Ever since our obsession with logos first reached its peak during the 1980s era of excess, associated with Versace’s opulent Medusa head and Dapper Dan’s DIY luxury bootlegs, logomania has yo-yoed in and out of fashion. Its stranglehold continued well into the ‘90s and early noughties, with brands like Fendi and Christian Dior stamping their insignia on everything from handbags to puffer jackets and turning the logo itself into a design aesthetic.
Then the 2008 financial crash happened and the pendulum swung away from flashy logos and brash displays of wealth. The crystal-encrusted Juicy Couture tracksuits and monogrammed It bags beloved by everyone from SATC’s Carrie Bradshaw to Victoria Beckham suddenly fell out of favour, replaced by the understated tailoring and discreetly logoed handbags of Celine, which, under the reign of Phoebe Philo, ushered in a new era of minimalism.
By the mid 2010s, however, logomania was once again reaching the dizzy heights of the ‘90s, fuelled by the arrival of luxe streetwear brand Vetements, whose tongue-in-cheek designs (remember the DHL logo T-shirt?) proved catnip for the street style set. Following his appointment in 2015 as creative director of Gucci, Alessandro Michele’s irreverent and playful take on the logo — spray-painting "Real Gucci" onto bags and poking fun at counterfeits — breathed new life into both the brand and the logomania trend.
But now that we’re living through a global pandemic, with our economy teetering on the brink of recession, is logomania cooling down? According to the data analytics firm Heuritech, which uses AI to analyze Instagram posts and comb trends, posts featuring luxury items were down by 40% during the first lockdown. After all, flaunting your Dior saddle bag while many are losing their jobs and livelihoods might be considered a little tone-deaf. And with the pandemic shrinking our wardrobes to a tight rotation of pyjamas and comfy loungewear, there’s no doubt our priorities have shifted, with more of us choosing to spend our money on interiors and buying bougie candles instead.
"The '90s sports-driven logomania trend is definitely starting to wane," says Hannah Watkins, senior prints and graphics strategist at WGSN. "Branding is no longer brash but instead executed in more sophisticated and subtle ways." These subtler forms of logo-ridden fashion are exemplified by the French label Marine Serre, which was crowned the "most wanted logo of 2020" by the global fashion shopping platform Lyst. Much like Burberry’s iconic check, Serre’s turtleneck tops and bodysuits – beloved by celebs such as Dua Lipa and Beyoncé and influencers like Camille Charrière – are instantly recognizable thanks to her signature crescent moon print, which, to those in the know, conveys the same status as a logo.
"She has a strong winning formula that carefully balances an iconic and recognisable moon logo that has been donned by celebs and influencers globally, with a directional and creative design aesthetic seen in her ready-to-wear collections," explains Holly Tenser, womenswear buying manager at Browns Fashion. It’s not merely Serre’s celebrity fanbase which has helped catapult the brand to fame – she is also leading the charge for sustainability in fashion, with upcycling accounting for around half of her collection. "She perfectly encapsulates that sustainable fashion can also be beautiful, creative and cool."
Christopher Kane’s "More Joy" capsule collection, which includes T-shirts, iPhone cases, face masks and even baubles stamped with the cheer-inducing logo, also proved to be incredibly popular in a year where we were feeling rather joyless. "People are looking for ways to lift their spirits and nothing does this better than a positive slogan or a conversational print," says Watkins. "These items are an antidote to the current climate and offer a sense of fun and optimism in a challenging world."
The appeal of the "More Joy" line also lies in its accessible price point, which offers fans a way to buy into the revered Christopher Kane brand. "I think the demand for logos is shifting between the brands, however there’s still a healthy appetite for logo product," Tenser says. "Logo sales are generally driven by the more casual elements of a collection such as jersey T-shirts, sweatshirts and accessories, all of which align with the shift in demand for comfort items. They also tend to be the entry price point and offer a way of buying into the luxury power brands we all know and love."
The demand for Marine Serre’s bodysuits and Christopher Kane’s More Joy collection – as well as the smattering of logo-laden pieces on the SS21 catwalks, from neon Chanel-stamped tees to Celine logo baseball caps – shows that we continue to be seduced by a logo, global pandemic or not. Why do we love them so much?
"Logos are a form of visual communication that enable the wearer to align with the brand’s identity and allow observers who speak that language (i.e. recognise the logo) to align the wearer to that identity," explains Professor Carolyn Mair, behavioural psychologist, author of The Psychology of Fashion and founder of psychology.fashion. "By wearing an item showing a logo, a wearer is showing that they support and share that brand’s values."
The idea that we might wear logo-emblazoned garments not because of their intrinsic value but because we want to impress others can be traced back to Thorstein Veblen, who coined the term 'conspicuous consumption' in 1899 to describe the practice of rich people acquiring material possessions to flaunt their wealth and social status. Nowadays, contemporary, flashy logos are often snubbed by the elite, who have steadily gravitated towards inconspicuous consumption to signal their wealth (think brands like The Row, Bottega Veneta or Loro Piana, which trade in 'quiet' luxury). Ever since the EastEnders actor Danniella Westbrook was photographed wearing head-to-toe Burberry while carrying her Burberry-clad toddler and pushing a Burberry stroller back in 2002, diminishing the check’s cachet, there has been a certain degree of class snobbery levelled against the logomania trend.
For the younger generations who are trapped in precarious, low-paid jobs and saddled with student debt, logos are not so much a way of signalling your wealth as they are a badge of identity. "In times of uncertainty, we look for behaviours that we have some control over and how we dress is one of these," Mair says. "Wearing clothing showing logos can help us feel aligned, provide a sense of community and also give the opportunity to broadcast our personality, identity or even political preferences in some cases."
Today’s most coveted logos carry clout thanks to their social conscience. Take Telfar, the Black-owned unisex brand which champions inclusivity in fashion with its motto "It’s not for you – it’s for everyone" and counts Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez among its fans. Its logo-embossed vegan tote became the most sought-after bag of 2020, redefining the luxury It bag thanks to its affordability. Telfar, by symbolizing representation in a notoriously elitist, white-dominated industry, and Marine Serre, in her unwavering commitment to sustainability, are both redefining the logo as something to be worn loud and proud.
In the past, difficult times often inspired a mood for subdued fashion but the demand for logo pieces shows no sign of abating this time around, though Tenser believes we are more conscious in our choices of labels to flaunt. "People are more interested than ever in brands’ values and beliefs," she says. "It’s not enough to make beautiful clothing, people want to know that there have been efforts to produce sustainably, that the brands care about their environmental impact, that they stand for the right social causes and speak up and use their voices to direct change."