How Fashion and Beauty Brands Are Tapping Into Gen Z’s Love For Animation

By: Mayra Peralta and Vanya Harapan
06/30/2023
en
Thumbnail courtesy of Mal Peterson

Often finding inspiration in one another, fashion, beauty, and entertainment have been deeply intertwined throughout history. In recent years, the world has seen several crossovers and collaborations bridging these worlds through pop culture-inspired projects. However, among several team-ups focused on music, cinema, and television, there has been an undeniable rise of animation-centered fashion and beauty collections. In an attempt to appeal to both fashion and beauty lovers, as well as animation enthusiasts, brands across the board have tapped into beloved animation icons. From LOEWE’s collaboration saga with the Japanese animation giant, Studio Ghibli, to Jimmy Choo’s celebration of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, cross-industry partnerships are thriving. And unsurprisingly, Gen Z consumers are in large part to thank.

What’s The Appeal

Although fashion and beauty have often looked at the past for inspiration, the industry seems to be currently relying on nostalgia to approach younger generations. In recent years, the market has seen a surge of Y2K-infused trends and products that oftentimes resort to icons from bygone eras. It goes without saying that this retro craze has also reached beloved pop culture figures, including animated characters.

Reports indicate that while all generations are feeling nostalgia for the past, Generation Z is the most nostalgic. In fact, 50% of Gen Z is looking back at the past for different types of media. With socioeconomic conditions deteriorating in several parts of the world, youth is finding comfort and refuge in the past. This longing for earlier days hasn’t gone unnoticed by brands across fields. In fashion, particularly, many have resorted to emotional connections to promote new products and collection releases featuring vintage animation icons. 

Emotional marketing has always been an effective way to get audiences attached. In fact, according to studies, 70% of viewers who experience strong emotional reactions to ads are most likely to buy the promoted product. However, instead of opting for advertisements that touch hearts and make people shed a tear or two, nowadays nostalgia marketing is evoking a sense of happiness and warmth. 

Anime Is At The Forefront

In addition to Gen Z’s retro-gazing and yearning for the past, brands are also considering the potential that animation and, more specifically, anime holds. As per Parrot Analytics, the worldwide demand for anime content has shot up since 2020, with Gen Z as its main audience. Between 2020 and 2021 alone, the year-on-year demand for anime increased 35%. Out of this percentage, 17% came from existing anime content. Attuned to these numbers, Grandview Research estimates that the global anime market — valued at $28.61 billion in 2022 — will experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.8% between 2023 and 2030.

As this love for anime extends primarily across younger generations, it comes as no surprise that fashion and beauty brands are catering to this demographic through a slew of buzzy collaborations. An on-demand survey by the insight platform YPulse reports that a quarter of people between the age of 16 and 34 are “interested in fashion brands collaborating with anime studios for collections, and a third are interested in exclusive merch from a popular anime show or movie.” 

While cross-industry partnerships are not by any means a new phenomenon, the trend seems to have picked up in recent years, seeing its heyday in 2023. For instance, in March 2023 alone, “over 50 luxury brands launched 500 collaboration pieces with Japanese anime characters” on Alibaba’s online luxury retailer, Tmall Luxury Pavilion. Globally, examples abound.

Loewe Daydreams With Ghibli

Since 2021, the Spanish luxury brand LOEWE has been partnering with the legendary Japanese animation Studio Ghibli for capsule collections. Kicking off a three-part collaboration, Loewe launched an ode to Ghibli’s popular film, My Neighbor Totoro (1988). In a statement, Jonathan Anderson, Loewe’s creative director, explained the reasoning behind this team-up. “There is a natural longing for heartwarming feelings right now. When I think of a movie that affords me that kind of solace, speaking just as directly to a child as it does to an adult, that movie is My Neighbor Totoro,” the designer said.

The debut collection set the tone for two additional lines that merged Ghibli’s childlike, imaginative nature and Loewe’s refined quirk. Following the first installment, a Spirited Away (2001) collection was released in January 2022. To close the cycle, the brand released a final lineup of products inspired by Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) in February 2023. 

MSCHF Goes Astro

Although this isn’t a collaboration per se, earlier this year, the American art collective MSCHF made waves online with its viral product release: the big red boots. Evoking the iconic Japanese manga series, Astro Boy (1952), the brand created a pair of viral, larger-than-life boots. The product was bold, bulbous, and bright — a pair of kicks that would instantly catch stares on the streets and turn into the internet’s favorite topic of conversation.

Although the red boots look intriguing at first sight, the TPU rubber-made footwear is not exactly the comfiest to wear. Videos online showed how wearers struggled just to put them on, not to mention the discomfort when the shoes were in use. Yet, despite the disadvantages and risks that came with the pair, the big red boots successfully cut through the noise. Not only did the product promptly sell out; as per data from Launchmetrics, it also generated $14.8 million in Media Impact Value (MIV) in only 2 weeks! 

GCDS Goes Out of This World

Similarly, the Italian fashion brand GCDS found inspiration in SpongeBob SquarePants (1999) for their Spring Summer 2023 collection. With the presentation titled “Alien Disco,” the brand imagined what clubbing attire would look like in the underwater universe of the animated series. The result? A lineup of looks filled with shimmer, sparkle, subversive silhouettes, and a pop of racing-inspired clothing.

The collection also adopted a color scheme heavily reminiscent of the SpongeBob SquarePants franchise: a sunny, fluorescent shade of yellow, a bubbly, bright pink, and marine blue denim. The characters made an appearance with some of their faces plastered over knit netting and camera bags. There was even a flowy, pink slip dress with hems that nodded at the jellyfish often featured in the show. Although the idea of combining SpongeBob with going-out clothing could appear unlikely on paper, the brand managed to twist the concept into a fun, joyful, and lighthearted collection for party people and fans of subversive fashion.

Brands Give Moon Power A Try 

A synonym for girl empowerment, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon is perhaps one of the greatest pop culture icons from the ‘90s. Written and illustrated by Naoko Takeuchi, the manga turned into an anime series and movie saga that has enticed generation after generation. Through the years, Sailor Moon has inspired collaborations of all sorts, ranging from clothing collections to accessories. To celebrate the manga’s 30th anniversary, the fashion luxury brand Jimmy Choo joined forces with Naoko Takeuchi to release a collection of footwear and handbags. The collaboration included accessories such as handbags and footwear that sparked great anticipation and quickly sold out

But Jimmy Choo is only one of the many brands exploiting Sailor Moon’s timeless appeal. Last year, the Japanese beauty brand Shu Uemura launched a limited-edition line titled “Eternal” to commemorate the anime’s anniversary. Previously, other labels including Skechers, Color Pop, and Maje — only to name a few — also released special products featuring the popular animation. 

Photo courtesy of Jimmy Choo, Naoko Takeuchi.

Unfading Love 

Gen Z’s craving for animation and love for all things retro has also influenced collaborations between the likes of Gucci and Doraemon, Starface and Hello Kitty, and even Longchamp and Pokémon. Needless to say, this trend is expanding to other realms. Brands are quickly catching up with the nostalgia-infused craze and tapping into other cultural staples like TV shows and video games. Not long ago, the New York-based designer Christian Cowan unveiled a capsule collection focused on the characters from the British TV series, Teletubbies (1997). Meanwhile, in a move reminiscent of MSCHF’s Astro Boy boots, Red Wing Shoes recreated Mario Bros’ cartoonish shoes.

With brands creating products featuring cartoon and anime characters at the forefront, the world can see beloved figures live on in new ways. As this formula of appealing to nostalgia finds success time after time, it seems that collaborations mixing fashion, beauty, and animation won’t be dying down anytime soon. 

Interested in more fashion content? Find out how Asian celebrities have become top players in the fashion industry here.

This article is part of EnVi’s Gen Z issue. Get yourself a physical copy here!