Set to commence on September 20, the 2022 edition of Brand Licensing Europe (BLE) is expected to play host to more than 215 exhibiting brands and thousands of retailers, manufacturers and designers from across the U.K., Europe and beyond. The three-day event, organized by Informa Markets, will be held at ExCeL London.
In its 22nd year, BLE has “evolved in line with the licensing industry, which has not only grown—it’s now worth $315 billion globally—but also grown up,” says Anna Knight, senior VP of licensing at Informa Markets. “Licensing is a million miles away from the ‘logo slapping’ from decades ago; it is now focused on creating responsible, considered, authentic and purposeful consumer products for fans worldwide.”
A primary aim of the 2022 event is to offer an opportunity for those within the licensing industry to network and have conversations that will meaningfully impact their business, according to Knight. “Those conversations may be around IP in meetings with brands, there may be knowledge sharing during one of BLE’s brilliant educational sessions—which include a keynote from Mattel President and COO Richard Dickson—or they could take place in one of our many lively networking events,” says Knight.
According to Knight, the biggest category in the industry at present remains character and entertainment, but its dominance is not what it used to be, as the brands and lifestyle category has evolved and expanded.
The theme for this year’s BLE is fashion, and as Knight notes, collaborations in the fashion and licensing space have been around since the 1930s and have only become more prevalent over the succeeding decades. She points to such collaborations as Stan Smith x The Muppets, Vans x Crayola, Marvel and Van Gogh Museum, Doctor Martens x The National Gallery and Vendula x Queen and the recent trend of luxury design houses working with mass-market brands and how they’ve become keener to work with licensing characters as in the Gucci x Disney and Peanuts x Lacoste collaborations.
“Fashion licensing is creative, dynamic, exciting and always pushing boundaries,” says Knight. “At BLE, we’ll have nine spectacular catwalk shows, including Collabs, Food & Beverage; Kids, Culture & Unity, which will feature the Black Lives Matter Movement and spotlight Black-owned businesses and the LGBT community; and the Sustainability Catwalk with Products of Change, Junk Kouture and United Nations.”
There will also be product showcases on display near the catwalk and in the main entrances featuring products modeled in the shows. Further, the License Global Theatre will feature several fashion-focused sessions and the Barbie x Fashion keynote, and the Products of Change team will be on hand to provide free sustainability advice.
On the third and final day of BLE, sustainability and diversity, equity and inclusion will be put in focus as the event will spotlight new and diverse brands and voices. “Through partnerships with Products of Change, Licensing International, Black Lives Matter Licensing as well as Junk Kouture, the United Nations and many brands, all aspects of our final day program will aim to educate, inspire and invite action within the brand licensing community,” says Knight.
In addition to the sustainability and DEI catwalks and Products of Change advice clinics, there will be a sustainability case study with Catrina O’Brien, Hasbro’s head of retail for EurAsia; the Kelvyn Gardner License This! final; the panel keynote The Good Fight: How Purpose Breeds Success; The BLE & POC Sustainability Café; and the attendance of the Black Lives Matter Licensing team.
What Knight wants most to be known about this year’s BLE, in addition to the bountiful networking to be had at its four branded cafes and bars, is that “we are committed to helping this industry to move forward in a purposeful, authentic and positive way that will help people, change products and save the planet.”