20 years of Harry Potter fashion: How the magical franchise grew in style
By Lisa Granshaw
Twenty-years ago, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone introduced us to a magical world with wonderful characters and an unforgettable story. Since author J.K. Rowling published that first book she’s expanded her wizarding world with six more novels to tell Harry’s story, a movie franchise, the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film series, a Wizarding World theme park, and more. Throughout that journey, as with all popular media, merchandise soon came to play a role. There are numerous products fans can purchase to feel like a part of the magic of Harry Potter and show their love for the series. The variety of those products have expanded and changed as the years have passed, especially Harry Potter-inspired fashion.
The fashion inspired by the franchise has grown in wonderful ways over the last two decades. At the beginning, there was not the diversity of options we see today. The growth of the series into blockbuster movies certainly had an impact on the explosion of apparel and accessories created as has the continued expansion of the franchise. Another major factor that’s led to the number of options today is how the fans that first fell in love with Harry Potter as kids are now adults, and they want more than just T-shirts and logo heavy items to show off their fandom. These fans want to wear things to work that include just a nod to their favorite aspects of the series or want styles outside of shirts which has led to items like dresses and leggings they can incorporate into their wardrobes. Many elements led to a shift in the merchandise made, with new options added and especially more choices for women available as larger geek fashion has also grown beyond the unisex shirt or only offering men tees, to acknowledge that women fans want items specifically made for them.
When asked about the growth of Harry Potter fashion since the franchise began, Warner Bros. Consumer Products mentioned some recent product launches in an email to GeekFold. These included everything from toys and home goods to apparel and accessories where brands like Primark, Pottery Barn, Target, Alex and Ani, and Danielle Nicole have all introduced new Harry Potter products.
“For today’s growing worldwide fan community, and for generations to come, the Wizarding World brand welcomes everyone to explore more of this magical universe—past, present and future. The Wizarding World brand also provides fans with an instant, trusted kite-mark of quality and authenticity,” Warner Bros. Consumer Products told GeekFold. “The new collection of Wizarding World products and experiences is designed with our fans in the center. Fans of the Wizarding World are constantly seeking out new and different ways to engage with the brand. So, we have brought on new partners such as Pottery Barn to create reimagined products that are on trend and accessible for today’s modern fan.”
The latest releases are perfect examples of how much things have changed. The excitement around the Primark line had almost everyone I knew running to the store to grab what they could. Other brands are always updating and offering a range of items too like ThinkGeek, Hot Topic, Wild Bangarang, and Torrid, who just released a new line for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald that includes a skirt and dresses.
The changes in what’s available haven’t gone unnoticed by the companies creating Harry Potter fashion, like Australian fashion brand BlackMilk Clothing.
“The Harry Potter story is just timeless and that means that a lot of the fashion is as well – we have some of our earlier pieces still available and people want them to stay. Movie merchandise and fashion has come a long [way] since the days of just being able to buy printed tees – they definitely still have their place, but there is just so much more on offer now,” Sally Osburn, CEO of BlackMilk Clothing, told GeekFold in an email interview. “It’s amazing to see that fans seem to want more and more – for themselves, for children, for their partners, for their homes – so I don’t see it disappearing any time soon!”
One of the very first Potter fashion lines I remember catching my eye because it wasn’t all about tees was from BlackMilk Clothing. They had worked with licenses like Star Wars before and released their first officially licensed Harry Potter collection in 2013.
“Historically our collections have been about telling stories that resonate with particular groups of people who relate or feel connected to the theme. So we thought what greater theme for our collection than Harry Potter – a story that has shaped generations! By that stage we had seen success with some other licenses, so we approached Warner Bros. and they have been amazing to work with!” Osburn said.
That first line featured leggings, dresses, and tops. After that initial collection they used feedback from customers and those on the BlackMilk team who are fans to create each new collection, where they try to offer a mix that appeals to fans interested in different aspects of the series. Other releases have included skirts, overalls, and an activewear line. BlackMilk’s latest Harry Potter line, Hogwarts Life, will be available Monday at 5pm ET. It includes 12 pieces of active wear inspired by the Hogwarts houses and 14 other pieces like leggings, dresses, and tops inspired by the franchise. New prints will also be in the line.
Deciding what to have in a line is the most difficult part of a collection, according to Osburn, because there is so much to be inspired by in Harry Potter. Working with such iconic imagery is a highlight for their team, whose process starts with artwork or an image. They then see which of their shapes that image might look best on.
“There are also things that work across different pieces – such as the Marauder’s Map or the Invisibility Cloak prints that we have used across a few shapes. Merchandise provide plans to design to guide the shapes our customers love to combine with the artwork that works best on it. They work tirelessly to get it right and achieve a great mix of products in each collection,” Osburn explained. “One of the advantages of the way we print our products here in Brisbane, through sublimation, is that not only can we get amazing bold and clear colors and imagery onto the garments, but we can also do placement printing – so we have created amazing garments with detailed prints of scenes, like the Great Hall. All the pieces are unique and instantly recognizable.”
Perhaps the most impressive area of expansion in Harry Potter fashion though has been in accessories, where there’s everything from jewelry to bags available now. Handbag company Danielle Nicole is one of the companies pushing the envelope of Harry Potter bags. The company has worked with licenses to create lines for Disney, Rugrats, and Looney Tunes. Harry Potter joined their lineup last year. In a phone interview with GeekFold, creative director and founder Danielle Nicole said she’s always been a fan of the series and Rowling herself “as a woman and entrepreneur and how she created this mega franchise and then company.”
“I think the storytelling behind Harry Potter is really magical and connects with every age,” she said.
The opportunity to work with Warner Bros. came after Nicole’s successful Disney princess line. According to Nicole they approached her about working together, saying J.K. Rowling was on board with it. Nicole said yes and told GeekFold it’s been a dream come true since. The resulting releases have included a range of styles like backpacks, pouches, crossbody bags, and clutches. The four Hogwarts houses, characters like Harry Potter and Luna Lovegood, and other iconic images like the Night Bus and the Hogwarts Express have all offered inspiration for Nicole’s products. Nicole also recently released a line inspired by the Horcruxes that is exclusively available at BoxLunch.
“Next season for spring 2019, because we release two collections a year, we’re focusing more on the schools themselves and quidditch that will kind of have a sporty feel and look,” she said.
For Nicole, working on this license compared to the others has been similar in that it’s a team effort where everyone brings their best ideas forward. It certainly seems that Warner Bros. cares about the brand and about working with companies to create their products. Both Osburn and Nicole said Warner Bros. is involved in their respective processes while working on a line. Nicole said they’re involved in every step, from the beginning when looking at art to her team submitting designs to them, who then shares them with Rowling for approval, before sending them back to Nicole. For Osburn it’s been great working with the company and their supportive team, who offer advice but allow them “to be creative and design garments that are iconic to Harry Potter, yet also uniquely BlackMilk.”
Jewelry brand Alex and Ani has also had a positive experience working with Warner Bros. Colleen Fugere, Alex and Ani’s vice president of brand licensing and partnerships, told GeekFold in an email interview that working with the company is a rewarding, collaborative experience as they work closely for their collections in all steps, from providing assets to the approval process.
“We have been to their HQ to brainstorm ideas for the collection, strategize marketing and social opportunities to bring back to our team. Their licensing, merchandising, design, and marketing departments understand our brand and the thoughtfulness that goes into bringing each piece to life,” she said.
Alex and Ani’s journey to Harry Potter began after their work on the Wonder Woman collection was a success. Fugere met the company’s director of domestic licensing Corrie Nibarger at the 2016 LIMA Licensing Expo. Moving into Harry Potter was a natural next step according to Fugere, both for the company and their fans.
“As Alex and Ani helps our customers tell their own story through symbols and meaningful pieces, we wanted to provide the same experience for Harry Potter fans,” Fugere told GeekFold. “With elements of magic, storytelling, overcoming adversity, and understanding the power of love and friendship, the Harry Potter symbols and story fit perfectly within our brand, and provide powerful connections for our fans and Harry Potter fans to come together and celebrate such a beloved book.”
Describing Alex and Ani as “a meaning-based company,” Fugere said it’s why they highlight symbols like the Deathly Hallows and Harry’s glasses in their pieces. They can combine their “ethos of thoughtfully-crafted pieces with well-loved symbols from Harry Potter.” This can be seen in their necklaces, bracelets, and rings that reference spells, characters, images, and familiar quotes. They also offer limited-edition pieces like their Boy Who Lived two tone charm bracelet.
“As fans of the Harry Potter series ourselves, it’s very exciting to create these designs. They start as hand-drawn sketches by our in-house jewelry designers. From there, we worked closely with Warner Bros. to bring these sketches to life in jewelry form. It’s a balance between representing Warner Bros. brand and our own,” she said.
For Fugere, the move from just shirts and clothing to accessories and jewelry in Potter fashion over the years has been great to see.
“As the Harry Potter generation gets older, their tastes and trends begin to change. Adult fans are looking for more subtle pieces that can be worn as daily reminders of their love for the story. It’s been great to respond to that need, especially with our precious metal pieces in our collection,” she said. “We also launched our lapel house pins collection as well, which is a great way for fans to rep their house pride on bags or jackets in addition to the earrings, necklaces, and bracelets we’ve created.”
The changes in Harry Potter fashion are not going to stop anytime soon. As fans continue to grow older and new elements of the franchise are added, Harry Potter fashion will continue to evolve. Outside fashion trends will also play a role, as noted by Nicole.
“Right now you see a lot of sporty trends going on and they’re a lot more wearable so fashion is really on that trend and I think Harry Potter is great because it lends itself to that,” she explained.
There’s still lots to come in the immediate future too, as indicated by BlackMilk and Nicole with their upcoming releases. Alex and Ani has more in store as well.
“Our fans will be thrilled to get a sneak peek of our Time-Turner necklace, a set of three bangles inspired by the spell Expecto Patronum, and a lariat-style necklace and pull-chain bracelet featuring Harry’s glasses, all launching for holiday 2018,” Fugere said. “In addition, we are working with the Fantastic Beasts franchise to create a limited-edition collection around the new movie in our holiday collection.”
All of this doesn’t begin to touch on the creativity of fans themselves of course. Fans are crafting, sewing, and designing their own apparel and accessories as well to wear every day or to conventions to show off their love for Harry Potter. Whether you’re doing that or turning to one of these brands to add some magic to your style, there’s no denying it’s an exciting time to be a Potterhead. With all the ways you can show your Potter fandom in fashion, we can’t wait to see what will be released next.
What’s your favorite Harry Potter fashion? Share with us in the comments!
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