Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang have been icons for generations. What makes them so enduring is that we can relate to them in many ways. At some time or another, we have all been a Charlie Brown– forever depressed and unable to see the good around him. Or a Lucy– just trying to make her way in a man’s world. On our best days, we can only hope to be a Linus–a philosopher and a dreamer who never gave up on the Great Pumpkin. If we’re lucky we can sometimes be Snoopy and go on wild adventures (even if they are only in our imagination.)
To be an adventurer, one needs a wardrobe to match and the elite of the fashion world have been inspired by Snoopy and his fashionista sister Belle to accept the challenge. Since 2014 over 30 designers have contributed to the “Snoopy & Belle in Fashion” exhibit, a traveling show that has made its way across the globe. The exhibit is travelling across the United States this summer before heading back to Europe in the fall. I recently talked to Jill Schulz about her father, Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, and the traveling show.
How did the Snoopy & Belle in Fashion exhibit come about?
Snoopy & Belle in Fashion is a contemporary re-imagining of an earlier project that debuted in 1984 when a Peanuts executive contacted the world’s most famous couturiers to create original one-of-a-kind outfits for both Snoopy and Belle plush dolls. The result was a fabulous collection from such designers as Karl Lagerfeld, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Thierry Mugler, Oscar De La Renta, Giorgio Armani, L.L. Bean, Bob Mackie and Sonia Rykiel. The show premiered at The Louvre, and went on to tour The L.A. County Museum, and throughout Europe and Asia.
Fast forward to 2014 when Peanuts Worldwide decided to re-imagine the exhibit for today’s fashion-forward fans. We now have more than 30 different designers on-board. Some of them, like Betsey Johnson and Diane Von Furstenberg, were part of the original ‘80s exhibit. Others, such as Isaac Mizrahi, Rachel Zoe and Zac Posen, are new to the line-up. Their designs are all featured on 10” vinyl Snoopy and Belle dolls.
Snoopy & Belle in Fashion debuted at New York Fashion Week in 2014 and then went on an international tour that lasted for three years. This year, we’ve brought it up back to America where it is now on tour to six different cities around the country.
Were you surprised at the number of designers that signed on to this project?
Yes and no. We knew there were many artists and designers out there who have an affinity for Peanuts. I mean, Charlie Brown’s zig-zag shirt has been inspiring fashionistas for years! But we’re still amazed at the level of energy and passion each designer brings to his/her creations.
There are so many great ones and I like them all for different reasons. Out of the memories of the 80’s, living in LA and wearing Betsey Johnson all the time, I gravitate towards her designs more. So I would say Betsey Johnson just out of loyalty, but they’re all so great. It’s hard to have a particular favorite.
Do you consider yourself a fashionista?
Actually, no I am not, as I pretty much wear black all the time… However, I do appreciate fashion and would like to have the time and skills to know how to embrace the looks of these designers.
Will there be additional dates & places? I posted it on FB and people commented that they are disappointed that it is not coming near them.
The exhibit will be in five more US cities, Denver, Sarasota, Nashville, Fairfax, and NYC and then head back overseas. Considering the original dolls from the 1980’s have never really stopped touring, it’s hard to say when these will end their travels.
I believe the one thing that makes Peanuts so timeless and relevant to people these days is that the topics in the strip cover things that we all relate to and experience regardless of our generation: Losing the game, the sibling rivalry, bullies, Snoopy’s imagination and more. These are all things which the Peanuts characters experience, and all generations past and present will and do as well.
What was it like growing up Schulz?
First and foremost, he was just my Dad. When I was very young, of course, the scope of the Peanuts products was not nearly as global as it has become now. We grew up in the country and lived a small town lifestyle for the most part. However, of course, there were fun opportunities throughout the years of special events, and meeting people who we may not have the chance to do in other circumstances. Drawing the comic strip was the single most important thing to my Dad. He always taught me that the most important thing is to find a passion to wake up to every day, and to enjoy the process of what you do. He never drew the strip for the purpose of becoming famous, he drew it because that is what he was good at and had an obsession and passion for. Everything that came along with that was just an added bonus, which of course he greatly appreciated and was able to meet many amazing people and have some really great experiences along the way, of which his family was able to enjoy with him as well.
Do you have a favorite Peanuts character? Why?
Snoopy. Because of his imagination, and how he is a free spirit and embrace life to its fullest, even though all of his adventures actually happen from the top of his doghouse in reality. I think we all have a bit of that in us.
What is your fondest memory from your childhood?
We lived in the country, and all the neighborhood kids would come over to play in the summers. I loved waking up to the sound of sprinklers in the mornings, and also the warm summer evening with my Dad playing baseball with my brother and his friends, my other brother on his mini bike, and my sister Amy & I having sleepovers and riding our horses all day long through the apple orchards. We also had many rescue pets, 16 cats, 6 horses and 5 dogs even at one point. During the week, there was a time when my Dad had his studio on our property at home, and we would ride up to the door on our ponies, and come in mid-day and check in to see what he was drawing that day. He always took time to stop and talk with us no matter what kind of work deadline he was on in getting the strips finished. We would read them in process. And often he would say “Is it funny”?
What does the future hold for Snoopy and the gang?
The most important thing to our family is to maintain the integrity of our father’s legacy, yet at the same time continue to create more opportunities with the Peanuts brand to increase the visibility of the characters in order to introduce Peanuts to new generations. I feel we are working on ways to also make the products and media-related elements with the characters available and relevant to the current generation.
The only one certainty is that no one else will ever draw the strip.