With most catwalk shows cancelled or severely reduced in scope, this was always going to be an unusual year for events like the recent Milan Fashion Week. It was Prada’s SS21 collection, however, that may have offered the clearest indication of how the pandemic could affect what we wear every day.
Reporting for the Financial Times, Lauren Indvik noted that last week’s show marked the official debut of the collaboration between Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons (following his abrupt departure from Calvin Klein). While Simons wouldn’t have been hired if the brand wasn’t interested in introducing change — such as bold florals, for instance — that wasn’t the only noticeable difference:
“(There were) T-shirts and jersey turtlenecks picked with holes and stamped not-so-discreetly with the Prada name,” Indvik wrote. “Indeed, the Prada logo was played up to a degree hitherto unseen before in the house’s runway collections, taking centre stage on T-shirt fronts and nylon backpacks slung from model’s shoulders . . . it made Prada look like a lot of other brands.”
She didn’t have to mention the brands she was thinking about. Ever since Marc Jacobs was named creative director in the 1990s, for instance, the Louis Vuitton logo that was originally introduced in 1896 was suddenly the signature element on clothes as well as bags, an approach that continued with Kim Jones. This reached its nadir with an attempt to “update” the logo as a sort of graffiti in what was known as the Sprouse collection.
This didn’t just happen at the high end of fashion. Even if you’ve never stepped on a skateboard in your life, you’ve probably become aware of the cachet some associate with Supreme, whose logo may be the epitome of streetwear. (This was only heightened by a cross-over moment when Supreme unveiled a collaboration with Louis Vuitton in 2017.)
The predominance of logos has been a staple of sportwear from the likes of Nike and Addidas for years, but part of the point in buying from a luxury brand was a level of creativity and craftsmanship that would be more apparent than any logo.
I’m hardly the first tot wring my hands at this trend. Last year, for example, Eugene Rabkin wrote an op-ed on High Snobriety lambasted the way brands like Dolce & Gabbana and Balenciaga were stooping to the masses. “We witness and partake in the long and relentless parade of logoed mediocrity that passes for luxury today,” he wrote.
PopSugar had an even more interesting take:
“The logomania trend is a subversion of our obsession with wealth and status. It comments on knockoff culture and the arbitrary nature of commodity value, especially within the context of luxury goods.”
Think about how we’re wearing clothes today, however, and the logo may serve an even more critical function. We’re not out in public as much, where someone might be able to notice the finer details of a shirt, coat or pair of pants. On a Zoom call, little more than your head, shoulders and a bit of your chest may be visible.
For a brand like Prada, embracing logomania is a way to ensure it doesn’t get forgotten as luxury brands compete harder for relevance (and consumer spending) than they ever have in their history.
If you’re the one buying luxury fashion, meanwhile, the logo is almost like a return-on-investment in the form of self-promotion.
The question, of course, is whether you want to identify with a set of logos to the extent that it becomes the cornerstone of your self-expression. And if, as their ubiquity inreases, those logos still mean as much as they once did.