BLE 2016: Oxford University's Chris Evans on why licensing is key to the institution

Since teaming up with Brandsdistribution.com for a new apparel line, Oxford University now has plans to expand its fashion offering even further. Here, Chris Evans, MD of Oxford Ltd, reveals how successful the Oxford furniture range and wallpaper collections have proved and why licensing is vital to the brand.
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Will we be seeing you guys at BLE 2016?

Yes we will be represented at the show by our UK and European agent, Global Icons on stand N100. We’ve put together a lookbook show reel which showcases licensed products across key categories – apparel, back-to-school and home – and will no doubt be sharing the news of the University’s recently announced number one status in the world university rankings.

How vital are these types of events to help expand your licensing offering?

You can’t beat a trip to Oxford to get licensees excited about the programme, however events like BLE do create a focus for the brand and provide a good opportunity for review and planning, as well as meeting existing and prospective licensees.

For the 2016 show, we will be meeting with potential partners in the back-to-school and homeware categories, as well as fashion accessories to accompany the apparel range that will be launched across Europe on the Brandsdistribution.com B2B platform this autumn.

How important is licensing to the University?

First and foremost, the University's core area of excellence is academic teaching and research; however, licensing is important to Oxford as it provides trademark protection and control of the brand across merchandise and consumer products.

The licensing programme is also important to the University’s museums, libraries, gardens, sports clubs and many of the colleges as it helps to raise their profile and that of their collections and archives if content is used for product development. The royalties generated by the licensing programme are returned to content partners and the central University to support teaching and research.

Can you tell me a bit about your latest apparel deal with Brandsdistribution.com? 

We’re thrilled to be working with such a dynamic and innovative apparel partner. We signed the five-year deal with Brandsdistribution.com in May to produce and distribute an Oxford branded clothing line. The first collection of menswear designs featuring college and University branding will launch this autumn to a network of 110,000 registered retailers via the Brandsdistribution.com B2B portal.

The collegiate-style collection features key sports inspired pieces such as t-shirts, polo shirts, sweatshirts and track pants through to smarter Oxford essentials including shirts, trousers, sweaters, jackets and coats.

What other licensing deals do you have in the pipeline that you can shout about?

We have a new European stationery partner who is currently developing designs for launch next year and a potential gift licensee interested in supporting this range with complementary product. A B2C e-commerce proposition is also in the later stages of negotiation, which would create a flagship lifestyle platform for the Oxford brand.

Existing licensees whose success also deserves recognition include the Paper Partnership who launched the second volume of Oxford wallcovering designs, and the first Oxford textile range to much media interest at Decorex last month.

Are there any new categories you hope to break into in the future?

With a strong apparel partner in Europe, we are naturally interested in exploring fashion accessory categories such as footwear and optical. Also, the success of the Oxford furniture range and wallpaper collections has created an opportunity for us to explore the homeware category including bedlinen and home furnishing.

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