From the beginning of fashion, pop culture and social standing have always had an influence on design. An interesting result has been the impact of animation and illustration within fashion and cosmetics. Couture designer Elsa Schiaparelli’s friendship with surrealist Salvador Dali in the 1930’s resulted in the iconic lobster dress, which was then famously worn by Wallis Simpson. Growing up we watched animated creatures dance across our television sets, we now see them painted on street wear from Gucci. One of the most notable and recognizable faces has been Disney’s Mickey Mouse

To understand Mickey and his influence, we must understand his roots. From his iconic debut in the 1928 animated episode Steamboat Willie, he became an instant classic. Walt Disney had previously lost a popular cartoon to a distributor due to copywriting rights. As a result he was very careful moving forward with his creations. When Mickey was released, he had a very meticulous trademark contract that came with him.

Wallis Simpson in Schiaparelli

Photo credit Getty Images/

Mickey Mouse 1928

Photo credit D23 Walt Disney Fan Club

You’ll notice when you see Mickey Mouse and any of his friends on packaging or garments, it’s clearly a Disney collaboration. The range of brands we see partnering with Mickey makes it accessible to almost anyone. In cosmetics we’ve seen Morphe, Dose of Colors, The Face Shop and L’Oreal Paris. In fashion Mickey Mouse is the official mascot of Italian brand Iceberg, though their current collection now features Peanuts characters. We see Mickey on Gucci (who has also recently done a collaboration using Donald Duck), Levi’s, Hunter, Keith Haring and many more including phone accessory brand CASETIFY who recently participated in a collaboration with Disney. Not only did they showcase Mickey and his friends, they have a complete Disney Princess collection as well. The entire line was available earlier this year at Nordstrom’s Disney pop-up shop.

In 1967 a satirical article “The Realist” was published in the magazine “The Independent.” This magazine housed satirical articles criticizing America’s political, social and religious social standings. This specific article showcased an illustration by comic artist Wally Wood. This illustration depicted our most loved characters from the magic kingdom in a provocative and for the time, vulgar way. The poster was widely pirated and sold third party. Disney did not file a lawsuit against Wally Wood, however they did file one against a publisher and later someone who went to reprint the photo to sell.

As we’ve seen Disney grow into the powerhouse it’s become, we’ve seen two versions of Mickey. The original we saw in Steamboat Willie, and the one we see today. They have two separate trademarks and the contract on the original Mickey is due to expire January 1st, 2024. With all of the Disney collaborations in fashion being presented as more of a designer element, what can we anticipate seeing created with the original comic as it will be easily accessible to anyone and without the risk of copyright infringement.

Why are we so drawn to these collaborations? Apart from Disney, so much of our childhood has popped up in fashion and cosmetics. Marc Jacobs currently has a collaboration with Peanuts. This is not the first time the designer has featured the 1950’s characters on his collection of clothing and accessories.  Everything from Hello Kitty to The Simpsons who just received a complete Balenciaga makeover for the episode created in conjunction with the brands SS22 show, along with a collection.


Photo credit

Photo credit

 The reverse can happen too. Sailor Moon creator Takeuchi had a passion for designer ready to wear. Her favourite Chanel looks often appeared on her anime characters. In particular a 1992 Sailor Pluto was drawn wearing a Chanel dress originally worn on the runway by Christy Turlington. Most recently worn by Lily-Rose Depp for the 2019 MET gala. We all recognize these cartoons and watch as the limited edition collaborations fly off the shelves with ease. Is it for the instant recognition of having a visibly limited edition luxury item? Is it the nostalgia? Whatever the reason it’s definitely working.