Clothes emblazoned with cartoons were once the preserve of little girls with a penchant for The Powerpuff Girls and little boys obsessed with Power Rangers. But these days cartoon couture is infiltrating grown-up culture, and adult women are stealing from their little sisters’ wardrobes for the first time.

The partnership between fashion and cartoons has been a longstanding phenomenon in streetwear – brands such as Nike have created everything from hoodies to trainers with comic book and video game characters on them – but the highfashion crowd only decided to join the game recently.

When Tom Ford sent neon-bright cartoon motifs down the AW13 catwalk, he clearly set off a few thought bubbles in the minds of his fellow designers. Six months later Lanvin brought out a dress created for Minnie Mouse, Moschino launched a series of Olive Oyl scarves and Autumn Cashmere designed a collection of jumpers emblazoned with the word ‘POW!’. Then in 2014 Charlotte Olympia released a series of Archie Comics-inspired shoes and bags, while Converse created a collection featuring characters from The Simpsons.

In recent seasons the trend has gathered even more steam. As fashion gets more whimsical and less serious, designers are getting more inspiration from their childhood icons. This animated interpretation of fashion is allowing the industry to step down from its stuffy pedestal and have some sprightly fun with the rest of us. Here are some of our favourite animated collections.

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Moschino + SpongeBob SquarePants, Barbie and The Powerpuff Girls

The designer with the most subversive sense of humour in Milan has naturally got in on the cartoon-inspired fashion act. Moschino, under Jeremy Scott, has become a hub for pop-culture-infused fashion, kicked off by his 2014 SpongeBob SquarePants collaboration, followed by one with Barbie. Last summer it was the turn of our favourite helium-voiced mini-icons, The Powerpuff Girls, who got their fashion debut when Scott launched a collection celebrating Bubbles, Blossom and Buttercup and doing their POW! thing on jackets, bags and one-piece swimming costumes. See Moschino’s other iconic fashion looks.

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Gucci + Donald Duck

Our year got off to a bang when Donald Duck made an unexpected appearance in Gucci’s AW17 menswear. Man of the moment Alessandro Michele created a collection based on the cultural journeys of the mind, which naturally included our favourite talking fowl, who was knitted onto sweater vests and emblazoned on the back of jackets.

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Coach + Mickey Mouse

Coach creative director Stuart Vevers is a self-proclaimed Disney freak who happily picks trips to Orlando theme parks over cruises in the Mediterranean. This year Vevers has brought his two great loves together in a limited-edition Disney collection for Coach. Disney x Coach recently released a series of handbags, purses and totes featuring a certain talking mouse and his polka-dot-dressed girlfriend. ‘We did Mickey, the icon,’ says Vevers. ‘It’s America’s leather house with America’s mouse.’ The key to styling these newly minted animated fashion icons is to keep the rest of your outfit sleek and chic. Remember you’re a fashion insider, not an extra at Disneyland. So pair a Coach Disney Mickey Mouse tote with an understated navy or black dress.

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Fendi + Monster Eyes

While they might not represent an actual character, there is something distinctly animated about Fendi’s embroidered Monster Eyes Peekaboo handbags. Made from the finest Finnish leather, they look like a typically chic European handbag, until the side flaps fall down and you’re given an eyeful of embroidery resembling Haunter, the ghost Pokémon. If you’re wary of pickpockets, get yourself one of these all-seeing backpacks and nobody will dare touch your stuff again.

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Givenchy + Bambi

Givenchy taught us all how to combine cartoon couture with biker chic, in a pairing nobody saw coming. In 2013 Riccardo Tisci sent models down the runway in oversized Bambi-printed sweatshirts with leather trousers and translucent skirts. And for the recent Resort17 collection, Tisci has again taken the same motif and incorported Bambi into Givenchy’s line of accessories. So the moral of the story is, if you want to be on top of next year’s trends, there’s no need to flick through Vogue: just switch on Cartoon Network or the Disney Channel and you’ll be at the forefront of fashion.

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