Words: Susannah Al-Naib (She/Her)
In the West, we live surrounded by labels. Whether it be through our job, sexuality, ethnicity or even hobbies, our outward identity is just as vital as our inherent biologies. The world around us is our greatest inspiration, motivator and muse. The fashion-world’s age of logomania, therefore, makes complete sense.
Fashion has always been an expression of identity. What we wear speaks on behalf of us. Historically, fashion has been used as a display of wealth. The early 20th century Age of Opulence saw extravagant hats, stunning silhouettes and fine fabrics; it was truly larger than life. It broke away from suppression and social stiffness, and society’s elites could be distinguished by their privilege of wearing these marvellous materials for all to see. Shift to today, and the same attitudes are reflected in the prestige of ‘earning’ a beloved Birkin bag after years of proving yourself to Hermès. Logos have become a means to represent our class and financial status. They are a symbol of a ‘certain culture, [having] the same impact as diamonds and furs’ as described by fashion designer, Dapper Dan.
But how tasteful is logo-centric fashion in comparison to fashions of the past? Are we compromising artistry to show off, or are logos a new form of artistry? Instead of intricate patterns and detailed stitching, our priorities lie in making people aware that the £600 acrylic-wool blend jumper we bought holds value through explicit labels. The aforesaid designer himself said that logos are like wine, ‘it’s alright to have one glass of wine. Not the whole bottle’. The height of this compromise was seen in 2021. Off-White’s display of simplistic and to-the-point labelling is one of the clearest examples of today’s fixation on logo mania. This vision has been encapsulated by Balenciaga’s branding which swallows their fabrics and makes it look like we are seeing double. This influx of logos led fashion houses to take the iconic monogrammatic branding of Louis Vuitton and Gucci to a whole new level. Designers have become so fixated on telling people who they are that they risk losing out on quality.
Digging deeper we must examine why we place so much importance on people, whether we know them or not, knowing how much we are worth. Is it pride? Are our egos so large that self-validation depends on how impressed people are by us? Or is it simply an outward expression of our achievements?
In all actuality, we always want what we can’t have. Social media has opened doors, allowing many young people to rise to fame and acquire money that young adults never previously had access to. The example of Billie Eilish’s extravagant displays of logo-centric fashion tells us that the shift of economic circumstances encourages one to indulge in luxury items. Before globalisation, it was exotic and rare fabrics that set the upper class apart from wider society. Now these materials are more accessible, and trade is more common, material worth has evolved. Logomania is the most to-the-point way for people to distinguish themselves.
But to look ahead; we are faced with the threat of climate change. Sustainability has been at the forefront of fashion politics. Eclecticism is cool. We must embrace our pre-existing wardrobes and focus less on showing off sparkling new labels. Logomania restricts self expression. We risk becoming walking adverts. But logos still feature heavily in our lives and on our instagram feeds. They have infiltrated themselves into our daily attire.
The impact that this is having on the evolution of consumerism is only just emerging. With new designer houses, such as Guest In Residence by Gigi Hadid, a shift is beginning to happen. This is a shift towards the signature piece. That one item of clothing that serves us well and can last us a lifetime. The one item that can go with any outfit.
In an ideal world, we would embrace logos without taking them to the extreme. It does not have to be all or nothing. We can wear luxury items without having to drown ourselves in branding. Sooner rather than later, there will be a turn back to ‘The Age of Opulence’ with a focus on quality. The materials we wear will reflect our appreciation of them, logo manic or not.
David Marchese, ‘Dapper Dan on creating style, logomania and working with Gucci’, New York Times Magazine, 2019, available: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/07/01/magazine/dapper-dan-hip-hop-style.html?searchResultPosition=1