The Return of the Fashion Logo; Serious logomania may be long behind us, but there are newer (and more subversive) ways to say ‘I’m with the brand’

The Return of the Fashion Logo

Serious logomania may be long behind us, but there are newer (and more subversive) ways to say ‘I’m with the brand’


Nov. 15, 2013 5:31 p.m. ET


F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Anne Cardenas (sweater, necklace, bag, cuff)

I COULD NEVER have predicted my reaction to Louis Vuitton’s new Vivienne bag—a petite cross-body satchel in fine-grained calfskin with a wholly unsubtle shiny, gold, 2-by-2-inch interlocking “LV” as its closure. The sizable chunk of hardware would normally be a bit much for my tastes, but it somehow made sense on this beautifully constructed satchel that rested on my hip just so. I adored the bag without reservation.Still, the emotional rush left me confused. Like many fashion consumers, particularly American ones, I’ve recoiled from overt logos on clothing and accessories for nearly a decade, after once-clever pieces of the early 2000s—like Vuitton’s Takashi Murakami monogram bags or Christian Dior‘s CDI.FR +0.21% “CD”-covered Saddle Bags—became ubiquitous and universally knocked off.

As “logo fatigue” spread, it eventually seeped into formerly logo-loving (and luxury-label-boosting) parts of the world, like China. Consequently, companies like Gucci and Louis Vuitton recently adopted a more understated approach for those regions, marking bags subtly—and forget about brand-bearing clothes.

But while Asia is still suffering full-blown logo fatigue, a small pro-logo movement is afoot elsewhere. That would explain the nascent popularity of Vuitton’s Vivienne, seen on stylish celebrities like Alexa Chung and Miranda Kerr.

“That bag is a great example of knowing how to create newness without straying too far from brand identity,” said retail consultant Yasmin Sewell, whose clients include website Moda Operandi and Liberty department store in London. “It’s like, ‘We won’t let go of the LV, but we’ll give you a new way to love it.’ ” It helps that the Vivienne doesn’t remotely resemble any of the generic, logo-riddled stock that still populates duty-free shops, and that it carries a price tag of $5,000. After all, logos are as much about broadcasting financial status as they are about making a fashion statement.

What’s happening now, however, differs from circa-2000 logo-mania. In fact, the current state of logo fashion is quite sane. It knows how to have fun and has a healthy sense of irony. Since Kenzo co-creative directors Humberto Leon and Carol Lim took over the label in 2011, they’ve done a brisk business in sweatshirts and sweaters emblazoned with K-E-N-Z-O, which tap into their semi-ironic, semi-sincere love of ’80s-era logo sportswear. “It’s an interesting time to embrace logos,” said Mr. Leon. “We’re in an era when people are more aware of brands and their associations.”

Alexander Wang, who worked his name repeatedly into his spring collection, also did so in a playful spirit: Instead of slapping his moniker on a cotton T-shirt, he laser-cut “Alexander Wang” into leather and made it into a graphic lace. “We’ve never played with our logo before in this format,” said Mr. Wang. “So we wanted to push it with different techniques.”

The most envelope-pushing direction in logos, however, is parody apparel. In May, retail website Net-a-Porter began to stock Los Angeles designer Brian Lichtenberg’s sweatshirts, which play on the logos of coveted brands including Hermès and Céline. One features the word “Féline” in Céline’s sans-serif font with the word “meow” beneath. “They did incredibly well,” said Net-a-Porter buying manager Ben Matthews. Mr. Lichtenberg’s pieces, which range from $98 to $128, telegraph something beyond moneyed status: that the wearer is in on the joke.

Louis Vuitton’s Vivienne offers its wearer both status and savvy-cred, as will Saint Laurent’s soon-to-hit-stores Cassandre cuffs and evening bags, which use gold hardware shaped in the label’s iconic three-letter logo (retained even though the brand officially dropped the “Yves”). These also look fresh to my jaded eye. It isn’t because they’re poking fun. Like the Vivienne, they’re simply beautiful pieces that use a well-known mark in a new way. But I still tread warily in logo land, and I don’t think I’m alone. As Roopal Patel, a consultant who advises retail website Farfetch, said, “There’s this fear that if you wear head-to-toe logos—what would that say about you?”

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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