As kids are gradually catching up with the latest vogue and acquiring fashion-related products, licensing for kids’ apparel segment is seeing a new growth horizon, both in monetary terms as well as popularity. Five-year-old Lavanya feels no less than a princess, when she is dressed up in her aqua coloured gown that swoops down to the floor, delicately adorned with satin roses, just like a Barbie silhouette. With a mere change of apparel, the tiny tot is escorted to the world of her favourite on-screen character, where life is all about chivalry and the mystic charm. The domestic licensing industry has aggressively grown in recent past with the stalwarts expanding their portfolio to almost every possible domain from fashion to F&B and digital space to Real Estate. Given that the kids are gradually catching up with the latest vogue, the fashion-related products and licensing for kids’ apparel segment is seeing a new growth horizon, both in monetary terms as well as popularity. Betting upon the strong demand to dress up in accordance with the popular superheros or the animated characters, the well established brands such as Armani, Fendi etc have come up with kids’ collection. Further, the honchos of character licensing including the likes of Warner Brother and Viacom 18, have passed on the rights for their character inspired apparels for children. In the words of Saugato Bhowmick, Viacom 18, “Licensing per say revolves around apparel as a core category. Given that the economic sentiment is reviving, the process of discovery of kids’ licensed apparel segment is being easier.” No kidding around Character licensing dominates the licensing industry of India while constituting 80 per cent of it. As per Global Industry Analysts, Inc (GIA), a US-based market research company, the global market for children’s wear is projected to reach US $ 156.8 billion by the year 2015. The key factor for kids’ segment is to monetise the emotional connect of consumers with their favourite characters. This connect is either encashed by launching apparel range imprinted with the character in action (as in case of Chhota Bheem and Tom & Jerry), or the couture inspired from a character (as with Barbie and Disney Princess). “Amongst many, apparel has always been and will always be a leading category in the licensing business for kids. Moreover, licensed apparel segment is lucrative as kids feel connected to their favourite character this way,” asserted Chitra Johri, Vice President, Bradford License India. The best bet There used to be a time, when licensing in kids’ apparels was synonymous with the global characters like Donald Duck, Garfield, Mickey Mouse etc. Now the competition is heating up with the homegrown character ‘Chhota Bheem’ carving a niche for itself. Green Gold Animations, the parent company of this resident of Dholakpur has inked pacts with Dollar industries for the apparel range of Chhota Bheem and Mighty Raju. Supporting the fact, Nitin Kalra, Director, AI Licensing India Pvt Ltd asserted, “With the Indian economy growth coming from the hinterland and more and more demand coming from smaller cities and small towns, there is a much wider appeal for the Indian characters.” In words of Srinivas Chilakalapudi, Chief Strategy Officer, Green Gold Animation, “The licensing of Chhota Bheem has been extremely successful. We had so many enquiries that it was tough to choose whom to work with. Kids connect with their favourite character through what they wear and do.” Adding to the notion of Indian characters selling more, Bhowmick said, “Global characters trail more than Indian portfolio, but the strong trend of local characters is catching up due to the reliability, hence strengthening the base.” The trick to licensing In some cases, the licensees simply imprint the character on apparels, which is the most viable option in certain cases; others took a step ahead and evolved the concept by introducing apparels inspired with the look and feel of popular characters. This trend is more popular with designing for girls, where characters like Dora – the explorer and Disney Princess can be well conceptualised, amalgamated with the trends and finally brought to reality in form of apparels. The seasonal collection of Dora and party wear collection of Barbie gowns have created a buzz in market. Adding to it, Bhowmick explained, “The trick in licensing is not to just take a character and put it on the apparel. How you translate that character’s DNA and combine it with the latest trend in fashion and make it appealing even at a very young age is important.” Lot more to go… While the industry has its own set of challenges like piracy, weak IP protection laws, picking up the right licensee is a major factor responsible for the success of that extended portfolio of brand. Also, the contribution of eCommerce and emerge of exclusively-for-kids websites and the well established retailers as stepping in to promote licensed kids’ apparel, this segment is all set to flourish by leaps and bounds in coming years.
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