koth and Vicki Scott and represented for licensing by Edutainment Licensing globally and ThinkTank Emporium in the U.S., recently signed Cottage Door Press as its first licensee.
  • Oreo promoted its Most Stuff Oreo Cookies with a limited-edition black-and-white collection of merchandise from a number of partners, given as contest prizes over a month-long promotional period. Products ranged from a Jonathan Adler cookie jar to a Jeep Wrangler.

Note that these properties naturally lend themselves to such initiatives, being predominantly black and white in the first place. But other marketers are jumping on the trend as well. Manufacturers including Zenescope, Vandor, and Titan have released limited-edition black-and-white versions of collectibles as part of broader assortments, for example, while Tempaper’s CosmoLiving by Cosmopolitan-branded wallpapers, under license from Hearst, include a black-and-white colorway in several patterns, along with gold and blush palettes.

Marrying characters and other properties with on-trend black-and-white styling represents another example of how licensors and licensees capitalize on design and pop culture movements as one means of ensuring their licensing programs remain energized and relevant, season after season.

In case you missed it, our feature on the trends noted at Toy Fair 2019 posted earlier this week. While some of the insights are specific to the toy industry, many are pertinent for those involved in licensing across property types and categories.

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