Logomania, the 2000s and Celebrity Culture

In the past ten years, logomania has gone from counterculture to mainstream with its adaptation by major brands like Dior and Fendi. 

As we all know, the main vehicle of brand recognition is logos. Logos are meant to compartmentalize an entire brand’s reputation in one graphic. Seeing Chanel’s logo, for instance, makes individuals think of luxury and perhaps a certain Chanel product —for me, it is the Chanel Boy Bag. However, in examining Western fashion, logomania was rarely used because of an early emphasis on simplicity from 1940 to 1970, as well as the financial inaccessibility of high fashion. This meant that individuals who could afford high-fashion products bought them without the need for a front-and-center logo.

When discussing the logomania craze of the 2000s, the conversations and acclaim are rarely centered around the originators: Black artists and celebrities. Dapper Dan, a Harlem-based artist and haberdasher, reengineered high-fashion logos during the 1980s “Golden Age of Hip Hop.” Dapper Dan’s designs were not subtle; they were the epitome of flashy. Yet, that flashiness is infused with luxury and artistic commitment. High-fashion houses did not see it that way. Dapper Dan’s artistic process (as well as his products) were deemed knockoffs. In fact, a 1992 lawsuit by Fendi forced Dapper Dan to shutter his Harlem boutique for trademark infringement. Ironically enough, Karl Lagerfeld capitalized off the ideas of Dapper Dan during Fendi’s infamous logomania era. 

At the turn of the 21st century, however, the “in-crowd” business model of high-fashion houses was shifted due to the rising importance of celebrity culture. Although the public had always been drawn to the lives of celebrities, the desire to emulate celebrity fashion grew exponentially in the 2000s.

Paris Hilton. Lagerfeld’s Fendi. Britney Spears. Von Dutch. The 2000s were an era of flashiness and high fashion, which introduced new fashion trends. 

One of these was logomania, a design strategy taken from Black artists. 

As opposed to being a small element of the product, the logo was magnified and, oftentimes, multiplied. The clearest example of logomania revolves around Fendi’s revitalization of Fendi’s double-F logo. Originally, Karl Lagerfeld designed the double-F, also known as Zucca, in 1965 to modernize Fendi’s image. However, as a result of the logomania trend that took place in the mid-to-late 20th century, Lagerfeld completely re-engineered the double-F, plastering it on bags, jackets and accessories. As a result, what was once a brand known for its furs became a brand that was adored by celebrities for its pint-sized purses. As a result, the public began seeking out Fendi products, especially the Fendi Baguette, popularized by Sex and The City’s Carrie Bradshaw.

Lauded by the white-dominated high fashion industry, logomania was created by Black artists like Dapper Dan. Once wealthy white women began appreciating the craftsmanship and overall look of logomanic products, the narrative shifted. What was once regarded as “ghetto” and “flashy” became “innovative” and “fun.” White designers were put on pedestals for copying the work of Black designers.

White celebrities, who wore these products, were celebrated for their fashion sense. All the while, their Black celebrity peers — Lil’ Kim, for instance — were being tarnished by the press for doing the same. Because it resulted in the erasure of Black artistry, the analysis of American celebrity culture is necessary for the comprehension of the resurgence of logomania during the 2000s.

Once a white celebrity was seen wearing something, the public rallied behind that product. However, most of these products incorporated brand logos, meaning that normal consumers could feel just as luxurious as their favorite celebrity. Resembling a celebrity through fashion is not an accident. American culture glorifies, even deifies, celebrities. They have always been an integral force in the generation of ‘hype’ around products. In the 2000s, high fashion houses began to send celebrities products. Their responsibility was to be photographed with this product, even answering  “Who are you wearing?” 

As we know, fashion is cyclical — meaning that the trends of yesterday become the trends of tomorrow, which explains the resurgence of logomania. Due to the overemphasis of logos during the 2000s, consumers were redirected to assume that the presence of logos heightened one’s style. Additionally, high fashion is no longer sheltered from the pockets of average consumers. Instead, high-fashion brands restrict the average consumer from certain products as opposed to the entire brand. This allows for the “average fashion consumer” to become instrumental in the survival of a high-fashion brand. 

Fendi is one of these brands, debuting a spring/summer 2018 collection that rebirthed the double-F/Zucca logo. In this collection, the Zucca was embossed onto leather bags, a truly innovative take on a classic pattern. Additionally, Fendi ventured into the combination of logos. By enlarging the Zucca pattern, Fendi essentially created a fur jacket with two seemingly distinct patterns. as well as flipping a 2000s classic: the Fendi fur coat.

In a visually-driven society, it is no surprise that logos have injected themselves into fashion. As previously mentioned, logos encapsulate everything about a brand into a simple graphic. The oversaturation of logos has increased high fashion sales growth, redefined what it means to be fashionable and enhanced celebrity culture’s influence on consumer decisions. However, one toxic disadvantage of fashion’s fondness for logos revolves around the value of clothing. Statistically, attire drives perception. In an experiment conducted by Rob Nelissen and Marijin H.C Meijers, individuals wearing either a Lacoste or Tommy Hilfiger shirt were met with preferential treatment compared to ones who were not wearing a branded shirt.

Although logomania allows for beautiful products that reflect an artistic shift in fashion, it has also inflicted damage to both consumers and the fashion industry. Other than resulting in the overemphasizing of white creativity and affecting perceptions, logomania prioritizes brand recognition in lieu of product quality.

 

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Anwar Boutayba is an npcoming sophomore studying ad/pr and global studies. When he’s not writing, he likes to cook and binge watch Scandal.

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