Characters take back seat to fashion-forward design on licensed apparel catwalks

While teen and tween fashion and accessories show no sign of heading into the passé lane with the likes of prepubescent boy bands, companies that continue to vie for the eyes (and bodies) of this still-hot demo are trotting out edgier,...
April 1, 2000

While teen and tween fashion and accessories show no sign of heading into the passé lane with the likes of prepubescent boy bands, companies that continue to vie for the eyes (and bodies) of this still-hot demo are trotting out edgier, fashion-forward merch, designed to trickle down to younger fashion enthusiasts as well.

Universal Consumer Products is going broad and targeting all age groups with apparel and home accent lines supporting the holiday 2000 release of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. The line, which debuted to the fashionistas attending the Fall/Winter edition of the MAGIC International apparel show in Las Vegas in February, counts on funny man Jim Carrey (the Grinch in the theatrical version of the popular Dr. Suess children’s book), to provide a natural segue from youngsters to tweens and teens, according to Universal Consumer Products exec VP of marketing and creative Jill Jones.

Dubbed Whovenile Delinquent, the older-skewing line is edgy, modeling much of its look after active and sports lifestyles, particularly snowboarding. To compliment this, Universal is currently in talks with licensees to manufacture accessories such as skateboards and snowboards on which Grinch icons will be featured. This should not be a stretch in terms of appeal since the snowboarding culture embraces the Grinch’s image as a sort of mascot that hails from the mountains as they do.

For boys, Giant is manufacturing fleece tops, sweatshirts and T-shirts, and Adjmi is providing cargo pants, all mainly in earth tones-lots of gray, burgundy and olive. The WD line targets boys, but Universal plans to expand the look into a junior line that includes girls. While the WD line looks to heavily target tweens and teens, it will aim as young as eight. ‘It is aspirational, the younger brother always wants to wear what his older brother is wearing, so it made sense,’ says Jones.

The apparel line for the under-eight set has a very different look, not stemming as much from Grinchian attitude, as from the more literal Suessian look of the movie. Lots of color and fur are the two key components to the junior template, something Jones aptly refers to as the ‘distressed yak look,’ with more endearing and warmer styles than its delinquent counterpart. Thanks to the antlers that the Grinch forces his dog Max to don in both the movie and book, headgear (accessories and novelty items) is a big focus. Hannover Accessories and Drew Pearson Marketing are both manufacturing hair- and headwear for kids and adults. Fur-covered footwear from Vida and fur hosiery from Highpoint Knitting are two examples of the unconventional licensing opportunities that the movie has afforded. Jones predicts that the movie will greatly impact fashion and accessory trends by creating more of a market for faux fur. All merch hits mass retail outlets in October 2000 to coincide with the movie’s release.

Similarly, Nickelodeon, looking to create a safe amount of faux rebellion, has come up with its Rugrattitude line. This is one line in a series that will be customized individually for participating retailers, designed to provide an element of exclusivity, as well as maintain the Rugrat brand’s vitality. Rugrattitude will be featured only at Kids `R’ Us stores and will hit in fall 2000. According to Gail Stern, VP of soft goods and property management for Nickelodeon licensing, Nick has taken a ‘fashion first, character second’ approach with its new apparel. ‘We will be following trends first, and then feature the character within that,’ says Stern. An example of this can be seen in the trendy bohemian shirts for girls, in which Angelica’s face can be found inconspicuously in the midst of the boho-swirls. Nick will also be moving away from licensing the Rugrats predominantly as an ensemble cast, and will more often feature the characters individually. Consequently, Suzi Carmichael, a character in the show since the beginning, will soon be featured individually on licensed merch for the first time.

For boys, Nick has teamed up with the National Baseball League in a co-branding effort in which Tommy will be featured on jerseys, and for girls, Nick looks to expand its Totally Angelica line beyond books and toys to apparel by spring 2001. Nick has also signed on for a newborn line based on its Blue’s Clues property.

In other apparel-related news, ES Originals is breaking out of the box of traditional licensing conventions. Wanting to tap into the continued music licensing trend, the New York-based company has come up with a two-in-one concept for its beaded shoes, turning its shoe boxes into photo frames and CD holders. Featuring the images of Christina Aguilera, Vitamin C and B’Witched, the tops of the boxes have stands on the back, decorative fur framing the rim, and collapsible CD organizers that can fit into the empty boxes. Lower-tiered stores such as Wal-Mart will carry cardboard boxes, while mid-tier stores such as Sears or JCPenney will offer boxes in tin.

About The Author


Brand Menu