NEW YORK — Inspired by the fervor for Japanese anime culture and the related market for collecting the art of “cute,” including toy figurines, LeSportsac has introduced a new collection, called Tokidoki for LeSportsac.
The 31-year-old LeSportsac is known for its prints, and it has collaborated in the past on developing art with designers including Jonathan Adler and Diane von Furstenberg. Its most recent partnership was with Gwen Stefani on L.A.M.B. for LeSportsac handbags.
The new collection, consisting of 20 handbag shapes made in ripstop nylon, is a collaboration with Toy2R, a toy retailer, wholesaler and manufacturer of designer toys, and Italian artist Simone Legno and his partners, Ivan and Pooneh Mohajer Arnold, founders of the new anime-inspired brand Tokidoki.
The bags are lightweight and are oriented toward utility, with multiple pockets. They are available in either black with rainbow zipper details or the colorful Tokidoki print, featuring an eclectic cast of cartoon characters, designed by Legno, a Japanophile. A two-inch “Qee” figurine key chain comes with either color scheme.
The characters include Cactus Girl, a wide-eyed little girl wrapped within a prickly cactus costume, and Latte, an animated carton of milk. All the characters exemplify Tokidoki, which means “sometimes” in Japanese. They explore dichotomies, such as cute and provocative or cute and scary, which is a reoccurring theme in the anime genre.
Prices range from $25 wholesale for the Caramellina cosmetics case with green metallic ball chain detail to $85 for the Luna bag. Other standouts include the company’s updated belt bag, with a mesh pocket detail, and the large Tokidoki print weekender.
The bags hit company boutiques and department stores in February, while the plan to preview two styles in December at stores is still to be determined.
The line is a crucial move for the company, whose L.A.M.B. business reeled in an estimated $35 million. Industry sources said the Tokidoki line would do $10 million in its first year at retail.
“This is really the next step for LeSportsac,” said James B. Bunn, executive vice president of the company. “We reached out to the world of ‘happy.’ Our teaming up with two other hot international brands, Toy2R and Tokidoki, makes us confident that our new line has the capability to surpass our L.A.M.B. for LeSportsac brand.”
The company will support the launch with a global print and outdoor advertising campaign. It also is developing a TV commercial to be aired in select Asian markets.
This line follows other recent fashion successes incorporating Japanese culture, such as Louis Vuitton’s 2002 collaboration with artist Takashi Murakami for brightly colored logo bags and Miuccia Prada’s “trick robot” key chain trend from last fall, which spawned many knockoffs.
“It’s more than just collecting toys,” said Jay Bell, senior men’s designer buyer at Barneys New York. “It’s an excuse to throw caution to the wind and be frivolous again.”
Barneys collaborated in May with Kidrobot, a popular toy manufacturer and retailer based in New York, to create the Skull Head doll that will be sold exclusively in the store. Five men’s wear designers, including Marc Jacobs and Jil Sander, dressed the 12-inch vinyl figure. It sells for $295.95.
“Themes of Japanese animation are now relevant to the Western world,” said Paul Budnitz, president of Kidrobot Inc. “Alienation, robots and the end of the world are all on our minds.”
Even FAO Schwarz sells the figurines. Kim Richmond, executive vice president of marketing, said, “It’s the evolution of kids with their video games. It’s fantastical, but not wholly pure.”