As fashion houses unveil major rebrands, logomania is reaching fever pitch. Grace O' Neill investigates what label worship looks like in 2019.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

As fashion houses unveil major rebrands, logomania is reaching fever pitch. Grace O' Neill investigates what label worship looks like in 2019.

Clockwise from top left: Valentino spring/summer 2019. Gucci spring/summer 2019. Fendi fall/winter 2018. Balenciaga fall/winter 2018. Chanel spring/summer 2019. Burberry spring/summer 2019. Fendi fall/winter 2018. Valentino spring/summer 2019

What’s in a logo? In 2019, a lot. Three or four years ago, at the height of minimalist mania, it was considered somewhat naff to be seen in something obviously branded—a hangover from the Paris Hilton/ Von Dutch era. Now, logomania is back in full force, laden with irony and unequivocally chic again. Logo t-shirts staged a major comeback in 2018, and the Fendi Baguette and Dior Saddle Bags—’90s staples covered in unabashed insignia—became the new must-have arm candy. Saint Laurent, despite the name change, brandished its “YSL” monogram, selling stockings with diamante versions stitched to the ankles. Balenciaga’s knife-point mules were covered in “B”s, and shrunken jumpers had the brand name splashed across the front. Even masters of restraint Valentino created silk-twill playsuits and cashmere jumpers with the logo repeated ad infinitum and styled chunky “V” belts on day dresses.

So why the shift? In the era of the Personal Brand—when social media accounts are curated to be tools of self-marketing—it was perhaps inevitable that overt branding would re-enter the fray in clothes. Also, fashion is cyclical—a constant fight between action and reaction—and the only way to break free of our understated shackles is to slap on a pair of track pants covered in interlocking Gucci “G”s. It’s little surprise, given the musical chairs-like swapping of creative directors among the major labels a couple of years ago, that many have unveiled bold new logos. Hedi Slimane made headlines with his subtle removal of CELINE’s acute accent, but it was Riccardo Tisci who really went for it, logo-wise. He signalled his new role at Burberry by replacing its heritage logo and introducing a graphic of interlocking “T”s and “B”s (a testament to the brand’s founder Thomas Burberry) in a palette of white, beige and orange. The new look is the brain child of Peter Saville, the celebrated British art director who has created album artwork for Joy Division, New Order and Roxy Music—a man, like Tisci, highly adept at tapping into the mood of today’s youth culture. Tisci also unveiled a font change for the logo, replacing the vintage style branding with block sans-serif lettering. Online punters spotted the synchronicity between the pared-back new Burberry logo and those unveiled by CELINE, Balenciaga and Balmain, among others, which spawned a short–lived meme and op-eds in The Business of Fashion, Hypebeast and elsewhere. There is an insinuation that the trend of simplified logos hints at a new homogeneity in the industry. But the perceived similarities in branding aren’t a sign that brands are trying to look the same as one another, but rather evidence that heritage Houses are focused on updating their offering by stripping things back.

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From top: Burberry spring/summer 2019. Christian Dior spring/summer 2019. Chanel spring/summer 2019

“This house has such a long story, but is to modernise it and make it appealing to the customer we have today,” Demna Gvasalia said of Balenciaga. Echoes Maria Grazia of Dior, “If you are a brand with such a huge history, you have to maintain the codes. But the brand has to be contemporary.” Gvasalia’s and Chiri’s comments hint at why their respective tenures have been among the most commercially and critically successful of the major fashion Houses (not coincidentally, both brands have found mass appeal via logo-heavy pieces). The message: The new era of high fashion is about going back to the basics, prompting a fresh chapter for labels steeped in history.

How to compete with the Burberrys and Balenciagas if you don’t have strong name recognition? The next generation of designers are getting experimental.

How to compete with the Burberrys and Balenciagas if you don’t have strong name recognition? The next generation of designers are getting experimental with branding to distinguish themselves in an oversaturated market. Take Marine Serre, the French designer making waves with in-the-know style obsessives, who forewent a traditional logo in favour of a crescent moon print, which has now become ubiquitous via her brand of avant-garde cool (everyone from Yasmin Sewell to Kendall Jenner is a fan). Tomo Koizuma, a Tokyo-based costumer-turned-designer, creates rainbow-hued, puff-of-tulle designs so distinctive that a logo would be laughably redundant. And at Sies Marjan, the brand’s signature use of colour—rich tones of lavender, blush and lemon—work in place of a logo. “Everything starts with colour,” Creative Director Sander Lak tells BAZAAR. “We don’t work with inspiration—we don’t like to be limited by a single theme or idea…The colours decide where the collection goes.” 

Susie Cave, founder of the cult label The Vampire’s Wife, also avoided branding on her line of ultrafeminine dresses and accessories, but her modern twist on the Victorian silhouette is so individual that each piece is immediately identifiable.

But back to logomania and, more importantly, how to wear it. Far from a rallying cry to embrace a splashy “look what I can afford” aesthetic, this is a trend that lives and dies by restraint. It’s sheer Prada knee-high socks worn with simple black leather Mary Janes—or a Gucci logo print trouser worn with a crisp white shirt and a barely-there sandal. There’s a tongue-in-cheek, ironyladen sensibility that needs to be harnessed to pull it off—an official invitation to start taking your wardrobe a little less seriously. In a moment when everything feels so utterly serious, who wouldn’t want in on that?