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These were the guidelines laid out in one of Minnie's first big promotions around #MinnieStyle, a branding move that is tying Minnie and fashion together in as many ways as possible. The promotion awarded two people who concocted the most stylish Minnie-themed outfits with tickets to three days worth of New York Fashion Week in September 2015. At NYFW, Refinery 29 collaborated with Disney on a Minnie-themed installation and the @MinnieStyle Instagram account was born. Seven months later, the account has over 63,000 followers.
In the past couple of months, Disney has been carving out a larger space for Minnie in fashion with dizzying speed. In roughly the same amount of time that it takes for H&M to sufficiently hype one designer collaboration, Minnie launched a street-style-heavy Instagram account, churned out over half a dozen collaborations with a variety of fashion and beauty brands, and popped up at three different fashion weeks across the globe.
Minnie has a history of high-profile fashion collaborations — a Comme des Garçons show in 2007, a somewhat controversial Barneys collab in 2012, a Love cover in 2013 — but this time around, Disney's pouring a ton of resources into building out the #MinnieStyle movement for more of a mass audience. Through brands like Sephora and Lauren Conrad's line for Kohl's, Disney is connecting with a huge consumer base ready to scoop up cute Minnie-branded everything, from dresses, shoes, and bags to bow-shaped compact mirrors and tubes of lipstick with Minnie's signature embossed on the side.
After the initial Minnie Style launch at NYFW, Minnie followed the fashion crowd to London Fashion Week, where Disney had orchestrated a "Minnie: Style Icon" photography exhibit in partnership with the British Fashion Council. Georgia May Jagger served as guest curator and promoter for the event, appearing on the cover of Dazed a few months before the exhibit in Minnie-themed outfits custom made for the shoot.
In December, Minnie launched one, small luxury fashion collaboration — six sets of ears designed by Missoni, retailing at $150 per pair. The collab was only sold in two boutiques inside the Four Seasons Resort Orlando. But, aside from the Missoni ears, every collaboration Minnie has launched so far falls squarely in the guaranteed-collab-success intersection of cute and wearable at an accessible price point.
The push into Minnie-branded collections really ramped up in January, when Disney kicked off a spree of collaborations with a "Rock the Dots" launch event (which took place on National Polka Dot Day, of course) hosted by Sarah Hyland.
One of the main attractions at the Rock the Dots event was the custom dress that Christian Siriano designed for Minnie: a "downtown-chic" affair that included Swarovski-crystal embellished bows. When the exhibition opened to the public, the dress was on display alongside key pieces from a ton of upcoming collaborations: a second Minnie x Lauren Conrad collection for Kohl's, Minnie x Ugg for January, Minnie x Kate Spade scheduled for March, and a Minnie x Sephora makeup line which just hit stores in April. Smaller-scale collabs have since popped up as well: Minnie x Jamberry nail wraps in February, and a Harveys bag collection in March that sold out as soon as it went live.
"With each collaboration our goal is to stay true to the DNA of both brands, while delivering something truly unique and authentic to Minnie's style and personality," Soo Koo, VP of product development at Disney, tells Racked in an email. "We look to collaborate with like-minded brands that are a natural fit for our beloved characters. Our recent collaboration with kate spade new york is the perfect example, as Kate Spade and Minnie Mouse are both known for bows and polka dots, and their classic feminine style."
Minnie jumped back on the fashion week circuit last month, too, to show support for four separate Minnie-themed collections that went down the runway at Shanghai Fashion Week. The designers involved in the project, Ji Cheng, Han Lulu, Cindy Soong, and Makin Ma, all enthusiastically endorsed Minnie as a great muse for fashion, describing her in statements as "a close girlfriend" who manages a balance of "independence and femininity" and is a "fun fashion icon for a metropolitan woman like me."
"From her early pill-box flower hat, which inspired ladies' hat trends, to her famous bow and ears, Minnie has been looked to for style inspiration since her inception," Koo explains. "Her signature style has inspired both everyday street style as well as high fashion collections seen in runway shows across the globe."
Disney has paired other characters with various fashion brands for collaborations — Uniqlo launched its "Magic For All" Disney-themed collection last fall, Vans has a longstanding partnership with Disney, and Tinkerbell recently launched a collection of clothes with Nation LTD. Disney chronicles all of this on its Disney Style blog, which it launched in November 2014 "to serve as the ‘official voice' of Disney's fashion story," according to a spokesperson.
But Minnie is the first to nab her own Instagram account to document polka-dot-themed street style, and her recent collaborations with Sephora and Kate Spade rolled out on a much larger scale compared to most of Disney's fashion collabs. "Since Minnie's style has such broad appeal, Instagram is a great platform to connect with fans who love fashion and all things Minnie," notes the spokesperson in an email. For now, Minnie is the only character to have her own style-focused social media channel, although Disney Style also has its own Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, and Snapchat accounts, and Disney also runs the @StyledbyMarvel Instagram account documenting superhero-themed fashion.
"[Minnie Mouse] is the original," Michelle Richard, the blogger behind Disney Fashionista, tells Racked. "She's been around the longest. She's Mickey's right hand mouse. She's always been a trendsetter and she's stayed true to what her fashion is — the polka dots and the bows. And they're really easy to put into a wardrobe. It's easy for everyone to love, whether you love Disney or not."
Richard is a pediatric nurse from North Carolina who started Disney Fashionista in her spare time about a year and a half ago. "I was trying to find something unique, like I love Disney, I love fashion, I love travel," she says. "Ok, well, what hasn't been plugged to death? Disney and fashion, so let's go that route."
It helps that Disney, too, wants to have a larger presence in fashion. Richard estimates that the blog has grown by 40 percent just since the beginning of the year, due mostly to Minnie's constant stream of collaboration announcements. At one point, Richard was cooking up an idea for an April Fool's post based on a fake Minnie collab but didn't go through with it for fear that the collab would actually materialize later in the year.
Richard has heard rumors of an upcoming Coach collection, and predicts that there will be plenty more before the end of the year. "Is Michael Kors going to jump on the bandwagon? Who knows," Richard says. "I think he'd be silly not to, to be perfectly honest." (The following week, pictures surfaced on Disney Fashionista of Minnie x Michael Kors totes, although Michael Kors confirmed to Racked that they were counterfeits.)
Disney didn't comment on any specific plans, but Koo notes that "there will be other designer collaborations in the near future as Minnie continues to Rock the Dots."
Sararose Krenger also saw that same gap in the market for Disney fashion lovers and launched her blog, Dressed in Disney, in spring 2014. Krenger and the site’s team of bloggers reached out to Disney last year to talk about Disney’s fashion presence, and was bowled over when Disney actually responded.
"We love Disney and we really wanted to see Disney grow in the fashion realm," says Krenger, who owns a women's clothing boutique, Sararose On Oak, in Chicago. "We wanted the fashion industry to take Disney Style seriously. So we reached out and we were really surprised and excited when we heard back from the executives over in Burbank."
Again, fashion collaborations are not new to Disney, but Krenger realized that unless you knew where to look, the merchandise mostly fell under the radar.
"We saw that there were these pretty cool collaborations but they were kind of lacking in getting to the correct target market," says Krenger. "No one really knew about them unless you're really doing your research. We wanted it to be in our inbox or on our phones on a daily basis."
The Kate Spade and Sephora collabs in particular helped put Disney and Minnie in front of a more mainstream consumer base, and Krenger hopes that there are more fashion-forward collections to come.
"I'd love to see these luxury or contemporary brands with a different take other than like, a graphic on a sweatshirt or something like that," says Krenger. "It's fashion — we can definitely do more. But I think the initial [Kate Spade] launch is so cute."
Meanwhile, Krenger and her team keep in touch with Disney, sending over ideas for more Disney and fashion integration when the inspiration hits. On the blog, Dressed in Disney is currently pushing for a Disney Fashion Week to take place at Disney World, right down the middle of Main Street USA.