I find it a little funny that my most vivid (not to be confused with earliest) memories of fashion from my childhood and teen years revolved around the logo. Did you have a Sweater Shop or a United Colours of Benetton sweatshirt on at primary school? If you did, you were automatically in a gang of sorts. Worn with a colourful poloneck underneath and a flippy little skirt and you're ready to dance your way round the school disco to Whigfield. Did you carry a French Connection or Miss Selfridge drawstring flimsy rucksack to school? If you did, even though they were wholly unpractical and totally naff, they scored you cool points at school. Kangol and Dr Martens emblazoned record bags also had their moment too until we realised that carrying ten textbooks on one shoulder would wreck our posture for life.
It was these memories that came flooding back when I paid for these Chanel denim shorts at Liberty's designer vintage department, a place that for some reason I've overlooked over the years. I'm at two minds whether I should be apologetic about them. On paper, they are horrendously naff – big ol' Chanel logo embroidered at the front, a larger-than-necessary black logo-ed tab at the side, not one but five Chanel gold buttons on the fly and brown stitching on the back pockets mimicking the famous Chanel quilting. Can you tell they're shorts made by Chanel? I chuckled and related to this blog post on Noisy Shoes, where she defends her decision to don a pink J'Adore Dior t-shirt. "I know it‚Äôs not very now, but I just like it, ok" she says, citing its "tongue-in-cheek-ness" as a reason to love it. Logomania has come full circle to the point where we can laugh, wear and not feel ashamed about it, and even on some level, take pride in emblazoning your chest (or in my case, kneecaps) with a very knowing and wink-wink-nudge-nudge logo.
Logomania didn't begin with "chavs" but certainly memories of seeing labels like Umbro, McKenzie and Ellesse so prominently and proudly on show, is ingrained in a lot of British people's minds. They were and still are targets of derision but even now, their Nikes, their slouchy silhouettes and their logo-ed sweatshirts have come back in strands of fashion in editorials, in the upsurge of trainer-wearing within a style context and in young London designers who reference this sub-culture.
Photograph by Barry Delaney
Then we had the late 90s and early 00's rampage where we were besieged with images of labels like Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Dior and Gucci worn and carried in abundance. It was as flashy as you can get. Incidentally, it was this specific epoch of fashion that made me hate the logo. This was my Kevin the grumpy Teenager phase. To me this type of excess represented judgemental peers in Hong Kong who would look down on you if you weren't carrying a designer bag and so the logo as a status symbol became apparent and in a way, synonymous with high fashion.
YSL's S/S 08 collection was memorable on the whole, one of Stefano Pilati's best in my opinion and his decision to place the YSL logo on a simple grey sweatshirt was bold and wholly effective at the time. Nobody would really accuse this sweatshirt of falling victim to logomania. Rather it felt appropriate to pay homage to this bit of typography genius designed by Adolph Mouron Cassandre.
The hunt for vintage logo tees therefore began and to the present day, you can see them popping up on style blogs, worn in a way that acknowledges the importance of the logo. The question you ask therefore is whether this is a more subtle version of using the logo as a status symbol?
Vintage YSL tee from Joellen Love Flickr
The resurgence for vintage logo tees went hand in hand with the popularity of designer vintage in general, which to this day is a stable industry. Vintage Chanel bags and Chanel jewellery feel like eternally popular items that will never be short of buyers, and in particular the more prominent, the double C's, the better.
Vintage Chanel jewellery from Claire Inc
Claire Inc, one of my favourite sites for browsing this ilk of logo-prominent vintage is one of the many sellers responsible for creating trends such as the hunt for Moschino Belt with the gold letters spelling out the brand name, fully on show. Owner Belinda Humphris cites a few reasons for this collective penchant for items like the Moschino belt and designer vintage in general. "I think vintage provides a more accessible avenue for many to designer wares which directly impacts popularity. Pieces like Moschino belts are very affordable in the scheme of things (in comparison to say a classic Chanel bag). Moschino belts provide a huge brand statement and authentic versions can be picked up from $50-$300 (depending how lucky you are). Wearing vintage branding in many cases also shows credibility – a nod to fashion history. By sourcing and subsequently wearing it they are showing a knowledge (or even just an interest) the brand's past."
The last point is one that I think is often overlooked – that buying a vintage piece is a self-aware nod to fashion history, one that feels more intelligent than simply walking into a designer label store and buying a logo belt straight off the rack, brand new.
Humphris is also on the money when accounting for the revived interest in vintage Versace and its associations with a style period that continues to be a reference today. "Fashion icons such as MIA sporting layers of vintage Versace HUGELY increase demand for emblazoned, iconic brand imagery. Wearing a medusa head tshirt is synonymous with Versace and is a direct throwback to the blatant logo loving of the 90s (the era of the supermodel, grunge and extreme logomania). Wearing an emblazoned (or even customized) garment directly references the vintage era whilst being worn in a tongue in cheek, modern context. Obviously the resurgence in 90s trends supports the interest in iconic, authentic 90s pieces too."
In London in particular, you'll encounter vintage Versace tees worn in a context that definitely references the nineties, a style period that just keeps on giving and giving when it comes to London's irony-obsessed stylesetters. Oh irony! There's no getting away from it when discussing the resurgence of logos. There is definitely a conscious decision to express a slightly smug and self-congratulating image when opting for a vintage logo-ed tee. It says "Isn't it like, so funny that I'm wearing this really cheesy t-shirt? Except on me it isn't cheesy at all…"
Images from Lookbook.nu
The revival of Versace prints courtesy of their collaboration with H&M, reissued classics and Lady Gaga's seal of Versace approval is pretty much the equivalent of having a logo on show. The prints are so distinctly Versace that any imitations that come ridden with baroque swirls, gold chains and bright colours would immediately be recognised as Versace. Zone 7 Style in Shoreditch has an amazing collection of vintage Versace by the way if you're in the market for head-to-toe print bling.
Then there's the proliferation of the DIY logo with this almost-iconic image by Jak and Jil sealing the fate of the soon to be ubiquitous Sharpied double C's.
Countless DIY tees featuring the double C's or the YSL logo have popped up all over the place and it need not matter if the logo looks evidently DIY-ed. The point isn't to come up with a realistic looking and authentic looking logo but it seems the more prominent the feathered strokes of a felt tip pen or fabric paint, the better.
Chanel DIY Tee by Style Today
YSL DIY Tee by Helen Glory
The latest logo-ed tee that has already got people panting comes from Celine. Phoebe Philo is of course no stranger to instantly-recongisable instantly-covetable merchandise, having been responsible for the flood of Chloe Paddington bags with their heavy padlocks that are equivalent to a logo.
We meet our friend irony again when discussing the various warped versions of logos and in particular Chanel's double C's have bore the brunt of defilement. Paint drips, wordplay and context shake-up – the double C's have seen em' all. Along with the Louis Vuitton monogram and the Gucci G's, they've been placed in contexts that go far and beyond fashion because of their instantly recognisable image.
Present day attempts to instill appreciation for new logos are well on their way to succeeding. LVMH has just relaunched Moynat as a luxury luggage heritage-laden brand that attempts to garner some of the success that say Goyard has had. Somehow brands like Goyard and Hermes have escaped any image of looking naff or tacky by maintaining a carefully manicured and protected image. Moynat probably hopes to do the same.
Another example are the MCM backpacks, which have been incredibly popular in Asia and are now making their way over to the UK with a MCM logo covered routemaster running around town at the moment.
Turning to the young generation of London-based designers, who carry a collective overview memory of chav culture, 90s logomania and ironic-logo revival, they're able to turn the logo on its head, nod to the past and make it their own. Christopher Shannon has come up with many variations of his name as a logo in his collections over the past few years. He knowingly references chav culture and understands the power of placing his name visibly on his clothing. He does this bravely and people who buy into Shannon's clothing also carry all those aforementioned references and knows that wearing his name isn't necessarily an act of slavish brand loyalty.
Likewise, J.W. Anderson has boldly put his logo on his S/S 12 striped pyjamas, something that he wants to establish as a recognisable brand item. Jonathan Anderson is keen on establishing a brand and with items like the logo-ed pyjama or the kilt skirt, he's on his way to developing a house code that he can call his own.
Maarten van der Horst is only three seasons in with his label and has already developed a memorable logo for himself that is a humorous reference of heavy metal bands like Metallica. It's not necessarily a world that is intrinsically linked with van der Horst's design aesthetic but the fact that it's so out-of-place seems appropriate for a designer like van der Horst, who twists and turns imagery and design on its head. "Designing an M that's inspired by Metallica, but when put in a different context is all of a sudden just a really strange, but very strong shape. We twist and play with the concept of ownership and by doing that try to slowly, but surely, define what it is my studio and our designs stand for," explains van der Horst in an interview with Dazed Digital.
It's only when I review everything that has gone by in fashion's relationship with the logo that buying the Chanel shorts, which five years ago I wouldn't touch with a bargepole, makes sense now. You can put it down to that self-knowing irony of wearing a pair of shorts as overtly branded as they are or 90s retrogazing. Whatever it is, this dulled and more sidelined version of logomania is definitely not going anywhere by my reckoning. We're willingly branding ourselves with whatever popular motif that rears its head in fashion be it Givenchy panthers, Stella McCartney botanical florals or Mary Katrantzou typewriters so the logo along with hyper-visual prints is certainly part of our culture to set ourselves apart or in with the crowd, depending on your perspective.