Licensed to Wear: Licensed Fashion is Exploding

As I explore in our “Global Licensing Trends in Adult Fashion” global briefing, licensed fashion is on fire. It permeates all aspects of the apparel and footwear business and cuts across all demographics, ages and regions. While evergreen characters go strong, fashion, corporate trademark/brand, fashion, sports, music and celebrity licensing all battle for a greater share. As fast fashion and athleisure drive growth, fashion house and character collaborations reach new heights. This compelling journey also highlights opportunities beyond established categories while providing recommendations to succeed in a fast moving fashion landscape.

Key Findings:

Adult fashion: Major licensing types – Character leads

While adult fashion is diverse in terms of licensing types, character is still one of the biggest licensing types in the industry. Adult-targeted classic characters’ appeal benefits from a nostalgia factor, and even some child-orientated franchises are marketed secondarily to adults by creating a “cool” factor around them. Fashion, corporate trademark/brand, sports, music and celebrity are among the other licensing types.

Fast fashion drives the industry

Within fashion retailers, Primark and H&M are very active players in the licensing world. Direct-to-retail, particularly, has enabled Primark to offer trendy DC Comics and Harry Potter licensed merchandise at very low prices, which it would not have been able to do otherwise. It is the largest retailer partner for Harry Potter themed products, while other collections also include Star Wars, Minions, Looney Tunes and Family Guy. In 2016, Primark was Western Europe’s third largest apparel brand, up from fourth place in 2013.

Evergreen properties going strong in fashion

In womenswear, perennial franchises increasingly target leading fashion shows. Disney, the world’s biggest licensor by far, has been very active in creating a larger space for its Minnie Mouse licence in fashion. In menswear, while Star Wars fever continues to be felt with new licensed fashion collections by Columbia Sportswear and Selfridges, brought much needed excitement to formal and winterwear thanks to its partnership with Marvel and DC Comics, launching an exclusive range in November 2016.

Moschino – A pioneer in fashion collaborations

Moschino has been one of the most dynamic fashion brands, incorporating a wide range of world-renowned franchises into its designs, with collections from Super Mario, Candy Crush, SpongeBob, Looney Tunes, Powerpuff Girls, McDonald’s and Barbie in recent years.

Opportunities beyond established categories for licensing

Going beyond the established categories in terms of licensed apparel could well pay off. Relatively untapped categories by licensing, including suits and jeans, could potentially offer good opportunities for expansion and growth. Licensing businesses need to be more creative, thinking outside the box and not limiting their merchandise just to tops and t-shirts. In categories that are not traditionally associated with licensing, subtle details could be used in a garment, allowing fans to connect with their favourite characters and franchises.

Private label opportunity

Recognising the dynamic growth, grocers and discounters have expanded their product ranges considerably in recent years to include licensed apparel and footwear. As a result, many grocery retailers’ collections now rival clothing specialists. According to industry sources, this is still very far from saturation, presenting many opportunities for licensors.

Characters licensing to remain important

Classic characters have a huge advantage in adult’s fashion, and high-end fashion houses are keen to use these properties in their collections. Fashion is changing fast – four times a year – and, potentially, fashion houses could use a different character in every season.

Underwear and nightwear to be strong

Nightwear has been described by industry sources as “staywear”. As these products slowly become loungewear, their use is no longer limited to bedtime. More sophisticated and creative licensed sleepwear that allows consumers to wear it around the house would fill a gap in the market. While the licensed women’s sleepwear category is considerably bigger than that of men’s, men’s nightwear offers potential for licensors to tap into with the right marketing strategy and franchises.

Fashion house and character collaborations to continue

Partnerships between designers and character franchises are expected to continue, as these properties increasingly use designers’ credibility to enter and expand into adult fashion.