Before Savile Row and the Dries Van Noten store on Paris’ Left Bank became dangers to this editor’s overdraft, there were Tommy, Calvin and Ralph. This triumvirate of American brands - that’s Hilfiger, Klein and Lauren, of course - represented a holy trinity for a Scottish teen who thought logo jumpers the pinnacle of style. It was the 1990s, and these brands were unashamed in flying their own flags (sometimes literally) across their heavily branded clothes. It’s 2017, and while everything else has changed, logos are once again front and centre. Even if you protest that wearing designer logos is frightfully nouveau and crass, you can’t deny that it’s back.
As a general bellwether, where Gucci leads, many follow - that’s certainly the case with designer Alessandro Michele’s bold, brazen logo sweaters and double-G belts, which many a street style ‘star’ have re-adjusted the tuck of their shirts to showcase. Full disclosure: I have succumbed to Gucci’s bells-and-whistles approach, with a sweater where the words ‘Gucci’ are slashed across my midsection. Perhaps the affection for something branded never went away after all.
Elsewhere, Calvin Klein, the original champion of the logo T-shirt, is in the midst of a renaissance at the hand of former Dior designer Raf Simons. Now you have to call it Calvin Klein 205W39NYC, but those iconic T-shirts from the ‘90s are still there, if re-worked, appealing to shoppers’ vintage nostalgia. At Ralph Lauren, the house last month launched a pop up at Selfridges with a reissued collection from the 1992 Summer Olympics, all of it emblazoned in typically ‘90s fonts. At Burberry, the heritage outfitter re-introduced its much stigmatised yet still iconic check pattern in its AW17 show. While it’s not a typeface logo per se, it’s as identifiable as any spell-it-out mark (and created by my ancestor; he couldn’t have foreseen Big Brother contestants in the design one day).
If you’re still allergic to acting as a walking billboard, perhaps it’s best to look at the labels (quite literally) that play with the ways they show off their wares. Gucci has produced pieces in faded, love-worn designs that look hauled from some family treasure chest in Florence. Quirky French brands Maison Kitsune and Ami turn their logos into retro scrolls, and Belgian designer Dries Van Noten has celebrated his work with Britain’s finest historical mills, including Lovats and Fox Brothers, by putting their sign frontages on sweaters. It’s his way to give a shout-out to the quiet champions of British craft instead of himself. What’s in a name, anyway?