Everything in fashion is about the visual impact — the clothes, obviously; the stores themselves; and the ever-important logos. So, what happens when a logo (especially one people are intimately familiar with) totally gets transformed? The latest brand to give its wordmark a makeover is DKNY: Gone is the brand’s blocky, bold lettering, with “Donna Karan New York” spelled out beneath the diffusion line’s name, as famously plastered on the side of a Soho building that became as much a part of the NYC cityscape as hot dog stands and yellow cabs. That wall now sports a Hollister logo — and DKNY itself is going through a metamorphosis. Now, the brand’s four letters are much subtler and luxe-looking, rendered in the typeface Franklin Gothic, with a black ribbon woven behind the lettering that ends up looking like two horizontal graphic blocks. All together, it’s supposed to evoke dotted lines on city streets (if you squint and/or remove your glasses or contacts, you’ll see it).
Of course, it’s hardly an isolated or arbitrary visual tweak. It’s part of the big, new vision that DKNY’s creative directors of five months, Public School designers Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow, are rolling out. Osborne and Chow were tapped to design for DKNY amid many changes at Donna Karan HQ. In the past year, the company got a new CEO; Karan herself stepped down; Karan’s longtime head of PR, Patti Cohen, departed; and, more recently, Aliza Licht, the brand’s senior vice president of global communications, and the social-media voice who created @DKNYPRGIRL, parted ways, as well.
Changing a logo is not a matter that gets received lightly; when Hedi Slimane rebranded Yves Saint Laurent in 2012, there was some hysteria over the actual name change (Slimane dropped the ‘Yves’), but the logo revamp was also very contentious. Earlier this year, John Galliano creative director, Bill Gaytten, ditched that brand’s old gothic logo. Although it didn’t stir up nearly as much drama or turn out as much of an overhaul as Saint Laurent’s transformation, it signified a new chapter for a house that had gone through a rocky past couple of years.
DKNY’s new typography was chosen because it’s a “bold American font,” Osborne told WWD. It’s a decidedly more grown-up-looking label than the more youthful vibe of the former font, sometimes featured with the New York City skyline filling the thick letters. And though the former lettering was often prominently featured on DKNY’s clothing in a loud, young, very ’90s manner, it’s hard to imagine Osborne and Chow plastering the new logo all over an item. That makes sense, considering the new co-creative directors are specifically designing for a woman, not a girl, according to WWD. The new DKNY won’t be fully revealed until the spring 2016 collection is unveiled on Wednesday, but the new look of the line’s name itself is a pretty good teaser for what’s to come.