Saviour of the universe!’ sang Freddie Mercury, a man whose wisdom must never be doubted, even though he was talking not about this summer’s hottest trend but about some white male superhero or other (I forget who — there are so many of them). Regardless, Queen’s song could be an anthem for the season. While it may be overstating things to argue that flash is a saviour of the universe, the trend for brash, logo-strewn, in-yer-face clothing, shoes and accessories is certainly a saviour of the fashion world.
While most sectors are struggling (Forbes reports that luxury spending is down and that the global market for high-end personal goods is at its weakest since 2009), retailers are seeing a massive uptake in logos, with Harvey Nichols reporting ‘a significant increase in trade’ across womenswear and menswear. Pinterest, meanwhile, has seen saves for the search term ‘logos’ rise by 203 per cent over the past 12 months, while retail data analyst Edited found that in the last quarter of 2017, the number of logoed items for sale online increased by 104 per cent compared with 2016.
Why now? It doesn’t seem so long ago that people were falling over themselves to dress as anonymously as possible, in black trousers and shapeless navy tops. These clothes may still have been expensive, but it was far more chic to whisper it than shout your spending power from the rooftops. The high priestess of this stealth wealth movement was Céline’s Phoebe Philo, whose iconic £2,850 gold-clasped ‘medium’ classic bag was so anonymous it didn’t even have a name, never mind a logo. If you knew, you knew. And if you didn’t, the wearer wouldn’t lose any sleep about it.
Now normcore is a distant memory. The designer who first upset this minimalist applecart was Gucci’s Alessandro Michele. His debut collection for AW15 was a bold, instantly recognisable signature that could have sunk just as easily as it floated. It was a brave departure for the brand, but it paid off: customers bought his double G belts and gold snaffle loafers in their droves, ushering in a trend for archive logoed items that has only gained momentum. Fast-forward to this summer and Dior has reissued its classic 2001 saddlebag in an archive logo, Versace has gone full Medusa in homage to brother Gianni’s golden years and Fendi has relaunched its iconic FF logo from 1974. From bombers and hoodies to sunglasses, sneakers and Peekaboo bags, you can have it all emblazoned in the house’s distinctive double Fs. Similarly, look out for the house’s market-stall style Fendi Kiosk popping up at Selfridges next month. Luther Vandross was right: never too much, never too much, never too much.
But this season’s logomania is more than just a shallow retro movement. While it makes sense for brands to consolidate their DNA in an era of rampant copycatism, people aren’t just buying Tommy Hilfiger baseball jackets, Dior saddlebags and Von Dutch caps because they want to look like they’re from the beginning of the century. Maybe they also want to ‘feel’ like it, too. Things were simpler then: we didn’t know about data farming and everything was either ‘hot’ or ‘cool’. Paris ‘some girls were just born with glitter in their veins’ Hilton was signed to Donald Trump’s modelling agency, and the idea that Trump would ever be the 45th President of the United States was as outlandish as Kim Kardashian (then Hilton’s lowly wardrobe assistant) becoming the sixth person in the world to reach 100 million followers on Instagram. As was the idea of Instagram itself. What, we’d all become obsessed with taking photos of our breakfast? Naaaah.
When the financial markets crashed in 2008, brash displays of wealth died alongside obscene bonuses. Now, helped in no small part by Instagram, they’re back — even if the motive for wearing them is different. With their wealth, blanket media coverage and millions of followers, logo-loving celebrities such as the Hadid sisters, the Kardashians and Rihanna have no need to signal their status by means of a logo. Yet still they choose to, because in 2018 wearing the right logo is as much a shorthand for ‘I’ve made it’ as it ever was. It also, quickly, marks you out as part of a specific tribe. In a hyper-visual era, a logo cuts through. Unlike, say, a bold print, shape or colour, there is no ambiguity. Recognition is instant: you don’t even need to search for tags. In the era of the short attention span, the logo’s time is now.
‘The backlash from overuse of logos and branding, and the rise of counterfeit goods meant that for years, brands pulled away from highly identifiable sign-offs because it was thought to be cheapening them,’ notes David Aquilina, Harvey Nichols’ head of menswear buying. ‘A lot has happened since, though. With the rise of social media and personal brand building through channels such as Instagram, the perception of using logos has changed. As well as being nostalgic, it builds brand awareness and can become a statement for the person who wears it. It’s a complete turnaround in attitude.’
While millennials are discovering logomania for the first time, and wearing brand emblems with the breezy lack of self-consciousness that is their right, older fans who wore them the first time around are now enjoying doing so with knowing irony. Encouraged by Adwoa Aboah looking fetch in her house checked Burberry cap, I recently dug out the checked stilettos that had been my pride and joy in 2000. Alas, they’d been savaged by moths, but the intention was there.
For PR and brand consultant (and ES contributing editor) Mandi Lennard, logomania never went away. ‘I love a bold statement,’ she says, singling out Fendi in particular as scoring large lately with its F hoops and this summer’s reissue of the classic repeat logo. ‘Logos like Fendi, Vuitton and Chanel are so iconic. The designer stuff I tend to go for is so blatant it could be fake, but I like that fine line.’
So, presumably, does Alessandro Michele. He paid homage to the proliferation of bootleg Gucci goods doing the rounds as a result of the label’s current popularity by designing his own parody ‘Guccy’ sweatshirt, priced £805. In further evidence of how much times have changed, some brands are cashing in on the idea of bootleg logos by crafting their own homages. First came Vetements’ £185 DHL T-shirt, followed by Balenciaga’s £1,600 bag based on Ikea’s cheap-as-chips blue Frakta. Other recent examples include Christopher Shannon changing the Timberland logo to ‘Tumbleweed’, and Virgil Abloh refashioning Nike’s iconic swoosh. Everyone loves a visual gag, and in today’s cut-and-paste sharing economy, litigation seems almost churlish. These aren’t direct knock-offs on a stall in Camden Market: they’re cleverer than that, and — crucially — designed to amplify, rather than harm, the reputation of the original.
While the logo might be a symbol of rampant consumerism, conversely its popularity is having a positive effect on the resale market — good news at a time when sustainability is increasingly front of mind. Resale site TheRealReal claims a 60 per cent growth in sales of women’s items by ‘iconic brands that have brought back vintage logos’, including Gucci, Chanel, Balenciaga, Dior and Louis Vuitton, with sales of the brand’s logo clothing growing 111 per cent in 2017.
If anyone approves of this new wave of logo love, it’s Dapper Dan. Throughout the Eighties and Nineties, the ‘hip-hop tailor of Harlem’ dressed rappers in bootlegged Gucci, Fendi and Vuitton until his business was shut down by lawyers in 1992. Fast-forward 26 years and Gucci has now collaborated with him, as well as funded a new store and atelier. Proof, as Andy Warhol said, that art is what you can get away with. Now there was someone who understood the power of a good logo.