Why high-fashion brands are releasing anime collaborations

Characters from popular anime series and shows are receiving luxury treatment.

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

Gucci has entered into similar collaborations, launching a Doraemon capsule collection to celebrate Chinese New Year 2021. The titular character, a 22nd-century blue robotic cat, has appeared in more than 50 items, including jackets, shorts, sneakers, bags. and wallets. The Italian designer also created a virtual fashion collection with North Face which debuted on Pokémon Go, allowing players to wear T-shirts, hats and backpacks.

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

How these brands are marketing these collections

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

Serdari said he thinks a brand like Loewe is developing these collections to appeal to younger customers – trendsetters who shop more often and are “in love” with the characters – moving the brand away from older customers looking for classic designs.

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

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

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

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

As China Daily reports, Japanese animated films have several generations of Chinese fans, and many born in the 1980s and 1990s have a “nostalgic sense” towards the anime they saw in their childhood. The daily news site notes that many in China consider “Spirited Away” a “masterpiece”.

Along with China, Loewe and Gucci have extensively marketed other Asian countries, launching pop-up stores in Japan, Thailand and Vietnam.

Sham said that collaborations like these are capable of attracting two groups of groups: both the fans of a particular fashion house eager to purchase its products, and the luxury buyer who is a fan of intellectual property.

Commercial pressure

Unlike companies like 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 face a greater push to “commercialize” their brands, Sham explained.

“You’ll never see Chanel team up with Hello Kitty,” she said. (Although there are certainly people eager for a crossover.)

Nor, he added, will you see a fashion house like Hermès collaborate with Doraemon. He said this wouldn’t fit the image of either brand, which are more focused on brand heritage or a sense of timelessness.

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

But some designers, like Takashi Murakami, have embraced the idea of ​​blurring “high” and “low” art. Serdari attributes the origins of this type of collaboration to Murakami, a Japanese artist whose paintings and sculptures are inspired by anime and manga. Murakami’s collections with Louis Vuitton “set the stage for other similar graphic explorations,” said Serdari.

The collections, first presented in 2003 and released for another 12 years, included the company’s Speedy bag remodeled with bright, multicolored monograms, along with accessories that featured what Vogue called “manga-inspired characters.”

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

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