Unraveling the Allure of Logos in Fashion
Updated: Jul 13
by Beatrice Hazlehurst
Well, this could be a difficult sell, thought Scott Shapiro. It was 2014, and the New York stylist and former fashion editor, like much of the industry, bated a breath as designer Jeremy Scott splashed the runway with his debut collection for Italian megabrand, Moschino.
A look from Jeremy Scott's debut runway collection for Moschino | Source: lebrasse.co
Shapiro’s reservations are certainly relatable. The irreverence of Scott’s offering meant that it couldn’t just be colored with America’s culture, the essence of Americana was suffused into every stitch. There was suiting structured with the McDonalds’ arches, supermodels swathed in Hershey wrappers, Scott even stretched Nickelodeon character Spongebob’s gap-toothed grin across knitted separates. It went viral.
A look from Jeremy Scott's debut runway collection for Moschino | Source: lebrasse.com
“I think this use of common company logos in a fashion sphere helped to ground consumers,” says Shapiro, “serving as a reminder that the fashion world is still interconnected with the rest of the world.”
Just like that, Scott’s first Moschino serve proved we had been unwittingly waiting for lowbrow to pervade high fashion — the collection transcending the elite to reach the everyman as it laughed along with him. Buyer, producer and stylist, Yael Quint, recalls Scott’s Fall ‘14 collection as one of the most memorable instances of a collection inciting “a frenzy.”
“The fact that a luxury and couture designer mixed high fashion with fast food logos got everyone excited,” she explains. “I soon saw the digital world explode with people turning McDonald’s ‘happy meal’ boxes into bags and tagging Moschino.”
A look from Jeremy Scott's debut runway collection for Moschino | Source: Nowfashion.com
The time was ripe for reinvention of the logo. Consumers consistently gravitate toward instantly identifiable ready-to-wear to serve as a status symbol, but donning a designer that incorporates the emblem of everyday corporations, makes disposable wealth cheekily — rather than obnoxiously — visible. The bonus being, claims InStyle senior editor Alyssa Hardy, that when a collection reaches online ubiquity it can be spotted in-person from a mile away.
“Carrying around a Moschino Windex cellphone case doesn't mean you like to clean your windows, it's a status case that also allows you to make a small comment on the pervasiveness of corporations in our society.”
Hardy remembers Scott’s ‘Snickers’ hoodie in 2005, and Hussein Chalayan’s decision to send an Absolut Vodka logo down the runway 20 years earlier. These moves, she continues, served as a blueprint for a host of other brands. Demna Gvasalia’s reimagining of the DHL uniform for Vetements, and many others who springboarded off the concept to collaborate with alcohol companies, fast food chains or household products. Streetwear leader Supreme has teamed up with the likes of Budweiser, White Castle, and the New York Post. Ziploc was approached by Japanese designer, BEAMS. Cult favorite Nigo’s Human Made tried their luck with Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Vetements show, SS 2016, Paris fashion week; a DHL worker; and DHL’s chairman Ken Allen, wearing the Vetements T-shirt.Composite: REX
Photos Courtesy of Human Made/KFC
“When a high-end brand meshes with something super commonplace, it adds a bit of humor and playfulness to what might otherwise be seen as something stuffy and polished,” echoes Shapiro. “I also think that whether it's the brand's own logo or their take on that of another corporation, those pieces become extremely recognizable. And certain fashion consumers love to let everyone know who they're wearing without having to say much.”
Others have gone in a different direction, parodying bad counterfeits of luxury fashion, or plastering garments with reconceived product logos. After Britney Spears wore a tank that spelled ‘Sexsi,’ designed within the framework of the ‘Pepsi’ insignia, it was reproduced en masse, and continues to be readily available via resell sites. Perhaps because these iterations have zero affiliation with their origin company, there are still designers citing ownership over these logo interpretations — undeterred by the fact they were created eons earlier.
Last week, House of Mua Mua accused the namesake label of Venezuelan influencer Sharon Fonseca of plagiarism over her use of ‘Sexsi.’ The jab seems hypocritically close-to-home from the Bali-based brand, especially considering they released a bag inspired by Marlboro cigarettes emblazoned with ‘Fashion Kills’ — an accessory that bears a striking resemblance to the ‘Fashion Kills’ crossbody purse made by Moschino in 2016. Maria Grazhina Chaplin, CEO of the World of Influencers and Bloggers’ Awards, feels House of Mua Mua’s attack on Fonesca over logo-use is “offensive.”
Photo Courtesy of Sharon Fonseca Photo Courtesy of Revolve
“Sharon launched her brand leveraging [the impact] of logos in fashion,” says Chaplin. “Brands improvising with famous images is a popular fashion trend that has been around for decades. It’s insulting to make absolutely baseless accusations toward a young designer.”
“[It’s a case of], why change what’s working?” Claims Quint of fashion’s ‘logomania.’ “From my experience as a buyer, the proof is in the sales, and who doesn’t want to be successful? Although, I think that it is important to be a reputable brand before introducing logos, as I don’t think it has as high an impact if it’s an emerging brand.”
As such, no emerging or established label can lay real claim to these logos — not even Moschino. In actuality, anyone experiencing a minutia of metropolitanism day-to-day will inadvertently interact with the ‘golden arches,’ American Express or Coca-Cola. Designers may gripe over similar visions of these symbols, but in essence, they’re all ripped-off rip-offs. We’re consciously choosing to consume these chopped-and-screwed odes to consumerism, all to appear absolved of unconscious consumption. We try to make clear that we’re above corporate greed — even while participating in it.
“As long as people are inundated with Pepsi advertisements and McDonald’s restaurants on every corner this type of fashion will stick around,” Hardy concludes, “as consumers, we want to be in on the joke, so we buy into it.”