My round-up of Logo-a-Gogo sometime last year, spurred on by a pair of comedy Chanel denim shorts, had one mighty big omission. I should have timed the post just after the September 2012 ready to wear shows when the Kenzo Tiger sweatshirt really exploded on the streets. By the by, I'm still waiting for hilarious GIFs, gently poking fun out of how many people wore that one singular green one.
Another show season has swung around and Kenzo's logo re-relevance omnipotence shows no sign of abating and so I decided to continue the conversation about a new incarnation of logo mania in the 21st century, or more specifically 2010s (what DO we call this decade?), supported by street style proliferation and well, concrete sales. To repeat one not-so-little stat, Kenzo have sold 20,000 of those Tiger sweatshirts, with ongoing waiting lists at stores. That's not counting the plain logo sweatshirts by the way. That's a whole lotta units in high fashion terms. According to WWD, the Kenzo sweatshirt very nearly didn't happen because when Carol Lim and Humberto Leon started at the house, they apparently didn't have "sweatshirt" as an available product category. Bet somebody at Kenzo HQ is jumping for joy for giving the yes nod to that product inclusion.
The Kenzo Tiger and the logo resurgence didn't come out of nowhere though. The aesthetic and graphic direction for Lim and Leon's work for Kenzo is very much rooted in the Jungle Jap store of Kenzo Takada of 1970. Later in the 80s, you can see bold typography infiltrating Takada's growing lines including the Kenzo Jap diffusion line. On one of my Etsy trawling sessions, I found myself a super-loud, almost-crass, Kenzo Jap jumper with the words Kenzo Kenzo spelt out like a raved-up digital ticker tape machine. The connections between those lesser known elements of Kenzo's brand and what Lim and Leon are doing today couldn't be more clear.
Of course Lim and Leon are also attuned to a zeitgeist, a yearning to somehow reclaim the logo on the wearers' own terms. I pointed out the "ironic" elements of logomania resurgence in my last logo-a-gogo post but beyond "irony" – an all too easy catch-all reason for everything it seems – I think that current logo resurgence can be seen as a nostalgia to the fashion of our youth as well as a way of staking re-ownership. There's enough time distance away from the power logo power licensing of the eighties and nineties to now deem a logo as "cool" when it was once naff. Lim and Leon have spotted chances to revive new generation interest in brands that have high recognisability. See Opening Ceremony's recent collaboration with DKNY and its assertive typography-based designs.
Likewise, I found it interesting that a functional gift, which was meant to warm up our laps whilst waiting for the Kenzo shows in Florence and in Paris have been given the onus of desirability and collectability. People, including myself, wore them straight after the show, fashioning them into skirts, capes and shawls. It's more than just staying warm. Brands like Kenzo, and its logo godfather Louis Vuitton have cachet, when it comes to unexpected merchandise such as blankets.
Both images by Tommy Ton for Style.com
My own mild obsession with all things Gaultier Junior isn't entirely isolated. The vintage store House of Liza in Shoreditch does brisk trade in Gaultier Junior pieces online on FarFetch and whilst I don't think it's necessarily connected to the power of the Gaultier Junior logo, there is an interest in clutching on to the Gaultier of yesteryear, his glory years as it were, when he was truly groundbreaking, in contrast to today, when Jean Paul Gaultier collections sadly feel out of step.
Going back to Kenzo, which has in my eyes become something of a new benchmark for 21st century logo wearing, Lim and Leon are also clever in asserting alliances with brands that already come from an authentic and secure place. Beyond the frippery and changeability of fashion, brands like Vans and New Era are sturdy, consistent and have a trust level with the consumer that is almost hard to grasp in today's fashion scape, when people flit from one brand to the other. There's a recognisability in shape and characteristics in both a Vans slip-on or a New Era baseball cap, which feel comfortable and reassuring, and by pairing them up with Kenzo's changeable prints, it creates product that ingrains a desire to be associated with the brand in its newly invigorated form.
When I oversaw a conversation between Lim, Leon and Chloe Sevigny at the Opening Ceremony store in London, they talked about the appeal of brands like Esprit and Benetton – again, outside of a "high fashion" remit and democratic in so much that they were highly visible and accessible in reality. You can see the pair of creative directors being ultimately attuned to ideas of nostalgia in these brands as well as well as knowing that kids today actually crave fashion authenticity on their own terms. It's not about imposing status symbols but about wearing a branded-piece of fashion with a nod and a wink to that bygone era of powerhouse branding or an acknowledgement for something "real" and "solid". It's interesting that Sevigny references Vision Streetwear, with whom she collaborated on her line for Opening Ceremony as well as Supreme, which she is also associated with – two massive skate brands that operate on their own terms, flitting in and out of fashion as they please and creating cult-like desirability. Visits to Supreme stores in Tokyo can feel like you're going to an uber-exclusive secret society – everything always seems to be sold out. The appearance of being anti-fashion in both these cases, of course breeds the opposite effect.
It seems other brands are attempting to get in on the profitable sweatshirt action. Carven debuted their take on a branded sweatshirt at their S/S 13 menswear presentation at Pitti. It's a rather more gentile affair with pressed flower embroidery and a ribbon font that doesn't really assert a logo as such but does provide an easy segue into the Carven brand at a sum of ¬£120 (their A/W 13-4 womenswear collection is set to be fairly more expensive so it'll be interesting to see how as a label that has built its success on contemporary accessibility will move on up…).
As noted in the first logo-a-gogo post though, opportunities to create ironic tributes and piss take interpretations of the logo areas are always up for grabs and it's seemingly never ending as we collectively display an instinct to want to take these brands that we supposedly admire, down a notch or two. At the Tribeca Grand I Heart New York party in February, the owner of t-shirt brand Conflicts of Interest introduced himself although I don't remember him giving an actual name. I simply know him as "Agent." The story goes that COI is a somewhat mysterious collective of "Government Agents" who have confiscated "unlicensed" designer goods. Debuts of early logo plays such as Bodega Vendetta and Ballinciaga, Harlem tees gave us all a good chuckle two seasons ago when they were out and about at the shows. Much of the wordplay on brand names and slogans is rooted to New York – the Bronx, Brooklyn, Harlem – perhaps to put these vaulted and mostly European brands in a less-lofty context. The joke can wear thin at times but it doesn't seem to stop these shirts LOL-ing their way on to Instagram and the like. I'm enjoying the pleasures of saying "Brawlmain" in a ridiculous Southern accent, the opposite to the clipped uppity syllables of Balmain a la Francaise.
Likewise, Brian Lichtenberg, who I remember as a somewhat directional designer making structural hats, has now fully turned his attentions to logo irony in his t-shirts and sweatshirts that have been spotted on Rihanna (actually she's been sporting most of the stuff mentioned in this post). Browns Fashion in London can't get enough of the Homies/Hermes action.
Even streetwear veteran Russ Karablin couldn't resist the itch to fuck up a logo and potentially tempt a lawsuit or two. Karablin has a few brands on the go, but under the moniker The Cut, it has given Rei and Coco a bit of a dressing down and a chance for A$AP Rocky fans buy into his style inexpensively.
I found these photos on Blackscore interesting. This London-based t-shirt brand asked people to pose with their slogan tees (House of Holland 2.0 as it were…) and many obliged, happy to pay lipservice to brands – "Dior is Dope", "Tom Ford is my Homeboy", "Gucci got Game" and "You had me at Prada". The actual logos of the brands aren't always part of the t-shirt designs but the message is all the same. I am totes into these brands and designers. Blackscore may not be sanctioned by the brands in any shape or form but they are willingly giving free publicity to them, allowing customers to show their love for their brand heroes for not a lot of money.
I may have started off looking specifically at the logo but the truth is, even if we're not plastering the physical insignia of a brand on our backs, bags or shoes, we're unknowingly buying into an identity of tribes even when there isn't a logo present. Phillip Lim talks of tribes or gangs of girls when designing his collections and last season for S/S 13, he gave his own spin on the iconic I Heart New York t-shirt and thus took ownership on that particular slogan for the time being. When every collection is instantly publicised through social media and immediately available to see, it becomes all the easier to remember certain distinctive features – graphics, slogans, prints, textural detailing. The language of show reporting is peppered with easy-to-remember focal points – "that Big Bird outfit", "furry Birkenstocks", "currency prints" – so that people with a modicum of fashion interest can now immediately recognise what you are wearing without even asking. Therefore this I Heart Nueva York slogan, which would have been completely annoymous previously, is now momentarily attached to 3.1 Phillip Lim.
Lim goes on to explore this idea of girl gangs and looks at girl bikers for A/W 13-4. He establishes a "Sono Mama" emblem (meaning 'As you are, don't ever change' in Japanese), a sign of membership in this gang as well as set of highly personalised sew-on badges to ID yourself. Nostalgia is once again at play here, as they reminded me of Girl Scouts/Guides badges. It's not a logo but it sure is an instant way of identitying yourself as a Phillip Lim girl.
Like I said, where logos aren't present, the instant recognisability of certain traits in collections are enough to brand yourself. Look at the rise of Givenchy's print prowess in the last few years as they recognise the power of an eye-catching graphic on a simple garment. Rottweilers, hibiscus florals, panthers, Bettie Page and now Bambi for A/W 13-4 has become the latest addition to this cast of print characters. It's a touch cynical to say that Tisci and his team are consistently searching for a impactful motif to headline their collections but it certainly doesn't hurt when you have a slew of younger fans banging on about how "rad" or "dope" their new Givenchy Bambi sweatshirt is.
Whilst there is certainly a shift towards logo fatigue when we are talking about the context of Louis Vuitton's longtime prevalent monogram, in fashion as a whole, there seems to be an unsatiable desire for high visibility and willingness to brand ourselves in ways that we see as entirely different from the tacky logomania of yesteryear. To us, it's freedom of expression, and we don't see it as a slavish sign of brand loyalty because for instance, that Kenzo sweatshirt is being mixed and styled in such different ways. It' an all-knowing nod to the power of the logo, without kowtowing to it. That's why brands like Conflicts of Interest and Brian Lichtenberg are reaping in the rewards of our simultaneous deference and cheeky antipathy towards logos. Even when we're not getting stuck into logo wearing, our general appraisal of collections have become dotted with phrases such as "street style worthy" or "street style bait", which points to a different issue altogether of how personal style has now been hijacked with rampant consumerism and supposedly easy routes to being photographed, by way of highly visible, instantly recognisable collections. A Mary Katrantzou print, a Givenchy sweatshirt or a Proenza bag all register on a visual level as directly as a logo does.
As for the big power houses, witness Chanel's ability to continually churn out talking point accessories emblazoned with those all-too-familiar double C's. With wit and fun, their logo falls into fashion's favour and we all can't help but flock to it. Where we used to loftifly say that logos were tacky and were signs of Fat Cat fash-corporates, we seem to have once again embraced the spirit of instant recognisability in a word or a symbol, so long as the accompanying aesthetics back it up and that it's not just a logo for logo's sake. The key thing is that element of fun, which all of these logo-a-gogo examples mostly are. And where's the harm in that?