"From Primark x Greggs, H&M x Keith Haring Mark II and Natural History Museum x Fat Face, to Selfridges opening as a fully-functioning online retailer in the metaverse and amazing in-store experiences popping up all over the world, fashion is an incredibly exciting space to be in right now," says Anna Knight, senior vice president, licensing, Informa Markets. "The impact it can have on brands, and brands can have on it, is endless."
While fashion was the core theme, business and networking remained the prominent aim for most of the show. From simply walking the show floor, it was evident how people thrived from being back together again under one roof. BLE's dedicated meetings platform facilitated more than 4,500
More Than Ever, Thought Leadership Reigns at BLE
The first keynote on the first day of BLE featured Richard Dickson, president, chief operating officer, Mattel,
Dickson explained Barbie's focus on cultural relevance had anticipated a defining revolution in the workplace and social equality for women that emerged in the '60s while also representing aspirational opportunities for young girls.
"Through Barbie, girls could dream without limits, enabled by fashion play that was tactile and dimensional," says Dickson. "Her incredible closet was the stuff of fashion magazines, an exciting new portal to possibility."
In the keynote, Dickson referenced how, in the mid-2000s, people began to question Barbie's relevancy. In response, the company introduced "the most inclusive line of dolls on the planet featuring seven skin tones, 22 eye colors and 24 hair types and styles," says Dickson.
The world of retail has faced significant challenges over the past couple of years, which was the focus of the keynote on day two. The panel discussion, '
,' provided insight into accelerated trends, essential retail and licensing strategies and highlighted the new opportunities arising from the turbulent waters of modern times. One of the takeaways from the talk was that the current environment we find ourselves in, post-pandemic, could be one of the toughest challenges to negotiate yet.
"This year, leading into 2023, is going to be hard," says Marianne James, vice president EMEA and Asia, licensed consumer products,
. "We've got to consolidate as an industry, and communication is going to be important. We need to ensure our brands are fully accessible and think about how we're bringing those products into the marketplace."
Understanding the importance of data and sustainability were also big talking points.
"The data is saying it's not about price, but value," says Jeremy Orriss, director, licensing,
. "Value is a key trend, so it's important to understand how to interpret that value. Going into the next period, people are not looking for throwaway items; they are looking for items that have value. We're looking for things we feel comfortable with, so we may go through a more evolution than revolution."
On day three, the show's focus switched to sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion, reflected in the keynote, "
." In the session, the five speakers shared ideas on how they help their brand thrive while keeping others and the planet in mind. The panel agreed that working with purpose doesn't have to be a big, scary goal.
"It's important to find a brand that can work in tandem with yours," says Kingston Myles, head, commercial development, English Heritage. "They have to be able to walk the walk and talk the talk."
What We Learned from the BLE Catwalk
Barbie x Balmain, Universal Studios x Gucci, Hype x "Sonic the Hedgehog," Mentos x The Lobstars and Black Lives Matter x Fashion United were among the many fashion collabs that were brought to life on this year's live BLE catwalk as visitors enjoyed nine, 15-minute fashion shows across the three days.
The catwalk feature culminated in the Culture & Unity on day three, a showstopper with Black and LGBT+ designers, fashion, models and crew – some arriving at BLE fresh from the London Fashion Week runway. Curated with Saphia Maxamed, founder, Black Lives Matter Licensing, the BLE catwalk brought the Fashion U.K. Black Lives Matter collection to life. All the sessions will be available to watch back, on-demand, in due course.
"BLE's Fashion focus this year was a chance to underscore just how vital fashion is to a brand eco-system, as another touchpoint for fans to connect to their favorite properties," says
. "It's also a recognition of how far licensed apparel has come. It's not about just adding a logo on a T-shirt, but today's designers, retailers and consumers are looking for high-quality products with high-end design credentials."
"For us, [fashion] is also one of the most important categories to develop in each of our licensing programs, particularly because of the proximity we have with leading global companies, both in Spain and Italy," says
. "For some time now, we have been developing a much more 'fashion' approach in our style guides to highlight the potential of each of our brands for the fashion world."
The Biggest News at Brand Licensing Europe
It's no surprise that exhibitors announced important deals during BLE, which License Global covered extensively during the three days.
Banijay Brands announced that it would launch an
in the Indian market through India's homegrown e-commerce marketplace, Flipkart. It also announced a
, to launch SurvivorStore.net, the go-to destination for branded apparel of the reality show "Survivor."
– aimed at offering gourmet, accessible, fun and shareable culinary experiences to kids and families.
related to its portfolio brands in Italy, such as Barbie Magazine, Mia Prima Barbie, Hot Wheels and Thomas to Panini Spa.
for TV broadcasting and VOD service rights for "Robocar POLI" in France.
Sophie Jonas-Hill, winner of the art brand category at License This! 2021, announced
would represent her.
to produce high-end collectible painted resin statues from the Arkham Horror game.
Zero Latency and Games Workshop announced
based on the world-renowned "Warhammer: 40,000: Space Marine" franchise.
Cyber Group Studios, best known for the preschool show, "Gigantosaurus," will introduce a
from master toy licensee United Smile, created by Darren Lee Phillipson, toy designer, design_lead_play_.
Beer brand Bira 91, in collaboration with Warner Bros. Consumer Products,
inspired by the newly-released HBO Original series, "House of the Dragon," the successor series to "Game of Thrones."
In the sports space,
. The national team football deal, for both the men's and women's games, is an extension of the previous event retail partnership and will see Fanatics gain e-commerce rights and the right to design and manufacture unbranded apparel.
to see ProDirect take on an exclusive license with Admiral for Teamwear in the U.K. and Ireland.
License This! Winners Announced
On the final day of BLE,
in the License Global Theatre, with eight finalists battling it out in three pitches.
The winners were The Spookysaurus (Brand and Design Category), Frobelles (Character and Animation category) and 'Invent-A-Cards,' (Product Design category).
"It's spooktacular [to win]," says Crispin Lowrey, creator, The Spookysaurus. "I don't know where it's going to take me or what's going to happen, but I'm not going to waste this."
Watch day 3 highlights...
Want to see more of the action from Brand Licensing Europe? Check out License Global's photo album from the event
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