Fantasy Meets Fashion: Exploring the Rise of Anime-Inspired and Cartoonified Design

Loewe X Studio Ghibli 'Howl's Moving Castle' collaboration at Selfridges (image credit: Selfridges)

Anime and design are two powerful forces that have been intertwining in recent years, creating an explosive and innovative fusion that is taking the fashion industry by storm.


From Gucci’s flora campaign, Jujutsu Kaisen X Dolce & Gabana, Sailor Moon X Jimmy Choo, and most recently Loewe’s ‘Howls Moving Castle’ collaboration with studio Ghibli, anime has made its mark across the luxury fashion-verse.

With its striking visuals, fantastical storytelling, and unique aesthetics, anime has become a source of inspiration for designers all around the world. From high fashion to streetwear, anime-inspired designs are popping up everywhere, injecting virality and fantasy into the world of design. At Formroom we have been thinking about this trend, and what it means for wider influences in spacial design and more.

Like everything we do, we like to analyse and try to understand the cultural criteria that inform a trend. As usual, the conditions are pretty complex to untangle, but here’s a few contributing factors to this unique crossover:

The merging of design worlds:

One reason for the rise of anime and luxury fashion collaborations is the movement towards luxury brands rolling out global campaigns that incorporate a range of art forms. Collaborations like Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama have shown that art forms have global reach, and can appeal to a broad audience. By partnering with anime franchises, luxury brands are tapping into a global phenomenon that brings us all together, regardless of our backgrounds or cultural differences.

The 90s:

The recent popularisation of this era and notion of Y2K have also played a significant role. Y2K has been ruled one of the most influential styles on Gen-Z fashion in recent years – another growing luxury market, particularly in the East. The decade was characterized by a distinctive ‘cyber’ aesthetic,  often seen in anime and manga.

Globalism and new markets:

As markets become more receptive and familiar to a range of concepts, luxury brands are seeking out new and exciting collaborations that appeal to a broader audience. The Asia Pacific region is the biggest luxury fashion market globally, and the popularity of anime and manga in this region has made it an attractive target for luxury brands, in combination to a collective looking to Japan for tastemakers when it comes to design creating collections that fuse the East and West.

Subcultures informing culture:

Anime and manga have long been associated with subcultures, and their popularity has had a significant impact on mainstream culture. By collaborating with anime studios, luxury brands are tapping into this influence, and creating collections that speak to a broader audience, and differentiating themselves creatively from the ‘mainstream’. Another factor is the popularity of cosplay – with self expression and gender fluidity on the rise, cosplay is an important driver in the world of non-binary identities. Cartoon characters have become an important part of our cultural lexicon, and are often used to convey complex ideas and emotions in a playful and accessible way.

Cartoonisation & escapism:

In a world where images are constantly being shared and re-shared online, designers are looking for ways to create designs that are instantly recognizable and shareable. Take MSCHF’s infamously viral red boot, for example – cartoonification allows designers to create designs that are highly visual and have a strong impact on social media platforms.

Left: Loewe’s S/S23 includes cartoonified and ‘pixelated’ pieces, Right: MSCHF’s infamous viral ‘red boot’ takes the internet by storm

Casa Loewe, London (Image Credit: LOEWE)

What does this mean for spacial design?

Just as some of the endlessly creative concepts we’ve seen translated into clothes, the possibilities are just as exciting when we consider commercial environments related to this trend. Borrowing from the visual language of fantasy, bright colours, fantastical props, imagined worlds, floating elements and zero gravity environments, looking to the world of cartoon and anime can provide vital inspiration for exciting new interiors concepts.