Fashion brands

Why high fashion brands are launching lively collaborations

Characters from popular series and anime shows get the luxury treatment.

In early 2021, Spanish luxury house Loewe launched a “My Neighbor Totoro” collection that included wallets, handbags and shirts featuring characters from Miyazaki’s popular film. Now the brand has released another collection in partnership with Studio Ghibli, this time featuring characters from “Spirited Away.”

Gucci has done similar collaborations, launching a Doraemon capsule collection to celebrate the 2021 Chinese New Year. shorts, sneakers, handbags and wallets. The Italian designer also created a virtual fashion collection with North Face that debuted on Pokémon Go, allowing players to don t-shirts, hats, and backpacks.

Products from Loewe’s capsule collections ranged from $350 to nearly $6,400, while items from Gucci’s Doraemon collection ranged from $1,600 to $48,000. It’s a world away from Hot Topic, Redbubble or Etsy.

How these brands market these collections

These limited-edition collections allow high fashion brands to experiment with their products without having to make long-term commitments, according to Thomai Serdari, professor of luxury marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business.

Serdari said she thinks a brand like Loewe develops these collections to target younger customers — trend setters who buy more often and are “loving” the characters — while steering the brand away from older customers who are looking for classic designs.

Gucci in particular, she noted, aims to target a variety of subcultures.

“They really understand that today’s young customers are so fragmented,” Serdari said. “You have to tap into different niches.”

These brands are especially vying for the attention of younger consumers in China, which accounts for a third of the global luxury market, said Katie Sham, director of retail and consumer goods at Oliver Wyman.

According to a November report by Oliver Wyman, 50% of Chinese luxury and fashion accessories buyers entered the market in the past 12 months, and 40% of those new customers were Gen Z (which the report defines as under 25). ).

As China Daily reports, Japanese anime films have several generations of Chinese fans, and many born in the 1980s and 1990s have a “nostalgic feeling” towards the cartoons they watched as children. The daily news site notes that many in China regard “Spirited Away” as a “masterpiece.”

Besides China, Loewe and Gucci have widely marketed their products in other Asian countries, launching pop-up stores in Japan, Thailand and Vietnam.

Sham said collaborations like these are capable of attracting two sets of groups: both the fans of a particular fashion house who want to buy its products, and the luxury shopper who is a fan of the property. intellectual.

Commercial pressure

Unlike brands such as Chanel or Hermès, which are family businesses, Loewe is part of the LVMH conglomerate and faces pressure from shareholders, according to Sham.

Companies like Loewe and Gucci are under more pressure to “market” their brands, Sham explained.

“You will never see Chanel collaborating with Hello Kitty,” she said. (Although there are certainly people keen on a crossover.)

You also won’t see, she added, a fashion house like Hermès collaborating with Doraemon. She said it wouldn’t fit the image of either brand, which focuses more on brand heritage or a sense of timelessness.

A child plays amid figures of the anime manga character Doraemon, displayed at Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills shopping and shopping complex. (YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP via Getty Images)

But some designers, like Takashi Murakami, have embraced the notion of blurring “high” and “low” art. Serdari attributes the origins of these types of collaborations to Murakami, a Japanese artist whose paintings and sculptures are inspired by anime and manga. Murakami’s collections with Louis Vuitton “paved the way for other similar graphic explorations,” Serdari said.

The collections, which premiered in 2003 and released for another 12 years, included the company’s redesigned Speedy bag with bright, multi-colored monograms, as well as accessories that featured what Vogue called “manga-inspired characters.”

“Now we’re more receptive to seeing that kind of experimentation in clothing,” Serdari said.