The latest fashion-anime collaboration comes from the Jordan brand, which teamed with New Orleans Pelicans power forward Zion Williamson and Williamson’s self-declared favorite anime show, “Naruto.” The collection, launched on May 18, includes character-inspired sneakers and T-shirts. Prices range from $35-$130 on the Nike website and various sports retailer stores. Prior, on April 26, French fashion brand Maje released a limited collection with classic anime character Sailor Moon. And on April 15, Dolce & Gabbana announced its newest collaboration with “Jujutsu Kaisen.”
The desire to stay relevant among young consumers may be the biggest driving force behind these collaborations. In early 2020, a U.S. survey reported that 27% of American adults ages 18-29 have a favorable view of anime. The average anime fan is 24.4 years old. While the anime genre has different content that appeals to different demographics, the majority of people who are watching are Gen Zers. According to Grandview Research, from 2021-2028, the global anime market will grow by 9.7%. In the U.S., that increase is more substantial at 15.5%.
For its part, Dolce & Gabbana, collaborated with “Jujutsu Kaisen” following the show’s movie debut, dubbed “Jujutsu Kaisen 0.” The film has cumulatively earned $31.4 million in the U.S. box office. D&G’s “Jujutsu Kaisen” collection consists of 30 styles ranging from earrings and handkerchiefs to blazers and bags, with prices at $300-$4,000. To market the collection, “Jujutsu Kaisen’’ director Sunghoo Park illustrated the anime’s eight main characters in their respective Dolce & Gabbana outfits. In addition, Dolce & Gabbana opened three pop-up stores in Shibuya, Japan from April 27-May 3 to feature an immersive experience alongside the products.
Although Dolce & Gabbana’s customized looks for “Jujutsu Kaisen” were not available for purchase online, the collection garnered quick attention and praise from fans on TikTok and Twitter. Dolce & Gabbana, itself, only posted six promotional posts for the collaboration across Twitter and Instagram, but fan-made TikToks saw nearly 2.5 million views, 650,000 likes, 23,000 shares and 7,000 comments.
“Trends stem from communities, and [Dolce & Gabbana] hit on the community well. That’s why they’re getting a good response [on social media],” said Ashley Paintsil, a fashion and media researcher at the University of Delaware’s department of communication.
Other luxury brands are tapping into popular anime characters. Studio Ghibli, the animation studio that created the 2003 Oscar-winning film “Spirited Away,” collaborated with Loewe in January 2022. The line consisted of 54 embroidered and intarsia-knitted shirts, sweaters and jackets; prices ranged from $450-$6,400.
For many millennials and Gen Zers, these collections tie back to the greater nostalgia trend seen in fashion and culture.
“Coming out of a pandemic, people want things that are fun or remind them of themselves. This is definitely a way of trying to reach Gen Z and reach their interests,” Paintsil said. “[Luxury brands] are probably only reaching a subset of Gen-Z consumers that can afford [luxury collections]… but it’s still a good touchpoint, to get something small from them.”
Caleb Arbaugh, a social media commentator specializing in anime collaborations with brands like Samsung and Bape, pointed out that, in the past, luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Harrods have collaborated with skateboard brands. Previously, people saw luxury and skateboards as an unconventional pair, and the same can be said for luxury brands’ collaborations with anime, he said.
“Luxury brands [are] adapting to a changing culture and anime becoming extremely popular,” he said. “Brands that aren’t doing collaborations with anime or skateboard brands, or just artists in general, are [not doing it] to their own demise.”
Still, clothes are not be the only way these collaborations can come to life. For example, Gucci collaborated with anime show “One Piece” in Sept. 2020 for an official lookbook, where the anime’s creator, Eiichiro Oda, drew characters for Gucci’s “Fake/Not” collection. In October 2018, Balenciaga collaborated with anime show “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure,” in which main character Bruno Bucciarati was illustrated in a look from the Balenciaga 2018 Fall collection for the cover of a magazine.
“It’s valuable that brands can combine new manga [comic] with characters dressed up in the latest luxury fashion, but [collaborations] don’t necessarily always have to be merchandise,” said Arbaugh.