NEW YORK — Strawberry Shortcake, Pokemon and Tweety were all there — and it wasn’t a five-year-old’s birthday party.
So where else can these larger-than-life characters coexist in one place? Only at the 25th annual International Licensing and Merchandising trade show.
The show, which ended its three-day run at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here on June 23, displayed more than 500 exhibitors representing more than 5,000 brands. While the brands ranged from Batman to Manischewitz, there were some lesser-known names that could be on the rise and on their way into the apparel business.
For the fourth time, “American Idol,” the megapopular Fox reality TV show, had a presence at the licensing show this season. According to David Luner, vice president of licensing, Americas, at FreMantle Media, the production company in charge of licensing for the “American Idol” brand, an apparel line is already in the works.
“We are ready to take the brand into a fashion element and get away from the logo-driven apparel,” Luner said of the company’s newly signed license with Los Angeles-based Jem Sportswear, which will produce a test line of fashion-forward apparel in time for December retailing. “‘American Idol’ is becoming a true lifestyle brand whose shelf life extends far beyond the broadcast period of the show.”
Luner said Jem Sportswear also is working closely with “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest on the direction of the collection. While price points have yet to be set, Luner said there will be a mass-appropriate line for stores such as Wal-Mart and Target as well as a specialty store collection with higher prices. In addition to the apparel collection, there also will be “American Idol” accessories produced by Casa D’Oro.
But the fashion element isn’t where the “American Idol” lifestyle ends. The company already has licensing agreements with Kellogg’s for “American Idol”-branded fruit snacks; Prime Entertainment Inc. for digital video cameras that allow users to edit music and video footage, add special effects and stock “American Idol” footage, and Fleer Trading Cards for “American Idol” collector cards and trading card games.
In addition to the “American Idol” brand, FreMantle Media was looking to gain apparel licensing partners for most of its other brands, such as vintage game shows such as “The Price is Right,” “Press Your Luck” and “Family Feud.”
At the Homies booth, where artist, creator and chief executive officer David Gonzales was signing autographs for fans, the Hercules, Calif.-based company was looking to meet with potential licensees for apparel, particularly for its newer Homie Girl collection of dolls. With the amount of buzz at the booth, it seemed the dolls have quite the fan base already.
“I think people are afraid to compete with Mattel’s Barbie and Bratz dolls,” Gonzales said. “But I really think we’ve got something here.”
“I know there’s something here,” chimed Roland Ballester, president of the Homies brand. “People can really relate to these girls — whether it’s ethnicity or body issues — each girl has a story.”
Ballester said besides looking for partners to produce a soft doll line, he’s hoping to get into apparel and accessories.
“This line has amazing potential in the fashion industry,” he said. “It’s just going to take the right partners to understand what we are trying to do.”
Barbara Kimmel, president of the New York-based Starmony Unlimited and co-creator of the Perrie Meno-Pudge family of characters, visited the show for the first time in hopes of getting her brand into apparel.
“Perrie is the Baby Boomer,” Kimmel explained. “There’s some of her in all of us. She’s so familiar, she’s a mother, daughter, wife, girlfriend, sister who’s meeting midlife with a slightly off sense of humor.”
Perrie was created with the fiftysomething woman in mind, Kimmel said. She spends her days memory- and energy-challenged, but she keeps her sense of humor with the help of her husband, daughter and best friend. Kimmel said the Perrie Meno-Pudge brand would be a unique addition to the apparel industry.
“There really aren’t any characters out there dedicated to the Baby Boomer,” she said.