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Logo up, there's mileage in the monogram

By Jackie Mallon


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It feels like we’re seeing double, wading through a blizzard of GGs, FFs and CCs––even Balenciaga got in on the act with its newly minted BB. Logomania has returned in a manner not seen since the status symbol-80s, when greed was good and you wore your wealth on your sleeve, or early 90s when licensing your name became common practice. As more houses abandon themselves to the monogram, we look at the reasons why we can’t quit the conspicuous consumption that has colonized our closets once again.

Social media matters

Hashtags are logos with the pound sign in front. Everyone wants to stand out on social media yet it is also a place to find your tribe and visual codes such as logos identify you for your followers. When the fashion-curious millennials recently excavated the 90s, it turned up a wider nostalgia for branded product from Hilfiger, D&G, and even convinced Prada to put its silver trimmed logo triangle, previously associated with its nylon backpacks, on a man’s tie in the spot a tie pin might have occupied during more discreet eras. Logo-heavy product worn by an influencer with a loyal following is the equivalent of yesterday’s branded billboard flashing in Times Square except it’s pocket-sized and glowing in everyone’s hand.

Copyists are cancelled

Sleeves, collars, buttonings, all the design features of clothing are not protected under copyright law because they are considered utilitarian, but monograms and logos are. Gucci charges 1200 dollars for a logo cotton hoodie knowing that fast fashion behemoths such as H&M cannot churn it out at a fraction of the price because its main selling point, the logo, is out of bounds. And common counterfeiters who copy it risk running afoul of the law. Fast fashion retailers can copy a luxury trench coat from the runway in every detail down to the color of the stitching, however they can’t replicate the black single-breasted monogrammed vinyl one worn by Naomi Campbell in Louis Vuitton Fall 18 men’s show. Alessandro Michele, ever the provocateur, whose maximalism agenda is driving our monogram mania even taunts the counterfeit market by creating the “genuine fake” GUCCY logo or rolling out sweatshirts and caps with the Italian house’s monogram sharing the spotlight with that of the NY Yankees.

Creative Directors come and go

And there will be minor casualties. Accents will get dropped, as in the case of Celine (formerly Cèline) and Ys will be pried from the YSL, as creative directors are switched in and out of luxury houses with the speed of a swipe. But corporate branding gets out in front of the controversy, emphasizing tradition and heritage through monogramed canvas and shiny interlocking letters, cushioning potential bad reviews and providing retailers with a North Star during the storms of transition. Calvin Klein under Raf Simons became Calvin Klein 205 W39 NYC, and interestingly the graphic designer responsible for that rebranding, Peter Savile, was also the creative hired by Riccardo Tisci to provide the new-yet-retro logo for 162-year-old British house, Burberry. It’s no coincidence that both Celine and Burberry released the new logos on social media well ahead of the first runway collections under the new hand.

Security blanket

The escalating global unrest creates a need for comfort and those familiar letters can be seen as beacons of endurability and wellbeing. While ethical and moral values might be challenged with the tweet from a tapping orange finger, the value of the H-shaped face on an Hermes watch with its reliable orange leather double strap remains unchallenged. The resurgence of branded product can be emoji-era escapism from politics, but politics has also infiltrated the logo, most notably in Balenciaga’s adoption of the font used by Bernie Sanders during his unsuccessful 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Politics arguably permeates the Nike ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick’s face staring out with the Nike swoosh positioned under his closed mouth.

Millennials crave authenticity

And a designer purse comes with a certificate of authenticity no less. While millennials and Gen Zers who as FashionUnited reported are driving the growth in the luxury market, place value on the experiential aspect of life, the monogram, whether in shiny gold or artisanal crafted leather gives substance to the experience. It stamps it like the customs officer at passport control before you go off on the trip of a lifetime.

Motivated vintage market

Underground connoisseurship has mushroomed as online obsessive collectors, from sneakerheads to Louis Vuitton handbag hounds, fuel the market for vintage which, according to fashion retail service Thredup, is expected to generate some 400 billion US dollars by 2022, overtaking the luxury market. This reality is not lost on the luxury houses who created the product now so hot in resale. Earlier this year Dior relaunched its monogrammed Saddle Bag first released in 2000. “We’ve found that the demand for logo product is more than 20 percent higher than similar, non-logo product from the same brand,” Rati Sahi Levesque, of luxury re-commerce site The Real Real, told the Business of Fashion. Vintage retailer What Goes Around Comes Around which collaborated with Christies last month on a 25th anniversary auction of luxury goods told FashionUnited in an email, “Logomania doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Our customers are craving monogram prints from Fendi, Dior and Chanel.”

Economy on the up

Belt loosening and braggadocio are synonymous with the recovery of the Dow. The 1980s stock market boom created a lust for luxe, whereas after 9/11 or 2008’s recession, flashing designer labels was considered tone-deaf and passé. According to CNNBusiness, since the Dow hit its post-recession low point on March 6, 2009, it had grown 210% by the end of Obama’s presidency and has continued to grow under Trump. June’s employment report confirmed a steady decline in unemployment since 2014. Despite trade wars and tariffs threatening, the monogram’s monopoly on the market looks bullish.

Fashion editor Jackie Mallon is also an educator and author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

Photos: Burberry logo from Facebook, Louis Vuitton AW18, Catwalkpictures, What Goes Around Comes Around/Christies auction catalogue cover screenshot, Balenciaga from FashionUnited

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