Lifestyle , Fluid


BLE: Licensing Walks the Catwalk

It’s that time of year again when Brand Licensing Europe (BLE) is just around the corner! We wanted to explore the licensing of entertainment and lifestyle brands within the fashion industry and how the the leap of hardcore fandom into the mainstream consumer society has made being a nerd super-cool.

Star Wars on the catwalk


Licensing is the rightful use of something trademarked or copyrighted, such as a logo or character. It is a huge industry that incorporates food, beverages, film, TV, video games and design - amongst others. Some of history's most coveted and iconic brands and characters have been given the licensee treatment, much to the appeasement of the consumer market. Coca-Cola, Nike, Minions, Superman, NASA, Emojis, The Simpsons, Harry Potter, Mickey Mouse, Barbie, Peter Rabbit, Chupa Chups and Hersheys are but a drop in the amorphous ocean that is the licensing biz. It's also mega big business according to LIMA (International Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association), licensed apparel alone bought in $40.67 billion globally in 2017. 

Peter Rabbit: 1903

Peter Rabbit 1903

Character licensing all began with Beatrix Potter and Petter Rabbit in 1903. Peter Rabbit is the oldest licensed character on record, having been made into a plush toy for the pleasure of his literary fans. Beatrix then went on to look at other merchandising options such as tea sets and in 1904 the Peter Rabbit board game was made. Now, there is an entire website dedicated to selling Peter Rabbit and his friends such as, teddies, kid's toys, figurines, plates and stationery.

Peter Rabbit - recognisable by his shoes, blue jacket and cheeky nature, was introduced to us in 1902. Many generations continue to grow up reading and watching his adventures. Most of these were mischievous and full of trouble!

Peter Rabbit Stationery

Mickey Mouse: 1930

Mickey Mouse 1930

In 1928, Disney introduced Mickey Mouse. A couple of years later, Disney saw the raw potential in licensing the character. Kay Kamen's wonderfully named marketing company, 'Marketing Company', looked after the licensing of Mickey for the next 2 decades. Because of him, Mickey Mouse is still a global icon! In 1998, Kamen was named a Disney Legend. Today, Mickey is still going strong - along with girlfriend Minnie, dog Pluto and friends Donald Duck and Goofy. This year, he celebrates his 90th birthday. In celebration, Oreo are releasing limited edition Oreo’s that feature 3 different Mickey designs and has a filling of birthday cake flavour and edible confetti!

He popped out of my mind onto a drawing pad 20 years ago on a train ride from Manhattan to Hollywood at a time when the business fortunes of my brother Roy and myself were at lowest ebb, and disaster seemed right around the corner

- Walt Disney

Mickey is usually seen wearing red shorts, white gloves and huge yellow shoes. Mickey was also the first cartoon character to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He is adventurous, mischievous and cheerful!

Mickey Mouse Wallpaper

Barbie: 1959


Created by Ruth Handler, Barbie is one of the most recognisable brands in the world. By the time she was released, licensing was well under way. Barbie has appeared on a number of licensed products from t-shirts, bedding, wallpaper and mugs. Recently she has been in the Toy Story movies and video games. The introduction of a range of diverse Barbies with different skin tones were released, as well as various body shaped Barbies such as, petite, tall and curvy. For her 50th birthday she got her own catwalk at New York Fashion Show. and designers such as Vera Wang, Rag & Bone, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein made outfits especially for the celebration!

My whole philosophy of Barbie was that, through the doll, the little girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices

- Ruth Handler

Barbie has had a number of careers including - firefighter, astronaut, game developer, presidential candidate and nurse. She usually takes on roles that are perceived as ’not for women’, offering little girls choices about their careers.

Barbie Bedding

Evolution of Licensing into Present Day

Though a common site on linen, pez dispensers and coffee mugs; our favourite entertainment characters aren't always symbols of successful adulting and so, are often scorned by the high brow opinions of 'cool' people. However, the catwalk is changing into a more tolerant beast with a lower brow and an enthusiasm toward geekdom. Not only does this open up the fashion world to those often felt excluded, it also celebrates the characters and IP’s showcased. The catwalk is no longer a ceremonial tradition of the smug and bizarre; designers are branching out and daring to change their ways. Whether it’s Giles Deacon and a Pac Man collab or Moschino and Barbie, it’s good to see the fashion world become more accepting.

Fyodor Golan: 2015 & 2018 - My Little Pony & Sonic the Hedgehog

Fyodor Golan, My little pony
Fyodor Golan, Sonic

Fyodor Golan created by Fyodor Podgorny and Golan Frydman, have worked with a huge amount of licensed brands such as, Transformers, Coca-Cola, Powerpuff Girls and Chupa Chups. In 2015 they created designs for My Little Pony and then in 2018 they worked with Sonic the Hedgehog. 

There is a huge demand to relive the old classics and licensing merging with fashion can do this by honouring the timeless stamps of an IP's identity. The famous Sonic crest, boldly taking centre stage on a retro white T-shirt, unchanged from it's native 8-bit, is a testament to how licensing can honour retro to huge affect.

Louis Vuitton: 2016 - Final Fantasy 13

Louis Vuitton, Final Fantasy

Louis Vuitton is a French company that is easily recognised by it’s distinctive LV logo design. They are mostly known for their handbags and shoes, but they also do perfumes, accessories and clothing.

Lightning is the perfect avatar for a global, heroic woman and for a world where social networks and communications are now seamlessly woven into our life

- Nicolas Ghesquiere

LV teamed up with Square Enix’s character, Lightning from Final Fantasy 13, in 2016. Modelling for the brand, the series saw Lightning model various bags and clothing pieces. Although it brings the video gaming culture and the fashion brand into one space, it caused a bit of controversy for those loyal to FF13 - mainly because they felt other characters would of suited LV’s image better. Either way, using a virtual character is a unique way to sell bags - even if the target audience is niche.

Calvin Klein: 2018 - Jaws

Calvin Klein, Jaws

Founded in 1968 in America, Calvin Klein is known throughout the world. The company changed the American market for men’s underwear, it used to be full white and bought in packs of 3.

This year, Calvin Klein partnered with Universal to bring Jaws to the catwalk. The backdrop displayed the iconic sea footage from the 1975 movie, whilst the models wore wetsuits as trousers and blood stained shirts. The show also featured the classic Jaws poster that was displayed with the CK logo - bringing both fashion designer and IP together nicely! Jaws was paired with another big movie, The Graduate. This saw models wearing both Jaws emblazoned shirts with graduate attire, a definitive moment for retro brands!

Jeremy Scott: 2018 - Pokemon

Jeremy Scott, Pokemon

Jeremy Scott who has his own label and works as the Creative Director at Moschino, shows his personality through his designs. He is famous for his bold colours, sporty touches, punk and grunge references and provocative prints. Moschino are famous for licensing on the catwalk, using licenses such as Betty Boop, Spongebob, Barbie, My Little Pony, Powerpuff Girls and McDonalds.

Pikachu is easily one of the most iconic characters, he isn’t just a gaming character but has also been in cartoons and movies - with a new movie coming out next year. This year, Jeremy Scott featured him in his catwalk, the catwalk featured a Pikachu pattern on jumpers. Offset, an American rapper, also made his debut for Jeremy Scott wearing a Pikachu jumper! 22 years on and Pokemon is still as relevant today as it was in 1996.

Bobby Abley: Looney Tunes, Teletubbies, Power Rangers & The Little Mermaid

Bobby Abley

If you haven’t heard of Bobby Abley before you have more than likely seen his designs. Coming onto the fashion scene in 2012, he took the industry by storm! He is one of the breakthrough menswear names of recent years - according to London Fashion Week, so he is definitely one to watch!

Blending modern menswear with nostalgia, Bobby has worked with quite a few different licenses over the last few years. From the Looney Tunes to the Teletubbies to Spongebob to The Jungle Book, he has collected an arsenal of well recognised IP’s!