Fashion statements | WildBrain CPLG explores how the post-pandemic world of licensed fashion has shifted gear

With the world beginning to reawaken and emerge from its pandemic slumber, so too is the world of fashion switching gear, slipping out of its comfy bagging clothing and back into a wardrobe designed for life outside, once again. However, notes Pau Pascual, VP Southern Europe and MD of Iberia and MENA, at WildBrain CPLG, the ever-moving fashion scene hasn’t emerged untouched by the shift in consumer sensibilities. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

Here, WildBrain CPLG’s Pascual talks us through the key trends to be hitting the post-pandemic licensed fashion space.

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Last year, as with many changes brought about by the pandemic, we saw significant shifts in the world of fashion, particularly in purchasing choices. With much of the world working from home, consumers were prioritising clothing that was comfortable because this became the new daily wardrobe for many, and so there was a swing from retailers to embrace this trend and offer more in the way of casual and sportswear.

However, now with the world starting to open up again, many consumers are looking to inject freshness into their wardrobes and retailers are looking to keep their offering engaging, relevant and fun. Below are five key trends that we’re seeing in the fashion space at WildBrain CPLG, exploring how these are being adopted by brand owners: 

Varsity Back in the Spotlight 

We’ve seen varsity and US college-inspired products, both in the mass market and high-end fashion space, for many years now, but in 2021, the presence of styles that take inspiration from iconic US institutions and their merchandise – such as the baseball ‘letterman’ jackets – has really accelerated. 

There was certainly a large halo effort from Hedi Slimane’s spring ‘21 menswear collection for Celine, which included varsity jackets, along with other varsity-inspired trends, from baseball caps and high-top sneakers to sweatsuits and track shorts, that we’ve seen trickle down to the high street. This trend has also been fuelled by TV shows, such as the Gossip Girl reboot and Riverdale, that have played a key part in bringing varsity style fashion back into focus. Also, the portrayal of Princess Diana in the latest season of The Crown has drawn renewed attention to her fashion looks, including her iconic Philadelphia Eagles varsity jacket. 

Many licensed properties are leaning into this trend and providing their own fresh takes, such as with the beloved Peanuts brand we represent and its many ranges with Inditex. We also represent several iconic institutions themselves, including Harvard and Yale universities, and are seeing great interest in these brands.

Retro Gaming 

Another fashion trend that has been around for a little while but is now stepping up a level, is the use of retro gaming brands, such as Nintendo, and our very own Tetris, Space Invaders and Sonic. As platforms have evolved over the years, these games have been played by multiple generations in many different ways – from the original arcade and console games, and now on tablets and mobile devices – and so they bring wide brand recognition across multiple demographics. 

These properties also offer a real sense of fun and playfulness, as well as tapping into the spirit of nostalgia and evoking the spirit of the ‘80s and ‘90s, which is proving to be really appealing to the millennial generation. More generally, the distinctive graphics are a hit with fans of strong visual styling. 

In particular, we’re seeing these brands enjoy great success with footwear collaborations, such as the deal we recently secured with premium Dutch footwear brand Floris Van Bommel for a Spring/Summer capsule collection inspired by Space Invaders. We often see a ‘30-year-cycle’ where kids who grew up with the IP are now in a position to buy something special that reminds them of their childhood and we see this as a real driver of the trend.

Vintage Brands Applied to Lifestyle 

Also in the vein of millennial and Gen Z nostalgia, we’re increasingly seeing the use of vintage brands applied to lifestyle products within fashion, for example, the new capsule collection inspired by the iconic Fruit of the Loom apparel brand that’s recently launched at Zara. There’s also a lot of interest in brands such as Technics and Kodak, as well as heritage sports brands like Prince and Kappa. 

The fashion industry often aims for the surprise factor by reviving brands that used to be the ‘coolest ones around’ and using them to create a flashback moment during which consumers are reminded of something they’d perhaps long forgotten. This type of licensed collaboration really gives consumers a chance to relive their memories of a certain brand and, although the product may now appear in a different form, it offers them a chance to once again buy something from a brand they loved when they were younger.

Care for the Planet, Ourselves and One Another 

Across all stages of fashion, there is an increased commitment to more environmentally friendly practices and choices – starting right with the manufacturing processes and the raw materials that are being used. The industry is striving to embrace the ‘circular’ economy with reusing and recycling being the top priorities, and this is already happening across many of the big fashion retailers. Many new fashion companies are also solely working with recycled materials and within this type of circular economy. 

Environmental sustainability is also being applied directly to the messaging of products, such as Ecolaf with its ‘There’s No Planet B’ campaign. We also recently worked on a fantastic collaboration for Peanuts Worldwide with the luxury eco-sustainable apparel brand, Vayyu. To mark Earth Day, Vayyu launched its first licensed collection, which featured Charles M. Schulz’s classic Peanuts characters and included garments designed by students from Nottingham Trent University. This was all part of Peanuts Worldwide’s “Take Care with Peanuts” initiative, a global multi-year enterprise encouraging everyone to take care of themselves, each other and the Earth.

As well as embracing the growing interest in caring for the planet, licensing trends are also capturing the zeitgeist within the fashion space for care and kindness – as we emerge from the pandemic with a renewed respect for one another and our world. This is coming across in apparel that brings in messages of acceptance and inclusivity, as well as encouraging individuals to express themselves freely. A great example of this is WildBrain’s recently launched Teletubbies adult fashion collection for 2021 Pride Month, which incorporates a theme of ‘Big Hugs, Big Love’ and celebrates the importance of self-expression in an uplifting way. The collection’s proceeds will also benefit GLAAD to support its culture-changing work to accelerate acceptance for the LGBTQ community. 

In a more visual sense, we’re seeing many floral and colourful patterns as consumers embrace fun, playful prints to counteract the difficult period we’ve been living in.

Art, Graphics and Museums 

Finally, there’s been a continuing trend for many years for fashion partnerships inspired by art brands, particularly when there’s an anniversary from artists and museums to be celebrated with supporting merchandise. 

This trend has ramped up recently, with many well-respected artists and museums being a key focus for licensed collaborations. Some recent examples include Zara launching a menswear collection inspired by the “El Prado” Museum in Spain as well as a range for the Sistine Chapel, and Pull & Bear collaborating with Tate Modern. Licensed collaborations offer consumers another – often more affordable – avenue to own a ‘piece of art’ from their favourite creators and build this into their daily lives.