Why are we all still falling for the lure of the logo?

With Fendi's pop-up poised to take over The Dubai Mall, we explore the full circle of logomania
Why are we all still falling for the lure of the logo?

The latest iteration of logomania has firmly taken root. Reaching its first giddy peak in the 1980s era of excess, courtesy of Zucca-printed Fendi baguettes, golden double-C Chanel jewellery and the ubiquitous Versace Medusa-head, it reared its head again, this time in a more casual guise, in the 1990s; the MTV age of logoed leisurewear courtesy of Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, adidas and even Joe Bloggs. Remember him? Today, we are in the midst of the post-millennial wave. Ironic, abstracted and playful, both fashion’s most storied institutions and its precocious young upstarts have viewed the heritage of the logo askance – and with the impending fervour whipped by both Fendi’s new logo capsule collection for Net-a-Porter, and its pop-up in The Dubai Mall, we’re in the mood to know... why now?

Of course, the logo wasn’t actually born in the latter half of the 20th century. In fact, from the late 1800s and the birth of touristic travel – that of boat, train and car – luxury luggage emblazoned with its house monogram became inextricable from the leisure and lifestyle of the upper classes. Whether printed onto leather at Louis Vuitton or wrought in hemp at Gucci, the monogram repeat print became synonymous with the sophisticated and established fashion houses of both Italy and Paris.

The Fendi logo as envisioned by Karl in 1985-86

Similarly, the house of Fendi, initially a furrier launched by Adele and Edoardo Fendi in 1925, didn’t require a logo until the company branched out into travel accessories, their rigid trunks being in need of a printed jacquard fabric to line their insides. The brand’s tenured creative director Karl Lagerfeld explains of the logo’s inception: “When I arrived at Fendi in 1965 the five Fendi sisters asked me to create a small modern collection of furs. But I also wanted them to be fun, which is one of the Fendi codes. And since Fendi and fun have the same initials, I sketched the two letters together in less than five seconds, creating the FF logo, meaning Fun Furs.”

This logo, blending luxury with a dash of irreverence, was a hit with high-spenders and quickly transcended luggage lining and made its way onto some of the first monogram-print handbags in the ’70s. Logos have continued to grace countless It bags at both Fendi and beyond ever since, becoming a beacon for luxury status. “A logo is not just a logo,” Silvia Venturini Fendi explains. “It is much more. For me, the Fendi FF logo is a code, is part of our DNA. It’s like a guarantee seal… It represents the history of a Maison of almost 100 years, made of values like tradition, passion and love.”

And though the functional logo endures a long-standing legacy, its reinvigoration today is a logomania we’ve actually not seen before. What has emerged over the last few years is a play between reverence and irreverence: a riff that satirises heritage as much as it benefits from that which it symbolises. Take Demna Gvasalia’s ironic DHL slogan tees in the early days of his own brand Vetements which reached sell-out status almost immediately. Such statements helped elevate the Vetements logo to similar starry heights – plastered onto disposable-looking ponchos in a play on throwaway luxury. He doubled back on these ironic notions of branding when he rewrote the storied Balenciaga symbol and plastered it, Goyard-style, across totes and handbags alike. How meta.

Concurrent with these plays on cult branding was the rise and rise of sportswear. While athleisure became prolific on the catwalks of everyone from Victoria Beckham to Chloé and Chanel, the trend is also entirely indebted to this decade’s penchant for normcore and the ugly-chic of the ’90s. Take Champion, with its similar endorsement from Demna, or other brands like Fila, Ellesse or Kappa – each label having benefited hugely from the kitsch irony with which they’ve been revisited. Skatewear brands like Supreme and Palace are key figures in the sea change too – their limited edition, guest-list-only waiting-list conditions for entry-level-priced product ensures an air of excessive covetability. It’s no wonder that last year saw the likes of a collaboration between Louis Vuitton and Supreme. And Burberry collaborator Gosha Rubchinsky’s Russian youthwear riffs on exactly this – the preciousness of simple sportswear brands back in his home country, Russia – offering yet another example of streetwear’s impact on the catwalk.

A sketch of the Fendi pop-up that is coming to The Dubai Mall

Silvia Venturini Fendi concurs, telling Grazia: “There is so much history behind the FF logo, yet today it still has the same appeal for the new generations. This is why we decided to create FF Reloaded. This proves that certain things are everlasting. The reasons for seeking logoed products have changed over the years; in the ’80s, it was more ostentatious – a logo was meant to show that you had made it. Now young people like it and they are at the beginning of their professional life. It has a fashion connotation, it stems from the street and it’s often paired with sportswear.”

Consider Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, kings of the branded white T-shirt, denim and of course, sporty and elasticised underwear – each of which have enjoyed a return to our shopping lists and promptly filled our Instagram feeds. The underwear comeback is key, with Maria Grazia Chiuri’s riff on the branded elastic for Dior last summer, blending high and low to immediately covetable effect and inspiring countless copies. This high-low blend was no better encapsulated than on Fendi’s Spring/Summer 2018 catwalk, with fur bombers, emblazoned with Karl’s FF logo – a wry twist on luxury logos. How better could Herr Lagerfeld’s trademark ‘fun fur’ be realised?

Karl’s play on the logo in 1988-89

Cue FF Reloaded, an elaboration on this haute elevation of urbanite dress and an array of must-have hoodies, bombers and scuba sneakers in the brand’s trademark tobacco and black print as well as a brand new black and white print that harks back to early ’80s logomania. One particular look – a logo-printed parka, A-line skirt and sock sneakers – comes complete with a lavish collection of logoed luggage, bringing the history of Karl’s ‘FF’ full circle. Celebrate the jubilant journey of the fabled logo with Net-a-Porter from 13th April, or at the inflatable Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana – a reproduction of the brand’s HQ that can be found at The Dubai Mall from 19th to 30th April.

Photos: Courtesy of Fendi