admittedly it is very trendy to avoid visible logos. inconspicuous brand signifiers have become the most significant differentiating factor between trashy and stylish: a guaranteed method to be dubbed "new money" or "chav" – depending where you're located – is to wear flagrant brand names and big logos.
it all started with irony: cool kids wearing gucci tees were met up with tees hollering "f**k gucci" that the even cooler kids wore. the more the exclusivity market expanded and became less exclusive, the more the truly wealthy and in-the-know steered their interest towards brands with small recognition potential. as peer groups have become more selective and exclusive, the distinguishing markers have grown more and more subtle. simultaneously, the mass market follows lead and being able to recognize and name properly has become a mastered quality of the rare few.
it's been frequently claimed that the recession created a vacuum that sucked life out of luxury fashion houses: because people were losing their jobs, it suddenly became tacky to flaunt wealth. although there is some truth to the claim – designer stores offer brown paper bags instead of brand named ones – the repulsion directed at labelism was visible long before the economic downfall.
small, limited edition but almost unrecognizable brands were huge [sic!] already at the beginning of the millennium. they tailed such brands as maison martin margiela in creating their signature with a few visible stitches, cutout/ripped out labels or inverted seams – recognizable to a select group of connoisseurs. to be recognized as a member of a certain fashion elite became a complex interaction of having a detail, for example the tilted pocket or subtle hand-stitched r of rogan jeans, that could be visible to the masses, but would only receive an approving glance from the "right" people.
when labelism was deemed out in the mass market, it became more and more difficult to spot "fakes" and "imitations" from "originals"; there isn't a high street store where you cannot find a demeulemeester inspired cardigan these days. roughly speaking, copying designer lines has become a matter of copying signature cuts and tones and is slowly (or momentarily) taking over the misleading reinterpretations of logos.
i, personally, am a product strongly affected by the exclusivity niche: i grew up interacting and inspired by individual fashion people who wore the most incredible brands no-one had ever heard of and hunted for the most insane and limited color combinations for their sneakers. the ultimate joy was to have the appreciation of the other five people who were able to recognize what you wore. therefore, i grew up as a careful reader of nuances. in certain circles of fashion, i was definitely in the know, an active partaker and definitely enjoying it. otherwise, not so much.
the kind of snobbery involved had something very similar to car-tuning to it: original dust caps create awe in other car buffers but are hardly noted by anyone else. what differentiates it from regular girl-to-girl fashion policing is that the goal was to look pretty much as ordinary (or crazy extreme) as possible to someone unaware of what you were wearing whereas women often seem to evaluate the whole as (un)pretty, (not) classy, (not) trendy or (in)expensive and tend not to hide their assets. generally, that is of course. ours resembled an inside joke, albeit a more serious one, but just as dependent on being not-in-yer-face.
my relationship with brands is complex – admittedly it is very of our time to claim that i try to avoid visible logos. in other words i am somewhat a logophobe when it comes to easily recognizable double c's or checkered patterns, to name a couple. (fyi, my project chanel reward will be one without visible cc, in case you were wondering...) still i sport an ordinary black beanie with telltale four white stitches and i know certain people know exactly what it means. the ugly truth is, part of me is a label whore disguised.
the reason i started pondering this matter was my purchase before xmas: after upgrading my laptop to a large macbook pro, all my bags were suddenly too small. a need for a large holdall that could fit my daily essentials appeared. i chose a damier graphite bag from louis vuitton.
since i consider myself, despite my vanity, less than daft, i have to address the ridiculousness of an expensive bag. the pattern is recognizable but quite rare. nevertheless, louis vuitton does not exactly count as an insider joke.
i, however, love the pattern in this particular color. when it was introduced in lv's fall/winter 2008 collection for men, it swept me away like a tornado. i eagerly awaited for the line to arrive in finland and have, ever since, had my eye on the beauty i finally splurged on at their loyal customers' evening. champagne had a little something to do with the resolution, but a little intoxi-shopping has proven worthy in my books.
as far as finances go, i could argue that i have shopped significantly less than ever before this past year. i carefully considered the bag for several months before buying. nonetheless, the bag does scream louis vuitton, albeit rather silently. silent scream. yikes.
moreover, the bag is rather ordinary despite meeting my particular needs perfectly. i could try to squiggle out of this problem by stating that most of my designer buys have been exclusive of design over brand. i would not be lying, they definitely have been, and there haven't been acceptable knock-offs around. i am honestly an admirer of original designs and beautiful garments, such as my vivienne westwood coat. but the matter isn't as simple, really, now is it?
choosing a recognizable, expensive label and writing down what i am wearing in this blog somewhat contradicts my self-proclaimed ideal state of not providing information to those deemed "unworthy" – i should only care about the people who recognize the stuff themselves, right? nevertheless, it is as much a part of the vanity that is involved in choosing the beanie with white stitches instead of just some black beanie.
and vanity it is. the same vanity that lies behind buying a simple black acne cardigan instead of a no-name one. it is most obvious and brutally embarrassing with the most basic items of clothing. why choose an alexander wang tee over a flowing h&m tee? i know there are schools of consumer thought that stress investing in basics. these days their credo of quality does not hold since brand names do not secure quality. my aw stuff has piled more than many others.
don't get me wrong. i do not regret buying the bag, nor can i admit to buying anything solely because of a brand. i choose things because i like – or preferably love – them. nevertheless, if i am being completely honest here, the predominance of invisible labels on ordinary garments is a little too significant to be simply explained away.
the kind of weakness i associate with concealed brands creates something of a moral dilemma in me: am i a fashion lover or on the lookout for some narrowly defined peer acceptance? is there a difference? what is the pleasure i get from having the silent recognition of others like me? are they really like me? how truthful is my claim that i try to only choose garments based on their fabulousness and not the brand? is the fact that sometimes i'm hooked on a brand immoral?
what do you say?