Collaborators Journey to Japan

High-end fashion labels from Japan, typically streetwear-focused, have become among the most frequent partners for global lifestyle collaborations involving characters, celebrities, corporate trademarks, artists, and fashion and luxury labels. Some of the most active Japanese brands in this space include:

  • A Bathing Ape/BAPE. Founded in 1993, this brand and its various sub-brands are prolific participants in the licensed fashion/lifestyle sector, partnering with corporate trademarks (Coca-Cola, Daiwa, Playboy); character/entertainment properties (Disney, DC Comics, Hello Kitty, The Godfather, Ghostbusters, Peanuts); collectibles and toys (Be@rbricks); athletic, athleisure, and workwear brands (Adidas, Carhartt, Converse); celebrity musicians (Pharrell, Kanye, Beastie Boys); and other streetwear labels (Kaws, Supreme). And there have been dozens of others.
  • Commes des Garçons. This brand, launched in 1973 and now based in both Tokyo and Paris, offered a holiday collection this past November involving nine luxury brands, including Burberry, Gucci, and Jean Paul Gaultier. Other partners announced in 2018 and 2019 have ranged from Nike to Supreme.
  • Fragment Design. Another prolific collaborator working with a diverse range of brands, this streetwear label was established in 2003. Partnerships announced in the past couple of weeks have included Bulgari, Pokémon, and Nike (with which it has often paired), while past associations have ranged from Starbucks and Stussy, to Carhartt and KAWS, to Disney, Burton, and Beats by Dre, among many more.
  • Sophnet. Another streetwear brand, founded in 1998, Sophnet is known for minimally designed and functional casual pieces. Its collaborations have involved many artists (Jack Pierson, Julian Opie, Tatsuo Miyajima) and footwear and fashion brands (Stussy, Nike, Carhartt, Vans).
  • WackoMaria. WackoMaria’s co-branded collections since its establishment in 2005 have focused on musicians (Neckface), artists (Tim Barber, Weirdo Dave, Tsuyoshi Noguchi), fashion and footwear labels (Nike), and corporate brands (Indonesia’s Potato Head).
  • White Mountaineering. A streetwear label inspired by the outdoors and featuring technical fabrics, White Mountaineering was established in 2006 and has partnered largely with other fashion and luxury labels, including the likes of Adidas Originals, Barbour, and Saucony.

While these and other potential collaborators mostly fall into the luxury tier, there are some more accessibly priced Japanese labels as well. One notable example: The fast-fashion chain Uniqlo—a leader among retailers participating in fashion and lifestyle collaborations—which now has a global reach but is headquartered and rooted in Japan.

Reminder: Raugust Communications’ monthly newsletter comes out tomorrow, April 16, 2019. The Licensing Trend of the Month takes a look at true brand-extension licensing in an era of collaborations and limited editions, while the Datapoint research spotlight examines the impact of celebrity controversies on licensing programs. If you do not already subscribe to this free publication, you can do so here.

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