Marie Van Buggenhout, senior licensing manager, softlines, FMCG, retail and promotions, IMPS/Lafig, talks about elevating The Smurfs’ fashion line through licensed collaborations.

Alex Markovich, Sponsored Content Editor

March 15, 2024

4 Min Read
Supreme beanies featuring the Smurfs.
Supreme beanies featuring the Smurfs.IMPS

The Smurfs brand, initially known for its appearance in comic strips and on television, has made its mark in a new medium – fashion. From tracksuits and T-shirts to sunglasses and accessories, the brand has enchanted and re-enchanted people of all generations through humorous and nostalgic fashion designs and collaborations. Having instituted partnerships with Emporio Armani, Supreme and PUMA in just a few short years, the brand has gained clout in the fashion-licensing sector and has evolved into one of the most beloved evergreen global fashion icons. 

Who is behind The Smurfs’ fashion victory? That would be Marie Van Buggenhout, senior licensing manager, softlines, FMCG, retail and promotions, IMPS/ Lafig (license holder of The Smurfs IP, and characters, Benny Breakiron and Johan and Peewit). 

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When Van Buggenhout came to IMPS/LAFIG in fall 2019, The Smurfs’ fashion-licensing strategy was mainly focused on kids. However, Van Buggenhout knew generations from Gen X to Gen Z had a fondness for the small blue creatures just as she did. 

The Smurfs Get Street Cred 

To increase adult engagement, Van Buggenhout looked toward North America and found New York City skate brand, Supreme, was interested in establishing a partnership. The collaboration consisted of leather jackets, denim jackets, hoodies, beanies, jeans and other apparel that featured brand elements of The Smurfs working alongside Supreme’s street-leaning style. And after only a year at IMPS/ LAFIG, she officially launched the fall/winter collaboration in October 2020, selling most items in less than four minutes. 

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“[Van Buggenhout's] boundless creativity, unwavering commitment and contagious passion for The Smurfs are nothing short of extraordinary,” says Fabienne Gilles, chief commercial officer, consumer products, family entertainment board member, IMPS. “It was no surprise that her work on the Supreme x Smurf collaboration was triumphant.” 

Staying in Fashion

One of Van Buggenhout’s strategies for achieving success in the fashion licensing sector is staying in tune with fashion trends. By maintaining this knowledge, it allows her to anticipate trends and create collaborations that are seen as innovative and classic, instead of similar and parallel. Plus, it gives Van Buggenhout and her team the ability to create marketing campaigns, social media content and additional promotional materials that engage with consumers more effectively. She also tries to stay open to inspiration that may come in unfamiliar forms or places.

“I work with companies and go to countries all over the world,” says Van Buggenhout. “And most of the time, I see something during my travels that gives me an idea for another collaboration.”

But the technique that she finds the most helpful is staying true to The Smurfs’ values and making sure partners share them, too.

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“Whenever you hear people talk about The Smurfs, they always have a big smile on their faces,” says Van Buggenhout. “And that’s what we aim to spread when we create these collaborations – happiness and joy. When partners do not have similar values, it could often hinder growth and visibility in the marketplace.” 

More to Come 

Though The Smurfs have already established a space for the brand in the fashion world, consumers can anticipate that space to grow even more. In fact, consumers will see new collaborations with high-end brands and designers, renowned influencers and other artistic collaborations this year and next.

For instance, in March, a notable, high-end Italian brand will release a unique sustainable collection for kids. And in June, consumers can expect another eye catching streetwear collection to be unveiled.

But the most exciting collaborations will be released at the end of this year and beginning of 2025 to honor the new Smurfs movie. The movie is slated to be in theaters in February 2025, and fans can expect Rihanna to make a cameo as Smurfette.

“Our goal is to take the Smurfs into the unknown and always think outside the box,” says Van Buggenhout. 

About the Author(s)

Alex Markovich

Sponsored Content Editor, License Global

Alex Markovich is the Sponsored Content Editor for License Global and currently resides in Denver, Colorado, USA. She has written across a variety of publications, such as SDxCentral, Housing Wire, Clear Admit and The US Sun. This experience has given her the ability to gain expertise in tech, energy, real estate, education, non-profits and news. Not only does she have a diverse writing portfolio, but Alex also has mastery in advertising, brand awareness, brand identity and content strategy. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in English from Florida State University and is professionally certified in editing from the University of Chicago.

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