The (farshun) world is knee deep in its obsession with image. Knee-deep in its business of knock offs, designers striving for global viral recognition and the incessant reliance on new technologies and social media to update and establish one brand over another in advertisements centered primarily around visual mediums and the triggers these set off worldwide. It’s all about having a distinct, immediate, light bulb-switching, instantly familiar logo. No logo, no go.
It is all built around clout and followings and likes and hits, but common to the potential success of any brand that comes with all of these pillars of support and the safety in numbers they provide is the logo. Logo-focused designers (which by the way, includes all designers today. If they didn’t feel the need to incorporate logo before, they do now) have permeated the fashion space in 2013, what with the rampant display of quilted bags with interlocking CC’s, Comme des Garcons hearts, Kenzo eyes and tigers, Louis Vuitton luggage, the Valentino rockstud, the Balenciaga brass studded bags paraded on the streets. The success of these brands lies in their tireless efforts to embody their brand holistically – from the tag, to the carry bag, to the perfume, to the show invitation – evidenced through their chosen logo.
Paris Hilton (Celebrity helps… A lot!)Kimmy KSophie Monk Kevin Hart Hailee Steinfeld
Even more successful are those brands that have a permanent signature, still regarded (by myself) as a logo but not necessarily two C’s affixed to a bag – say, Alexander McQueen’s skulls, Alexander Wang’s use of pebbled leather, Josh Goot’s shapely corsets, Christian Louboutin’s red sole, Fendi’s Bag Bugs, Isabel Marant’s Beckett sneakers. These are supremely successful brands in that when you see a girl walking down the street, you instantly recognize their image. I mean, Isabel Marant not only revolutionized the sneaker by adding an inbuilt heel and making the sport shoe cool again, she’s running out of stock at $700 a pair. When this girl walks down the street, you just know her bag is the Proenza Schouler iconic ps11 or that she’s wearing Marc Jacobs kitten ballet flats. No questions asked. The rest lies in the appeal of this image to the masses, and as soon as one logo has a stronger presence than another, this of course is aided by celebrity, word of mouth, followers, retweets, the designer has won. No logo, no go.
Chanel’s distinct quilted leather and leather & chain straps… Burberry’s tartan pattern… You don’t need to spell it out. You don’t need to scream it out either. You just know. (Chiara Ferragni from The Blonde Salad)The wearing-your-heart-on-your-sleeve virus of 2013… So infectious I even caught on!
Alexander McQueen scarves Those Isabel Marant Beckett sneakers
Perhaps the biggest challenge designers face in promoting image is to combat the increasingly wide, keen marketplace buying the look for less from eager people-pleasers convinced they can outdo the logo. I’m convinced they can’t. The struggle lies again in the buyers’ hands, how much they value the importance of logo (against affordability, clothing quality, what it cost to make vs what exorbitant price tag it carries): considering the social standing a luxury item can suggest, the financial worth it may imply and the symbolic attachments the owner now carries – currency and immediacy, both critical to the fashion industry.
Designers are imprinting their clothes with visual trademarks in hopes to carry them through to their next season, to their next store, to their next paycheck. And it’s working. It’s necessary for designers, and it has become necessary for buyers, too. So it is no wonder it’s a struggle to stay afloat brandished only in a designer life jacket with an inside label no lifeguard can see. We don’t want to have to go looking. It won’t do anymore. No logo, no go.
Look for less… High street giant ZARA’s take on the popular Kenzo tiger sweaterLook for less… Take on Alexander Wang’s famous Rocco bag
The mission of logo is clear, but the message is a difficult thing to understand that I am often torn about. Take for example, the Nike tick logo and pit it against Chanel’s interlocking C’s. Both are two of the most internationally renowned fashion logos, but where one is supposed to appeal to the masses, promote inclusivity and accessible, affordable fashion equality, the other is supposed to suggest exclusivity, expense and selectivity. Which is why I can’t wrap my head around the chase to incorporate logo so heavily into our wardrobes – to pay so much to look the same, to be labeled and recognized instantly and to wear our design of choice on our sleeve, literally. Where did personal style go? Yet I still desire to become a part of it – to share in the interlocking C’s, to cover myself in Kenzo eyes and Comme hearts and Burberry scarves, and then I guess to accessorize it in my own unique way. No logo, no go.
There is also the logo counter-culture that has taken the world by storm provoked most notably by Brian Litchenberg whom I believe, successfully nipped both high-end designers and the look for less marketplace in the bud. Litchenberg really hit the nail on the head on the rapid evolution of image in today’s world with his affordable, clever and witty approach to making logo accessible to an extremely receptive and ever financially concerned generation.
Replicating fonts used by luxury brands, Litchenberg’s success lies in his youth-conscious and humorous adaptations of brand names, for example: using the Hermes logo and transforming it to Homies, Balmain to Ballin, twisting Miu Miu to New New York. Ever since, low-end designers and high street chain giants are manipulating similar logos to market themselves as relevant, cheap alternatives and fashionably-aware companies: taking Hedi Slimane’s recent appointment as creative director of Saint Laurent as inspiration for the globally recognised t-shirt It Aint Laurent without Yves, and poking fun at luxury labels (Givenchy/Giraunchy, Celine/Feline) in a capacity that lures more customers to shop for high-street clothes, brings more money in, enables them to wear their favourite logo and feel a part of or on par with celebrity/high society/magazines and at the same time, turn heads and have people give their outfit a second look.
I own three of these BL t-shirts. Together they cost less than the real thing, but they look the same and they offer funny commentary to onlookers. Plus, ‘it’ girls like Kylie Jenner, Cara Delevingne and Rihanna and I can now look the same. I’ve bought into it. Have you? No logo, no go.
Miley Cyrus… ClothedRiRi Cara, Cara, Cara
Then there is the knock-off thing. Which I hate. Second-hand handbags on offer against fake handbags listed on eBay. Copies made and sold on the streets. The most enticing factor behind these is no doubt the competitive price tags, undone by the probability that behind the $800 bid on that listed item you’re contemplating is a home grown factory throwing some pleather together with craft glue and painting two plastic crescent moons gold and calling it Chanel. Will they win? No, I don’t think so. From a far-off glance sure, I’ll give the woman toting the Goyard bag the benefit of the doubt that it’s real. Or maybe I won’t. Resting a handbag on the floor, feeling the interior materials, asking for the retail price – none of these are tell tale signs anymore. Proof of purchase, authenticators, social status – these have gone out the door. The plain image won’t suffice; anything can look the same on the surface. Women (and men!) don’t want to preface their where-did-you-get-your-shoes story with an explanation, a tag or a receipt. They need their logo. Appearances can be deceiving – faux fur, plastic studs, pleather cuffs. No logo, no go.
The world is knee-deep in its obsession with image. Knee-deep in stiff competition, in financial struggle and more and more frequently, sales. Not just end of season or Christmas sales – I’m talking weekend only online free shipping, 50% this week only, 30% off new stock and 80% off old stock online today, take 20% off when you shop in-store… The list is endless. Logos are selling, the rest is not (despite high-end clothing on offer with label inserts like Christopher Kane, Carven, Marni.) No one’s checking inside your bag, your shirt, your shoes. If I can’t see it, it’s not there. It’s not it.
Even Karl Lagerfeld is feeling pressured to maintain a logo that’s easy on the eye. “Logos and branding are so important. In a big part of the world, people cannot read French or English – but are great in remembering signs,” I don’t blame him. We’re not interested in digging, in looking hard anymore. I wouldn’t splurge $4000 (starting price) on a bag that wasn’t recognizably Chanel (this isn’t to say I want it to scream Chanel, but I don’t want it to hang over my shoulders with heavy question marks, either.)
Whether you choose to believe me or don’t, there is a definite mutual feeling (welcomed or not) emerging and strengthening each season between designer and buyer – logo resonates. Logo sells. It offers truth, longevity, recognition and is emblematic of a brand (currently and allows for continuity.) I’d love to know what you think. No logo, no go?
My friend Mel and I messing around in my BL tees (and photoshop) Proenza Schouler’s best selling ps11