License Global highlights the importance of children’s fashion, accessories and footwear in the licensing industry.

McKenna Morgan, Content Editor

August 29, 2023

9 Min Read
The second drop from the PUMA x “SpongeBob Squarepants” colection.
The second drop from the PUMA x “SpongeBob Squarepants” colection.PUMA

At a Glance

  • The apparel advantage
  • Shoes for school and playtime
  • Time to accessorize

When you think fashion, you probably envision designer runways, Hollywood red carpets, avant-garde editorial spreads and celebrity billboards plastered around major cities. Fashion is everywhere and has a monumental impact on the business world.

According to drop shipping app, Oberlo, revenue from the apparel market is expected to exceed $1.7 trillion this year, a 13.7% year-over-year increase. From clothing to shoes and accessories, fashion labels as licensors make up the fourth-largest portion of licensed consumer products, amounting to $28.4 billion, according to Licensing International’s 2023 Global Licensing Survey. Fashion as a product category clocks in at the number two spot in the same survey. Apparel (14%) and fashion accessories (10%) were named in the top-three largest expanded product categories. Footwear made up an additional 3%. In short, fashion is a huge money maker for the licensed consumer products business. Fashion is big for the licensing industry, but children’s fashion is a chunk of the fashion industry worth looking into. Fortune Business Insights found that the global kids’ apparel market size was valued at $187.29 billion in 2022 and is projected to grow from $198.80 billion this year to $318.34 billion by 2030, exhibiting a compound annual growth rate of 6.96% during the forecast period. Fashion is a popular and valuable market, and the children’s fashion sector is no different.  

Related:Kids' Films Special Report: ‘Hey Kids! Let’s Go to the Movies’

“The Powerpuff Girls” x Justice apparel collection.

“The Powerpuff Girls” x Justice apparel collection.

The Apparel Advantage

It is such a valuable market, in fact, that multiple luxury brands have jumped on the children’s fashion train. In March of this year, LVMH’s Louis Vuitton launched its first baby collection. Celebrity children are now muses for brands like Fendi, Gucci and Givenchy, and as back-to-school season approaches, luxury and upscale brands are hoping to snag the adoration and brand loyalty of the younger generation at an early age. To do this, brands are employing an age-old trick: licensing.

Take Gucci. The company, at the time of this writing, has a licensed back-to-school line with the more affordable kids’ brand, OshKosh B’Gosh, available on its website. It also boasts a collection with animated sitcom, “The Jetsons.” With the higher price tags attached, these licensing choices appeal to the purchasers of the collections rather than the wearers. OshKosh B’Gosh saw a surge of popularity in the 1990s, and “The Jetsons” ran from the 1960s to the late 1980s, connecting to the apparel buyers’ childhoods.

The Harvard Business Review reported, “Nostalgia, by heightening feelings of connectedness, reduces people’s desire for money, says a team led by Jannine D. Lasaleta of the Grenoble School of Management in France. In one experiment, nostalgic feelings increased people’s willingness to pay for desired objects. In another, participants who were asked to draw pictures of coins drew them 10% smaller after writing about a nostalgic event. Inducing warm feelings about a cherished past could bring big benefits for those seeking to part consumers from their money, the researchers say.”

The more luxury fashion brands connect to caregivers in its licensed deals, the more likely they are to increase sales. With these collections, Gucci aims to snag the dollars from nostalgic caregivers while instilling brand adoration for children at an early age.

With less expensive fashion brands, nostalgia is still a factor in sales. Gap, a mid-range fashion brand, worked with LoveShackFancy to launch a collection inspired by Gap looks of the past and the present. The limited-edition, multi-category capsule collection of women’s, men’s, kids’ and baby apparel and accessories merges Gap’s styles with LoveShackFancy’s vintage inspired florals and feminine silhouettes.

“Collaborations and partnerships give us the opportunity to reinvent and reimagine Gap’s product icons, to remix the classic Gap logo that our customers love,” says Mark Breitbard, global president, chief executive officer, Gap. “The collection is unique and unexpected, and I’m excited for customers around the world across every generation to experience a little piece of the magic created with LoveShackFancy.”

Gap also launched a toddler and kids’ apparel collection with LL COOL J’s Rock The Bells line. The collection launched in June to celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, with products featuring art by American contemporary artist, J.Pierce. Rock The Bells also launched apparel at Target in collaboration with another artist, Laurens Jansen.

Ciara for GAP x LovesShackFancy.

Ciara for GAP x LovesShackFancy.

Additional licensed apparel for kids lean into the nostalgia trend. Justice, a fashion and lifestyle brand for tween girls, announced a partnership with Warner Bros. Discovery Global Consumer Products to launch an exclusive back-to-school fashion collection celebrating Cartoon Network’s “The Powerpuff Girls” in anticipation of the 25th anniversary kicking off this fall. Viacom18 Consumer Products, the consumer merchandising and licensing arm of Viacom18 in India, partnered with Point Cove, a California clothing company, to introduce a range of MTV apparel for kids ages 3-14.

Disney, known for its properties both old and new, continues to crank out fashion partnerships with a myriad of licensees globally, including Primark, Spirit Jersey, VeryNeko and more. This year marked the 100th anniversary of the Disney brand, but nostalgia wasn’t the only thing the company used to get revenue from the children’s fashion sector.

The live adaptation of “The Little Mermaid,” released in May of this year, resulted in some big fashion collaborations. Hanna Andersson has created a premium childwear capsule collection featuring pajamas, swimwear and a tulle dress. Disney has also taken the collaborative element further by bringing a capsule collection inspired by the work of the film’s costume designer, Colleen Atwood, which culminated in a ruffle maxi dress, a tie-dye two-piece set, a cosplay dress and a mermaid swim tail skirt.  

Disney x Ground Up footwear.

Disney x Ground Up footwear.

Shoes for School and Playtime

Footwear also has a big place in kids’ fashion. According to Report Linker, the global children shoes market is expected to grow by $5.32 billion from 2022-2026, accelerating at a compound annual growth rate of 8.21% during the forecast period. With this large of a revenue maker, Disney has enlisted additional licensees like Ground Up International, a footwear brand focused on kids’ footwear.

Ground Up was part of “The Little Mermaid” live action rollout in a collaboration with Foot Locker. The footwear company also teamed up with retail company, Snipes, to create a new Disney sneaker collection for toddlers and kids. The collection boasts styles featuring Marvel superheroes, as well as Disney Princess and Disney “Frozen” characters. This collection includes slip-on, high-top and low-top sneakers in toddler and youth sizes.

Beyond the Disney licenses, Ground Up launched additional kids’ collections in recent months. In May, Ground Up released shoes featuring the My Little Pony IP, and in July, the brand teamed with Foot Locker again to release shoes inspired by the latest “Trolls” movie. Additional kids’ footwear partnerships inked for Ground Up this year include Afro Unicorn, “Bluey,” Hot Wheels and more.

PUMA, known for both footwear and apparel, recently teamed up with Paramount Consumer Products to release a back-to-school collection inspired by “SpongeBob SquarePants.” The footwear centers around PUMA styles, like the Rider VF Future, the RS-X and the Slipstream, re-done with a Bikini Bottom-inspired color palette, plus graphic elements evoking SpongeBob’s reading glasses appearing on the strap of the RS-X and also the tongue of the Slipstream. In April, the brand also collaborated with ZAG to launch a collection inspired by “Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir.”  

Rock the Bells x Gap apparel.

Rock The Bells x Gap apparel.

Time to Accessorize  

And with kids’ fashion, you cannot forget accessories. From backpacks to hairbows and more, the global children’s clothing accessories market size is expected to reach $35.17 billion by 2028, according to a report by Million Insights.

Licensees, like Loungefly, Bioworld and Concept One lean into this desire from kids to have all of the accessories, and they deliver.

In June, Loungefly launched a birthday collection with Disney celebrating its animated family. In May, it launched a line of Strawberry Shortcake bags (that were scented, by the way), and earlier in the year, they revealed mini backpacks with Marvel, McDonald’s and more. The company also specializes in enamel pins, keychains and lanyards from the same licensors, for a little extra flair.

 For larger backpacks for older kids, look no further than Bioworld. From “Sonic the Hedgehog” to “Lilo and Stitch” to DC Comics “The Flash” and more, Bioworld merchandise zeroes in on trending licenses to provide kids with the exact backpack they want for back-to-school season. In addition to backpacks, Bioworld carries accessories like bandanas, headbands, scrunchies, jewelry and more, so kids can express their fandom in multiple different ways.

Concept One Accessories boasts licenses like Peanuts, Star Wars and BT21 Line Friends and recently worked with Fred Segal to create a line of Harry Potter backpacks, along with bags, headbands, hats, keychains and more.

Sam Hafif, chief executive officer, Concept One Accessories, points out that accessories are often a more budget- friendly way for children to get their dose of licensed merchandise. Kids may grow out of their clothes and shoes quickly, but accessories last longer and cost less.  

“Offering licensed accessories for kids around a tentpole movie, such as a hat or backpack gives the parent an opportunity to satisfy the child’s merch craving for less than the cost of a movie ticket,” says Hafif.  

Viacom18 and Point Cove MTV collection.

Viacom18 and Point Cove MTV collection.

Consumers In-Training

Fashion, accessories and footwear provide the chance for expression, and tots are no different from their parents in that they want to express themselves and their fandoms. Licensed deals can provide children with that form of expression, and if they are too young to have fandoms of their own, licensors and licensees will introduce them to their options young with the help of parents.

No matter what properties little ones (or their parents) are drawn to, licensed merchandise is there for them. Whether luxury or bargain brand, current blockbuster or property of the past, the licensed consumer product industry has kids covered (literally and figuratively).

This article was also published in the August issue of License Global.

About the Author(s)

McKenna Morgan

Content Editor, License Global

McKenna Morgan is Content Editor for License Global. Based in the Santa Monica office, McKenna specializes in coverage involving non-profits, beauty and cosmetics, health and wellness, new and social media and entertainment licensing.

When McKenna isn’t covering the latest licensing news, she spends her time attending live music shows and finding her next travel destination.

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry Article
Join 62,000+ members. Yes, it's completely free.

You May Also Like