Cosplay Beyond the Cons

Cosplay—dressing up as a favorite anime, videogame, television, or book character, in a self-created and realistic costume, and interacting with others doing the same—has been a big and growing hobby for several years.

More recently, the popular avocation has moved beyond the borders of the numerous comic book and pop culture conventions and into the mainstream licensing business. Licensing deals increasingly call out products that are meant to appeal specifically to cosplayers or that logically integrate cosplay in other ways.

Some of the key categories affected include:

  • Apparel. Warner Bros. Consumer Products paired with Hot Topic for an apparel collection tied to the film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, comprising coats, woven tops, and dresses. The coats feature “wand pockets” for cosplayers. Meanwhile, the same two companies’ Wonder Woman clothing line includes a pair of three-piece cosplay wedge boots. And, separately, Merchoid.com markets a range of Zelda “cosplay hoodies” for men and women, under license from Nintendo.
  • Collectibles. Factory Entertainment makes prop replicas such as swords and crowns tied to HBO’s Game of Thrones, among many other properties. While collectors have always desired these types of products, cosplayers have become a significant target consumer group as they look for lifelike replica pieces to enhance their look.
  • Fabrics and sewing kits. Sony Pictures Television’s Outlander TV series is the latest property to launch a line of sewing patterns that allow cosplayers to make their own realistic costumes, through a deal with the McCall Pattern Company. The cosplay hobby has been a boon to the sewing and fabric store industry.
  • Toys. Licensor TheMeatly Games named PhatMojo as the master toy licensee for its videogame Bendy and the Ink Machine. The line includes cosplay toys as well as a variety of other playthings, collectibles, apparel, and accessories.
  • Halloween. Hot Topic, which has a cosplay apparel section in its stores, also features a Halloween department containing pop culture costumes, masks, and accessories. The seasonal section includes a variety of licensed items, such as an Incredibles cosplay dress, that are specifically identified as appropriate for the hobby. Spirit Halloween also promotes the cosplay possibilities of costumes tied to the likes of Rick and Morty and Attack on Titan. Products like these allow consumers to hook onto the cosplay trend with faithfully rendered costumes at Halloween, even if they do not practice the hobby year-round.

Aside from influencing merchandise deals, as in these and many more examples, cosplay is also increasingly weaved into content and highlighted in promotional activities connected to licensed properties.

Content-wise, cosplay is a factor in everything from reality television to publishing. The former is illustrated by, among other examples, the newly announced series Cosplay Makeover, from IGN Entertainment, which will premier on Facebook’s Watch platform. An instance of the latter is BBC Books’ integrating cosplay tips from Cristel Dee into a recent Dr. Who paper doll book.

On the promotion side, Barnes & Noble stores hosted cosplay-themed activities, including a costume showcase, cosplay workshops, and a parade, as part of the chain’s annual Get Pop-Cultured event. And, as part of 2017 Force Friday events leading up to the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, ThinkGeek and Books-a-Million stores hosted cosplay activities as one component of the festivities.

Meanwhile, cosplay celebrities such as Yaya Han and Holly Conrad are increasingly sought-after as endorsers to support cosplay-ready merchandise (sometimes including their own signature lines) or marketing programs. For a look back at the emerging cosplay-endorsement market almost two years ago, see “Cosplay: The Next Celebrity-Licensing Frontier?

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