Designs on Pop Culture

Collaborations pairing fashion brands and entertainment/character properties tend to involve design labels that are fresh and cutting-edge and/or appeal to younger consumers. Think streetwear brands, emerging global design stars, or fast-fashion retailers. Recently, however, some very well established designers are increasingly participating in this strategy, creating collections tied to TV shows, video games, comic strips, and children’s books.

These designers are no stranger to collaborations, especially with artists, celebrities, or other designers. But pairings with properties from the world of entertainment and characters, formerly rare, are on the rise as well. Here are some examples that came to light in September of this year, in time for the fall fashion week runway shows:

  • Ralph Lauren, founded in 1967, paired with Warner Bros. on a Friends collaboration to mark the 25th anniversary of the TV show’s premier. The collection features 74 pieces reminiscent of the style of Rachel Green and the show’s other characters and is sold at Bloomingdale’s and on ralphlauren.com. Other recent collaborations for Ralph Lauren, including with Palace, Supreme, and Opening Ceremony, are credited with helping improve the brand’s financial performance.
  • Louis Vuitton, founded in 1854, announced a partnership with Riot Games for a League of Legends capsule collection, designed by the brand’s women’s designer Nicolas Ghesquière, as well as an e-sports championship trophy case and in-game skins. The Vuitton brand celebrated 160 years of collaborations with artists in an exhibition this past summer; recent pairings have ranged from a venture with model and creative director Grace Coddington to one with artist Jonas Wood.
  • Cynthia Rowley, founded in 1988, worked with Dr. Seuss Enterprises on a collection tied to the book Oh! The Places You’ll Go that included sportswear, dresses, hats, shoes, and purses in Seussian colors. Rowley has been active in collaborations of all kinds of late, including roller skates with Impala, a ceramic hair styling tool with Amika, sneakers with Greats, and a capsule collection with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop lifestyle brand.
  • Benetton, founded in 1965, partnered with King Features on a Popeye apparel collection, in time for the property’s 90th anniversary. The character will also serve as the label’s eco-ambassador. The collection goes by the name Colour Wave and includes dresses, skirts, t-shirts, and zipped tops with nautical themes and hues. Benetton collaborations in recent years have included efforts with Italian brands Stella Jean and De Padova (the latter for furniture) and Japanese label Adam et Ropé.
  • Betsy Johnson, founded in 1978, worked with social media and Nickelodeon TV star JoJo Siwa on an 18-piece capsule of apparel and accessories for kids, available at Bloomingdale’s, with a sparkly design sensibility that both Johnson and Siwa share. In August, the designer also paired with Disney Parks on a collection of jewelry. Beyond entertainment, recent Johnson collaborations have included Urban Outfitters, rapper Princess Nokia, and plus-size subscription service Dia & Co.

For the entertainment partners, collaborations such as these bring the typical benefits of raising awareness, attracting new customers, getting the properties into new distribution channels, and generating some revenue. In some cases, pairing with an established fashion label also offers the possibility of reaching more mature consumers who love the characters in question but may not purchase items from mainline licensed product lines or from younger-skewing fashion collaborations for their own use.

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