With ever-evolving fashion and trends advancing at the speed of light, it isn’t enough for apparel brands to only keep up with design. Brands are coming up with innovative ways to keep their consumers engaged – and one of those ways is through the licensing of popular characters.
With popular cartoon and movie characters gaining more of fan following in India, licensed merchandise has emerged as a great means for kids’ centric apparel brands to not only connect with their audience, but also stay up to date with trends. Also, through fashion licensing, one can create a better engagement with the consumers; kids in this case reason being the better recall value of characters over labels and a wider platform offered in form of apparel (which is not there in case of any other category).
In words of Saugato Bhowmick, Viacom 18, “Licensing per say revolves around apparel as a core category. Given that the economic sentiment is reviving, the process of discovery of kids licensed apparel segment is being more easy.”
For a long time, this market was hugely dominated by the unorganized players. However, the recent years have witnessed designers and international luxury labels making roads into this category, creating miniature versions of their designs especially for kids.
“Apparel has always been and will always be the lead category in the licensing business. With over 300 million kids in India and apparels being a necessity product, obviously the demand for the same will be higher,” asserted Nitin Kalra, Director, AI Licensing India Pvt Ltd.
Recognizing this potential, luxury brands like Dolce and Gabbana, Armani and Versace have extended their collections to cater to the kids requirements in India. The growth rate has worked as an inspiration for several Indian designers including Gauri and Nainika, Ritu Kumar, and Masaba Gupta who have already forayed into this sector.
What works and what doesn't
There used to be a time, when licensing in kids apparels was synonymous to the global heroes like Donald Duck, Garfield, Mickey Mouse etc. Now the competetion is heating with the homegrown character ‘Chhota Bheem’ carving a niche for itself. Green Gold Animations, the parent company has inked pacts with Dollar industries for the apparel range of Chhota Bheem and Mighty Raju.
In words of Srinivas Chilakalapudi, Chief Strategy Officer, Green Gold Animation, “The licensing of Chhota Bheem has been extremely successful. We had so many enquiries that it was tough to chose whom to work with. Kids connect with their favorite character through what they wear and do.”
Also, initially the licensees simply imprinted the character on apparels. Taking a step further, now the retailers are introducing the apparels inspired with the look and feel of popular characters.
Striking a similar view point, Bhowmick explained, “The trick in licensing is not to just take a character and put it on the apparel. How you translate that character’s DNA and combine it with the latest trend in fashion and make it appealing even at very young age is important.”
While Disney leads the pack with Frozen, Disney Princess and Marvel characters, Cartoon Network, Viacom18, Green Gold, Pampered Girls closely follow.
While the industry has its own set of challenges like piracy, weak IP protection laws, picking up the right licensee is a major factor responsible for the success of that extended portfolio of brand.
Also, the contribution of eCommerce and emerge of exclusively-for-kids websites and the well established retailers as stepping in to promote licensed kids apparel, this segment is all set to flourish by leaps in bounds in coming years.