Logos and the Erosion of Fashion
One of the trends in fashion at the moment, brought to us by established fashion houses like Gucci, Balenciaga, and Versace, as well as newcomers like Vetements, is logos: big, obvious, and impossible to ignore. It's always the case that fashion says so much about the time in which we live, but that can be a hard thing to wrap one's head around. Which is why a brilliant op-ed about the logo trend as a reflection of the state of fashion today caught my attention. Here's an excerpt, but I highly recommend reading the entire piece here.
"...How could you justify your hyper-luxury name when consumers crave banal (some might say ugly) clothing? How would you sell a classic cotton hoodie, a Stan Smith look-a-like sneaker or Levi's 501-inspired jeans for over $500 each?
The solution was something that had worked in the past: give the people the boring clothes they want to wear, but emblazoned with brand names and the price tag to match...logomania is now everywhere again, offering simple, generic and easy-to-wear garments that substitute new ideas with a recognized brand's name or symbol."
- Lirouy Choufan in the Business of Fashion
wait, who are you wearing?
The more I thought about this piece and its implications, the stronger I felt that logomania, as the author refers to it, is bad for fashion. Devastating, really. Take Balenciaga, a fashion house founded in the early 20th century by Cristóbal Balenciaga, whose obsession with tailoring, fit, proportion, and cut, made him a master at his craft. Fashion then couldn't exist without attention to those things. Today, it's being defined, at least in some capacity, by a brand name on a cotton t-shirt (although, to be fair, Demna Gvasalia, artistic director of Balenciaga, feels, at least at times, like he's in on the joke, particularly with his own label Vetements).
the balenciaga of today
The tricky thing about markets is that there's a push and pull between consumers, who demand things, and producers, who supply them. It's a sort of dance, and it's not always clear who's leading. In our reality, a world of internet, Instagram and instant gratification, maybe the immediate cache of a recognizable logo does for us today what a meticulously-crafted Balenciaga dress did for women 70 years ago. Maybe we're demanding this kind of obviousness from the people who design our clothes. On the other hand, maybe there's so much out there, and fashion moves so quickly, and our attention is so diluted, that brands need to scream to grab our attention. Or perhaps this is yet another case of consumerism co-opting personal style. After all, these brands are businesses, with sales expectations and profit forecasts, and a viral pair of Gucci loafers does a lot for a bottom line.
need it be so?
For AW17, Demna Gvasalia re-created nine couture gowns in honor of the House of Balenciaga's 100th anniversary
I've asked before if a brand name really matters, I've questioned what luxury means in fashion today, and whether consumerism is warping our relationship with fashion. Now, I ask: are we complicit in the shift away from fashion as a craft towards fashion as a commercial entity? Do our desires for the patina of style, for convenience, and immediacy contribute to a system that pressures designers away from the time-honored process of slow creation that stitches in meaning, to the speedy splash of a logo, that spells it out for all to see?