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Snoopy, the beloved companion of Charlie Brown, has always been more of an accessories type than a true fashion hound — er, beagle. As imagined by “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz, Snoopy was rendered mainly in a slim black collar and nothing else, though he dabbled in thematic ensembles such as a flight cap and goggles as the World War I Flying Ace, and sunglasses as Joe Cool.
Then in 1984, in what could be dubbed comics-meet-couture, the beagle and his kid sister Belle got the Cinderella treatment courtesy of an impressive list of designers, including Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Gianni Versace, Thierry Mugler, Jean Paul Gaultier and Karl Lagerfeld, all of whom created custom outfits for the duo based on the fashions of the time. The resulting collection of Snoopy and Belle dolls went on to exhibit at the Louvre, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and throughout Europe and Asia. The whole thing was a silly stroke of marketing genius.
“It allowed artists who liked the characters to take them out of the comic page and make them — I don’t know whether you’d call them sassy or just funny,” said Schulz’s widow, Jean. “Everything about Snoopy is funny — the costumes are funny, they make you laugh.”
Flashback to Fabulous: Click Here for a Slideshow of Looks for Snoopy and Belle From the Eighties >>
Now the project is being reprised for the “Peanuts” comic strip’s 65th anniversary, which falls on the 30th anniversary of the original “Snoopy in Fashion,” and roughly a year before the first major “Peanuts” motion picture hits the screen, to be released in 100 countries and 40 languages.
“It’s this huge, amazing tidal wave of marketing and enthusiasm,” said Leigh Anne Brodsky, managing director of Peanuts Worldwide. “Our timing is really working well with the momentum and also with these huge milestones.”
Among the designers and labels outfitting Snoopy and Belle this time are Dries Van Noten, Calvin Klein Collection, Isabel Marant, Rodarte, as well as Betsey Johnson and Diane von Furstenberg, both of whom participated in the first go-round of “Snoopy in Fashion.” (Here, sketches and mock-ups of the looks.)
“We are so excited to celebrate again 30 years later with Snoopy and Belle in fashion,” said von Furstenberg. “We designed some pajamas for Snoopy and a wrap dress for Belle, both in our signature chain link.”
Asked if Schulz, who died in 2000, thought about fashion, Jean replied, “No, not at all! We always say he was a boy from the Midwest. Although, I have to say, he loved his sweaters and he had the most beautiful selection of sweaters.…It was flattering to him that the designers, who were attracting attention of royalty and stars and so forth, would want to join in the project. I think he pointed out that it’s just fun. It brings people together on a level that really sort of transcends their snootiness, if you want.”
The 2014 iteration of “Snoopy and Belle in Fashion,” which features vinyl beagle dolls wearing the designer looks, will launch Sept. 8 at the New Museum during New York Fashion Week. From there, the exhibition will travel to the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, Moscow and Milan.
Iconix Brand Group owns 80 percent of Peanuts Worldwide, with the Schulz family retaining the other 20 percent. This confluence of marketing initiatives, along with the forthcoming film, seeks to introduce “Peanuts” to a new generation.
“The next 12 months are pretty critical for the brand, with this major motion picture coming out with 20th Century Fox,” said Neil Cole, ceo of Iconix. “One of our big goals is elevating the fashion part of the business.”
There is a significant “Peanuts” apparel business, with approximately $300 million to $400 million in sales volume, which Iconix plans to grown to over $500 million in the next year. “Peanuts” merchandise is available in 100 countries — Europe and Asia, particularly Japan (go figure) are the biggest markets. There are 500 Snoopy Time shops-in-shop in Asia, as well as Charlie Brown cafés.
“Snoopy in Fashion” isn’t the only haute moment for “Peanuts.” There was a recent collaboration with Colette in Paris; a Woodstock-centric collection with the Italian label Fay is launching for fall; Lladro is creating Charlie Brown and Snoopy figurines to launch in early 2015. As Jean Schulz put it, “We’re taking it beyond the T-shirt.”