New Era of Fashion Logos is Driving Creativity and Sales

August 16, 2019, 8:45 PM UTC
Photo courtesy of Louis Vuitton

Logos are having a fashion moment, but it’s not the same logo mania as the 1990s.

From designer labels Gucci and Louis Vuitton to mass-market duds such as Champion, Adidas, and Nike, fashion brands are creating new ways to display their signature. At the other end of the fashion spectrum, some logos are so minimal, they’re barely noticeable, or they’re purposefully absent.

“There’s a marked difference in the way our culture approaches logos from the ‘90s to today,” said Sarah Unger, cultural analyst for Civic Entertainment Group, calling logos from a couple decades ago “very cookie-cutter.”

Now, “you’re seeing logos used in different ways, chopped up, patterned—it’s not just logos in itself,” Unger said. “It could be a logo with a print, a logo reiterated with another creative artist, it could be another artist’s interpretation of somebody’s logo.”

Designer Todd Snyder’s version of a Champion-logo sweatshirt ($148) and hoodie ($188), with a color-block pattern.

Today, logos are considered more a part of the design process, said Durand Guion, vice president, Macy’s Fashion Office. “While still a statement, there is creative intention in how logos are applied,” he said.

Japanese designer Chitose Abe has reinvented the sportswear giant’s logo as part of her reimagined Nike running togs, in a collaboration with her Sacai label, for release next month. (This includes an updated Sacai x Nike LDV Waffle sneaker with a double Nike swoosh. Earlier versions are collectibles, fetching several hundred dollars.)

“Often, I take the things I like from two different items of clothing and splice them together to create a whole that is bigger than the sum of its parts,” explains Abe, in a preview. “I express the end result as a hybrid.”

Japanese luxury brand Sacai’s recast Nike running outfit and logo, by designer Chitose Abe. (Photo courtesy Nike)

Louis Vuitton has recreated its LV monogram with bold leopard prints in its new Monogram Jungle collection, including a Neverfull tote (1,750), high-top sneakers ($1,140), and a redo of its classic Twist MM bag ($3,950).

Gucci’s Ultrapace sneakers ($790) for the fall showcase the brand’s logo several ways: The G, the double Gs, and Gucci, written in both the vintage logo style and its current font.

Burberry credits its new logo of interlocking Bs used as a pattern in designer Riccardo Tisci’s debut runway collection Kingdom, as helping to reinvigorate the iconic brand as part of a broader reinvention. “The initial reaction from customers has been very positive with sales of the new collections delivering strong double-digit percentage growth,” CEO Marco Gobbetti said.

Dapper Dan’s influence

As retrologo mania fashions stage a comeback, their reinvention seem to pay homage to Harlem haberdasher Daniel Day, known as Dapper Dan, who’s widely credited as the driving force behind brash logos as fashion statements. Starting in the 1980s, he broke fashion ground by dressing music artists LL Cool J, Jam Master Jay, and Jay-Z, among others, with mashups of unauthorized logos from European luxury brands, which ultimately led to his 2017 partnership with Gucci, and reopening of his Harlem atelier.

Dapper Dan’s use of large and reimagined logos was also a way to indicate wealth, Unger said. But what might have seemed to be a risky fashion move to some in the industry, it’s “much better received today by fashion houses because we’re in a much more creatively democratic environment than we were back then,” Unger said.

Dapper Dan with Marco Bizzarri, president and CEO of Gucci, at the 2018 Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Gala. (Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan/Getty Images)

Today, hip-hop and rap continue to shape streetwear, which is now mainstream fashion, and a huge driver of sales, as well as creativity.

Dan sees today’s logo trends as the natural evolution of style.

“When you look at styles past, they recycle themselves. If it was right, how did it fall out of style? If it’s wrong, how’s it back in style? I don’t personally think there is right and wrong in fashion,” Dan writes in his newly released autobiography Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem. “But there is a weak and a strong. Because whoever the dominant personality is, whether it’s the hustler on the corner or the artist on a stage, whoever has that dominant influence, other people gravitate towards that strength.”

Logos alone don’t sell fashion

Logos are only cool if the brand speaks to the consumer on creative levels, such as through advertising and featuring cultural figures, said Roseanne Morrison, fashion director at N.Y-based Doneger Group, a fashion merchandising consultancy.

“Saint Laurent is using Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Things in an ad campaign and the image is similar to a young Bob Dylan,” Morrison said, while Gucci is featuring British singer-songwriter Harry Styles and Calvin Klein is highlighting American singer Billie Eilish. “These moves portent well for brands that are well established, yet connect with the young consumer,” Morrison said.

Men’s Ultrapace Gucci sneaker reinterpreting the brand’s logo. (Photo courtesy of Gucci)

As before, today’s “logos are a very important status signature for many [fashion] categories,” said Morrison. “Consumers feel that they belong to the club when they wear certain status labels.”

And brand loyalty comes at all prices—such as a Champion logo-print track jacket, $60; Nike Air Jordan 8 Retro shoes, $190; or Chanel Flap Bag, $3,900.

Sometimes less is better in fashion

Just as reinvented logos are in their ascendancy in streetwear and designer clothing, some branding in women’s ready-to-wear is taking a more subtle approach.

Women’s fashion “now is about personal style and the romantic dress or the utility trousers,” said Morrison, citing brands like Ganni’s silk wrap dress ($440) and LoveShackFancy’s floral print long silk dress ($695).

“Consumers want smaller, less obvious logos,” detects Albert M. Romano, chairperson and professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. “Too large of a logo detracts from the marketing message and makes it appear that the marketer is shouting.”

Taking an overall view of fashion, Elizabeth Kanfer, director of Nordstrom Fashion Office, observes there’s a trend toward more discreet logos.

“In the last two years, these [luxury] designer brands have moved on and overt logo mania is not as prevalent as before,” Kanfer said.

Items with less prominent logos at Nordstrom include a Loewe Leather T Pouch ($690) and Burberry Monogram Leather Bag ($2,450), Kanfer said.

At Macy’s, “the shift to smaller logos has been fluid,” Macy’s Guion said, noting “without logos, key differentiators include fabric, fit, prints, patterns and new silhouettes.”

“At some higher-end brands, we are starting to see a shift away from the heaviest usage of logo,” he said. “This is aimed at the earliest trend adopters who are always looking for the next thing. However, this will take a while to impact what a broader range of consumers are thinking about when making apparel and accessory purchasing decisions.”

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