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The Ups and Downs of Logomania

Wed 20 Dec 23

In the realm of fashion, where diamonds, gold, and pearls traditionally symbolize opulence, monograms have emerged as powerful contenders for the throne of luxury.

Whether discreetly adorning a metal clasp or boldly gracing an all-over printed tracksuit, monograms have become defining features for major luxury brands.

In a recent Vogue poll, monograms were declared the reigning trend of 2021, aligning with the revival of '00s style.

However, as quiet luxury gains momentum, the question arises: is the era of the monogram waning, or is the allure of the bold logo too irresistible to fade away?

Luxury houses, in their infancy, adhered to discreet opulence, relying on the discerning eye of astute fashionistas to recognize the exclusivity of their designs.

One of the earliest luxury monograms was Louis Vuitton's iconic canvas, crafted by the founder's son, George, in 1896. It became the signature print, starting with luggage items and expanding into collections.

In the 1960s, Gucci's GG gained popularity thanks to icons like Elizabeth Taylor and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Karl Lagerfeld and Mrs Bohan contributed the double-F monogram for Fendi and Christian Dior's monogram in 1970, respectively.

Logos served as marks of authenticity, yet unauthorized reproductions and personal adaptations were inevitable.

Notably, Harlem-based artist and designer Dapper Dan pioneered the artistic bootlegging movement. Recognizing the power of these symbols, he started screen-printing luxury monograms onto his own designs, eventually creating customised pieces for hip-hop legends like Rakim and Salt-n-Pepper.

The unauthorised use of monograms was a big no-no and Fendi sued him in 1992 for copyright infringement. Nonetheless, bootlegging only increased desirability for luxury goods.

Dapper Dan retains credit for introducing luxury labels to new audiences and bridging the gap between streetwear and luxury. 

In the 00s logomania really took off, propelled by mainstream celebrity culture. It wasn’t exactly a period of subtlety in fashion, with socialites like Paris Hilton staking their claim to fame with ostentatious logos and Fendi plastering the double-F on just about everything.

In our celebrity-worshipping, it came as no surprise that fans would emulate the same styles, and monograms became a wider trend.

However, post the 2008 economic crisis, the trend experienced a decline in popularity. The logo market was oversaturated, especially with the spread of knockoffs.

Besides, a period of widespread austerity isn’t the best time to be showing off your disposable income. It was seen more as tacky symbol of aspiring new money rather than genuine luxury. 

As is customary in the fashion cycle, the monogram wasn’t gone for long, and made a comeback after a few years. For example, Fendi rebirthed the double-F logo in the Spring/Summer 2018 collection and Maria Grazia Chiuri reintroduced the Dior logo on bags in the Spring/Summer 2017 show.

Versace, until then associated exclusively with the Medusa head, debuted a new chevron monogram during the autumn/winter 2021 season. 

Beyond the recent return of noughties fashion, the pivotal role of 90s streetwear and urban culture on modern fashion trends cannot be overlooked; nor can the eagerness of luxury brands to tap into that world.

The paradigm has shifted, and a movement that was first looked down on is now a driving factor in luxury collections and product sales. Virgil Abloh became the ground-breaking creative director at Louis Vuitton, opening the doors for more inclusivity in the industry.

Pharrell Williams is his successor, and hip hop artists are sought after for collaborations with the biggest brands in fashion. 

It looks like brands have even changed attitudes toward bootlegging, because in Gucci opened a shop with Dapper Dan in Harlem and in 2017 Marc Jacobs collaborated with bootleg artist Ava Niuri, making a sweatshirt with “Marc Jacobes” in a handwritten-style font, to play into the fake-designer fad.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all.

That’s the thing about monograms- they work best when people make them their own, whether it’s through customisation or creative styling. But if you are just wearing it to be a walking billboard for a fashion brand, then what is the point?  

As of now it seems like quiet luxury is back in vogue, but that doesn’t mean that monograms will disappear. In fact, monograms endure because while trends fluctuate, they remain stable and unchanging.

They are something to fall back on and re-imagine over and over again. They can be loud statements or quiet indicators of style.

Some advice though- it’s easy to get carried away and want to show off our precious luxury items, but don’t fall into the trap of prioritizing brand recognition over artistic quality. Focus on expressing your individuality, cause that’s always in fashion.

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