With his wide grin, smooth face and endless enthusiasm, it’s hard to believe that Mickey Mouse turned 90 this month. Perhaps, what’s harder to believe is just how excited the fashion industry were to celebrate this milestone.
Mickey ‘is super fashionable and never out of style’, enthuses Opening Ceremony’s Humberto Leon who hosted a fashion show at Disney earlier this year and has created a limited-edition range to celebrate the mouse’s birthday (Christopher Kane, Vans and Pandora have also designed Mickey homages). ‘I have always thought of him as a playful character, a rebel at heart and a timeless symbol that is the embodiment of joy and creativity,’ adds Coach’s creative director Stuart Vevers who has also designed pieces for the big anniversary.
And they’re not the only ones. Last week Miu Miu unveiled its holiday campaign complete with sweaters starring Snowball (from The Simpsons) and Marie (from The Aristocats). Gucci placed Bugs Bunny on their vests and Snow White on their sweaters. Moschino championed the doe-eyes of My Little Pony. Levi’s have collaborated with Mickey Mouse and Peanuts. Coach put The Aristocats on the catwalk for spring-summer 2018.
‘Although there have been references in the past to cartoons, the first time it was done with conviction was for Givenchy [in 2013]. The Bambi print was an instant sell-out, and we have seen this pattern ever since, be it with the Power Puff Girls, Donald Duck or The Roadrunner,’ says Ida Petersson, Browns’ womenswear buying director. Capitalizing on this cartoon fever, the store has created a limited-edition collection to celebrate the current Peanuts exhibition at Somerset House.
Any item with a cartoon tends to be a best-seller, Petersson says. She’s seen sweatshirts and pouches, tees and accessories fly out of the store. But, why? She puts it down to the current socio-political climate. ‘It’s a known fact that at times of upheaval, nostalgia or a sense of connection with your past can help stabilise you so I’m not surprised with the current political turmoil that designers are turning to their happy place and customers are there raring to embrace it.’
So who’s buying these pieces? ‘It’s an interesting mix of the usual fashion crowd who just have to have the piece of the season,’ says Petersson adding. ‘we also see people that are genuine super fans embrace it.’
Nostalgia is a convincing argument, but there’s another market power at play too. This season Superdry saw its shares fall because this summer’s heatwave stagnated coat sales. Meanwhile, Supreme at Louis Vuitton and Balmain at H&M can attest to how resilient to weather collectable limited edition items are. There’s a fevered hype around these micro collections, which WGSN’s director of retail strategy and insights, Nivindya Sharma explains, ‘takes you away from the relevancy of the weather because people will buy it no matter what happens.’
The kingpins of the resale market, eBay noted that over 40,000 Mickey Mouse related items sold last month alone, with over 12,000 of those fashion pieces. Do the maths - that’s an impressive eight sales every half hour.
‘The memorabilia market exists because of super engaged, passionate fans,’ Katy Lubin, Lyst’s communications director, tells me. Perhaps, fashion brands are looking for new avenues – reaching into new global markets are stagnating as the world becomes more connected - and cultivating the highly-engaged, highly-motived world of comic fans is evidently enticing. For example, I just received an email titled ‘Disney x Lacoste’.
And while these pieces might say ‘young at heart’ some of them come with a very grown-up price tag (Calvin Klein 205W39NYC’s Road Runner sweaters come in at £1,698). Collectability helps propel these pieces’ desirability, as Lubin explains, ‘the right fashion collaborations can hold their value and, in some cases, can become collector’s items. Scarcity is key.’ Sure, these items might look fun, but they’re certainly not child’s play