Signs of Our Time

Remember that iconic ’70s picture of Veruschka, who looked like a million bucks while taking a stroll through a park, dogs in tow?

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
Remember that iconic ’70s picture of Veruschka, who looked like a million bucks while taking a stroll through a park, dogs in tow?
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Yes, we were captivated by her radiant smile, but we were also drawn to a couple of Gucci bags, one slung over Veruschka’s right shoulder, the other sitting gingerly in the crevice of her elbow. The Italian brand’s signature “GG” pattern was splashed unapologetically across the bags.

That perfect moment not only captured an archetypal and timeless style, but also showed how logos and patterns work within the confines of a modern, contemporary wardrobe.

The proliferation of logos in modern fashion history can be traced back to as early as the middle of the 19th century, when Goyard’s Chevron pattern appeared on custom-made trunks which accompanied aristocrats and royalty on their travels. In 1896, Georges Vuitton created the Parisian leather goods powerhouse’s Monogram pattern in honour of his father, suffusing the House’s handcrafted luggage with an air of splendour. Since then, such logos and patterns have become symbolic of society’s highest strata.

Logos hit their peak of popularity in the late ’80s and into the ’90s, with every designer brand worth their salt shouting out in gold, silver, sequins, diamanté and brilliant neon. Ironically, the minimalism movement of the ’90s, driven by the likes of Helmut Lang, Jil Sander and Calvin Klein, kick-started the decline of logo mania by rejecting blatant displays of wealth and bling-ed out excess.

Fast forward to today, and studies conducted by luxury behemoths have found that Chinese shoppers—the country has been slated to have the largest number of luxury shoppers with LVMH having reported 28 percent of its sales as coming from Asia—are becoming more discerning in their buys. They are opting for stealth parades of wealth by investing in pieces that are unique, vouch for high quality and yet remain understated. The aspirational value of logos has decreased over time, becoming the antithesis of good taste with its blatant branding.

Could this be the death knell for logos? Well, not quite. Logo mania will always be a point of contention in fashion. Like it or not, the trend has been returning to the runways like waves washing on the same shore, each time sparking debates on what constitutes good or bad taste. But, fashion in the 21st century has been witnessing a reversal of fortunes for logo mania yet seen.

The signs are all there-bubbling under the surface of graphic sporty sweaters emblazoned with Kenzo’s name from 2012. Even Hedi Slimane got into the act at Saint Laurent by introducing a new iconography based on the brand’s classic Cassandre “YSL” logo. Under Slimane’s Midas touch, the sublime Toile Monogram dripped with an unmistakable French nonchalance and it became chic once more to tout your love for the brand with bold metal wordings.

Alexander Wang continued the discussion in his spring/ summer 2014 collection by “carving” his name as a brash pattern on skirts or laser cut-outs on cropped tops and leather dresses. For Wang, the only way forward for logo mania was to utilise it as a rebellious celebration of individuality rather than an indicator of “status.”

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