Pokémon series and spin-off films continue to garner the attention of not just children but adults across the world. This has led to some of the best Pokémon collaborations between the company and fashion houses, food chains and esteemed artists. From McDonald’s Happy Meals to Pikachu-themed shoes by Converse and Puma, these collaborations used revered Pokémon characters and paid homage to one of the biggest media franchises in the world in the most creative ways. But how did it all begin?
The Pokémon franchise made its mark in Japan with the Gen 1 Pokémon Red and Green role-playing games in 1996, and the first television series was released the following year. In 1998, it garnered global fame with the release of Pokémon Red and Blue on the Nintendo Game Boy. After such successes, the highest-earning franchise celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2021.
Some of the best Pokémon collaborations in the history of the franchise
Daniel Arsham’s Pokémon sculptures
The first Daniel Arsham x Pokémon collection was launched in 2020 in Tokyo, and it invited viewers to the American artist’s concept of “fictional archaeology” of various Pokémon icons. Although the sculptures might seem dilapidated and eroded at a glance, a closer look reveals a theme of unearthing Pokémon a thousand years later.
Titled Relics in Kanto Time, the first collaboration featured Pokémon sculptures across famous Shibuya art galleries, Nanzuka and Parco Museum Tokyo. Since then, the two have collaborated twice — in 2021, the Time Dilation collection was held at Perrotin in New York and the recent 2022 drop A Ripple In Time (pictured) was held at three Nanzuka spaces, a public art exhibition at Roppongi Hills’ 66 Plaza, and a garden inside Sogetsu Plaza.
“Arsham’s sculptural works made of materials such as pyrite, selenite, volcanic ash, glass, obsidian, growler rocks, crystal, and bronze, invite viewers on a journey through time,” mentions the collaboration website.
Commenting on the 2022 collaboration, Arsham said, “I grew up with Pokémon and collected the cards when I was young. It’s something that is also present in the childhood of my children. They love Pokémon now, and I think that speaks to the universal nature of Pokémon, and the incredible universe of imagination that it has created for me and my own children.”
A Ripple In Time was born out of Arsham’s collaboration with Kunihiko Yuyama, general director of Pokémon the Series (1997). Made at the “strong request of Arsham himself,” this Pokémon collaboration saw the artist go into detailed planning and mapping out every minute element.
Fans in Japan can also buy official collaboration merchandise such as t-shirts, hoodies, mew cards and more here.
Pokémon Fossil Museum by the National Museum of Nature and Science
Collaborations between Pokémon and museums in Japan never fail to create excitement and buzz among anime enthusiasts and fans of the series. In March 2022, the Tokyo National Museum of Nature and Science displayed Pokémon characters in the form of fossils, namely Omanyte, Aerodactyl as well as an excavator Pikachu.
Fossil Pokémon has always been a part of the main game series since its inception with the first generation, and the characters are based on dinosaurs. Therefore, to make the visit to the museum more interesting, the Tokyo National Museum of Nature and Science created the Pokémon Fossil Museum.
It is an installation of these fictional figures with a guide explaining the physiology and characteristics of the dinosaurs and prehistoric plants they are based on.
The exhibits of the Pokémon Fossil Museum started at Mikasa City Museum in Hokkaido in July 2021 and travelled to the National Museum of Nature Science in March 2022. This was followed by stops at the Toyohashi Museum of Natural History from July to November and the Oita Prefectural Art Museum from December to January 2023.
In 2022, the Pokémon Fossil Museum was also made accessible virtually and can be viewed here. This enables fans from all over the world to catch their favourite Pokémon on their smartphone, computer or VR set.
Pokémon x New Era collaboration
One of the best Pokémon collaborations with a streetwear brand, the 2020 Pokémon x New Era summer partnership released a collection of eight bold t-shirts and shorts as well as 12 fitted and dad caps. Every merchandise is heavily inspired by Pikachu, the Pokémon that can create surges of electric energy and bears a black-and-yellow colour theme.
While the caps feature its thunderbolt tail and the apparel label’s initials are in red, the t-shirts carry Poké ball designs.
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Pokémon x McDonald’s collaboration
Pokémon and McDonald’s are two brands that transcend all age barriers. Hence, their collaboration is not surprising. They joined hands to create a Pikachu-themed McDonald’s Happy Meal that includes Pokémon toys.
Between 2011 and 2021, the fast-food giant and the anime gaming series had eight Pokémon card promotions in the US where fans could lay their hands on these unique collectables. Buyers of McDonald’s Happy Meals would get the cards for free, with some of them being pretty rare. This made them valuable in the secondary market at the time of release.
Marking the 25th anniversary of Pokémon in 2021, McDonald’s unveiled a special collection with three Pokémon cards from all eight generations, including Squirtle and Pikachu. The following year saw the release of another Pokémon trading card game set and toy collection, which were available across many countries.
Fans who purchased a Happy Meal through mid-September 2022 would get everything required to host a Match Battle with friends. They could engage in a competition of coin flipping and spinning or have fun with numbers with Pikachu, Rowlet and Gossifleur.
Each box contained a 4-Card Booster (each booster pack containing one foil card), an instruction sheet, a coin, a spinner and a card box. A Pikachu-themed Happy Meal box with ears popping out simply nailed the collaboration.
Singapore also saw some really fun Pokémon packaging — Charizard-wrapped McPepper burger, a pulut hitam pie in an Eevee cover and a Teh C frappé in Pikachu or Scorbunny printed cups.
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Pokémon x PUMA collaboration
Pokémon has inspired many memorable shoes and sneaker collections with renowned global labels. And the Pokémon x PUMA collection is the perfect marriage between the streetwear athleisure house and the anime series.
In November 2022, PUMA went back to the origins of Pokémon in Japan’s Kanto and released an eye-catching line of sneakers, t-shirts, hoodies, beanies and backpacks. All these were inspired by Pikachu, as well as Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle.
The Bulbasaur Rider FV for kids in a leaf-green colour scheme has its own sporty theme. Be the best-dressed trainer in town with the vibrantly coloured Charmander Slipstream; while a pair of Squirtle Suede Classics showcase bold and cool aquatic colours with a hint of Squirtle’s charm.
And of course, add a touch of yellow and the charm of Pikachu to your closet with the Pikachu RS-Xyellow.
While the inside of the shoes features a Pokémon (Pichu for Pikachu), different sole designs are created to align with the respective Pokémon. Every pair of footwear also bears a symbol on its back and a feature of that Pokémon character.
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Converse x Pokémon collaboration
Another head-turning footwear drop came in May 2022 when Pokémon joined forces with Converse for an All-Star range of Pikachu, Eevee, Charizard and Mewtwo footwear. The high-top shoes reflect the colour palette of these characters — canary yellow, mustard yellow, orange and grey-purple, respectively.
The collection is also available for kids’ which has colourful shoes with a smart velcro closing strap. Cute Pokémon motifs and similar colourways to represent Pikachu, Eevee, Piplup and Mew make them a coveted pair of shoes for any child. Additionally, the collection of low-top neon shoes comprises black or white trainers with a Pikachu design on the side. It even glows in the dark.
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Pokémon x Crocs collaboration
In October 2022, The Pokémon Company International, Inc., a subsidiary of Japan’s Pokémon Company, unveiled a new Pokémon collaborative with American footwear giant Crocs.
Besides a choice of four pairs of footwear, the collection also has a number of Jibbitz charms. The blending of features of the Japanese franchise and the clogs make it one of the best Pokémon collaborations for both adults and kids.
Inspired by the favourite characters — Charmander, Bulbasaur, Squirtle and Pikachu — the clogs are replete with fun patterns and graphics. From a yellow-red-black colour gradient to a white base silhouette with Pokémon faces on top in clogs and sandals, these crocs are light and breezy.
Additionally, the Jibbitz collection has a small Pikachu face motif, a Pikachu tail design, two Poke balls and a Pikachu silhouette.
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Pokémon x Balmain collaboration
Although McDonald’s Happy Meals, the National Museum of Nature and Science in Japan, New Era and more make up for some amazing Pokémon collaborations for the masses, the famous franchise fused cult and couture by partnering with Balmain in 2022 to create a line of premium high-fashion designs.
Olivier Rousteing, the creative director of the French label, is known for pushing the boundaries in classic French silhouettes and incorporating bold ideas. The Pokémon range comes as a natural extension of the same as its website states, “Surprising as the pairing may be, it does make perfect sense—for Balmain and Pokémon share an uncommonly bold and adventurous outlook.”
The Balmain x Pokémon capsule ushers in a new reimagined take on the brand’s slouched hoodies and sleek sneakers. Its characteristic ‘labyrinth’ motif, which pays homage to the franchise’s ’90s video game heritage, appears on sweaters, tank tops and t-shirts, available in bright Pokémon colours.
Pikachu is once again a recurring theme. Besides sweats, jackets and oversized tops, Balmain flared track pants also get a Pokémon touch with flame-like designs. Balmain bags have flame-like hangtags and clasps, while B-Bold sneakers are also clad in Pokémon shades.
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Pokémon x Gucci x North Face
In 2020, right before the Christmas holidays, Italian luxury fashion brand Gucci announced an association with American outdoor brand North Face where floral designs on backpacks, hats, footwear, jackets, coats and other accessories appeared.
The products feature Gucci and North Face elements and use sustainable materials and archival fabric. Even the two logos are imbibed together with Gucci’s red and green stripes broken in three parts under North Face’s curved lines.
However, Pokémon’s features are not part of the collection’s design or theme. In 2021, the labels launched the products in the virtual world with avatars on the Pokémon Go app, flaunting them on their adventures. They can be seen wearing these t-shirts and sneakers and carrying backpacks with matching hats.
While players could pick these items from Poké Stops spread across the world in Europe, the USA, Africa and Asia, they could also make in-app purchases because of rising COVID-19 cases at the time.
Pokémon x Medicom Be@rbrick
In 2020, Medicom Toys joined hands with Pokémon for a bright yellow Pikachu Be@rbrick figurine. The drop comes in two sizes — 100 per cent and 400 per cent.
Including essential Pikachu features, the figurine has black-edged ears, a wink, a black dot as its nose and a cute wavy smile. The face also has a bright red circle on each cheek and the rest of the body is plain yellow. However, a Pokémon Center logo and Pikachu’s thunderbolt tail are drawn at the back.
You can have fun placing the figurine in various poses and moving the hands, legs and waist.
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Pokémon x Oreo collaboration
In 2021, the cookie company teamed up with Pokémon for a limited-edition pack commemorating 25 years of the franchise.
The chocolate-and-vanilla cookie sandwiches came with 16 embossed Pokémon characters. However, not all the characters were in each pack. Regulars like Pikachu, Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle appeared on the chocolate cookie, along with Mew, Pancham and Grookey.
As a promotional step for the Pokémon collaboration, Oreo also set up a huge art installation at LA’s Venice Beach, which was made of 3-D replicas of these limited-edition cookies. Such was the craze that it broke records of other hugely successful Oreo partnerships with Lady Gaga and Game of Thrones.
(Main and feature image credit: Pokémon)