- Logos can help designers sell low-cost goods like hoodies and perfume, but in an era of monoculture, it’s hard to stand out from the crowd.
- Young brands like Marine Serre have found success with monogram. With the trend toward boxy, sans-serif fonts, sometimes the best logos aren’t logos at all.
- It takes storytelling, brand building, design, and brand identity to create a successful company. You could have a great logo, but without the story to back it up, it’s unlikely that your clothes will sell.
We may have already reached peak-logomania but that doesn’t mean that brand insignia are irrelevant. In fact, having a logo is the easiest way to both earn brand recognition, and sell goods that actually turn a profit. It’s the reason why so many big fashion houses can rely on the sales of relatively low-cost items like perfume, cosmetics, and lingerie. Unlike couture, easy-to-produce goods like t-shirts and hoodies have big returns, and the more recognizable your logo, the easier it is to get consumers in your branded gear. Put simply, logos sell. But in an era of monoculture, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd.
It seems like all the big fashion houses at conglomerates like LVMH and Kering have similar logos these days. Everything has gotten boxier, more sans serif-y, and more stream-lined (even the recent CIA rebrand seems to fit the logo-milieu) but what does that say for culture? The trend toward logomania has been a boon for legacy brands who have the authority to put big price tags on bland items; but for young designers, it takes more than sans-serif font to sell goods. Of course, some industry newcomers like Marine Serre (who has been lauded as “the next big fashion house”) have been able to monetize monograms in a big way. With Serre’s crescent moon logo/monogram as an example, it seems like anyone with the right branding can make it—but it takes time, money, and clout to reach the point where people will rock your label-adorned clothes. In fact, creating and copywriting a logo isn’t always worth the payoff.
During the past few years we have seen a resurgence of logo-adorned clothes from luxury brands. Even Burberry, who previously relied on their iconic plaid pattern to sell goods, made a successful transition to logo-heavy clothing under the creative direction of Ricardo Tisci. Why? They already had the authority and following, and they did it at the right time. But with the surge of a global pandemic, even big brands have had to reconsider their strategy. Buying into low-cost, logo-adorned items may be the easiest way for consumers to signal their access to luxury goods, but during a global recession, sometimes shopping for the sake of looking rich can appear tone-deaf. The result? Big brands have started to shy away from monogram, looking to more subtle, utilitarian designs instead.
INDIE BRANDS DO IT BETTER
So what works? The past few years we’ve seen a ton of small brands get big recognition, in large part thanks to their logos. For starters, there’s Mowalola, a recent Central Saint Martins graduate known for her bright leather looks and soon-to-be-launched collaboration with YZY at The Gap (she’s the design director). Unlike the streamlined logos of fashion houses like Yves Saint Laurent, Mowalola’s logo is bold, in-your-face, and instantly recognizable. Some have even compared the encircled “M” to the Sony Walkman logo (RIP)—a reference that makes sense given the designer’s nostalgia for ‘90s rave culture. The Mowalola logo not only works because it’s so out-there, but also because it is attached to accessibly priced, easy-to-wear clothing (like trucker hats) that enables consumers who can’t afford her leather looks support and represent the brand.
THE TELFAR PHENOMENON
It goes without saying that the greatest use of the logo in the 2020s has been at Telfar, where a simple, logo-embossed bag has become a consistently sold-out must-have accessory (need I repeat Bushwick Birkin). Like Mowalola’s ubiquitous “M”, Telfar’s logo isn’t especially unique (in many ways the encircled T is logo-building 101, and has been compared to, amongst other things, the cover of R&B singer Tevin Cambell’s greatest hits album circa 2001), yet it has become one of the most sought-after logos on the market.
The takeaway is this: it’s not Telfar’s logo that is responsible for the brand’s success, but the ethos behind it. In other words, it takes storytelling, brand building, design, and brand identity to create a successful company. You could have the most unique, beautiful logo, but without the story to back it up, it’s unlikely that your brand will sell.
WHO NEEDS A LOGO?
Not everyone needs a unique logo to sell their brand. Up-and-coming designers like Ottolinger have found success by simply mimicking the monocultural style of their superiors at high fashion houses like Balenciaga (all uppercase, block letters). Others, like Marine Serre, have found brand recognition in symbols, while companies like Glossier claim that sending buyers a free pink bubble-wrap pouch has created more brand-recognition than their logo has. Of course, the master of the no-logo logo is Margiela, whose ghost label, signified by the presence of four corner stitches in lieu of a traditional label, has created hype for minimalist fashion consumers across the globe (even a 1MOQ contributor got four stitches tattooed on their back recently, but I digress).
There’s no one-size-fits-all prescription when it comes to logo design. Ultimately you should know your brand, your message, and your style before you even start to think about whether your latest handbag design deserves a monogram. So instead of asking yourself what your logo should look like, why not start with thinking about what your brand stands for? Today’s consumers are smarter than ever, and a lot of people are getting tired of the signalling that comes along with logo-adorned goods. Sometimes the money is in the message.