If years ago you would cringe at the sight of t-shirts plastered with luxury brand logos front-and-center, then fashion’s latest revival will probably have you rethinking the next time you come across such finds. Enter logomania, the fashion trend that has won the hearts of street style stars, movie stars, and even social media darlings (The Kardashians, ehem ehem). We’re pretty sure you can name a ton of examples with us: Gucci’s 80’s inspired logo shirt, D&G’s “fake” t-shirts, Vetements hoodies…the list goes on and on.
The trend started in the Resort 2017 collections when the fashion community witnessed the birth of the iconic Gucci logo shirt, MSGM’s streetwear, and Balenciaga’s dad caps. It extended into Spring/Summer 2017 as Saint Laurent created fabulous heels—the heels were literally molded into the YSL logo. Moschino designed cool logo iterations on playful outfits, and Dior put their golden touch on flap bags and J’ADIOR accessories. As big as this surge is, it shows no signs of dying down—there are still traces of it in the pre-fall and fall collections!
Besides the trend’s obvious translations (such as the direct use of the brand’s logo), there are other grittier translations that lend a tongue-in-cheek vibe to any outfit for its statement-making power. Introducing, “bootleg” clothing. For those who are not familiar with the term, a bootleg is basically a knockoff that puts a playful spin on a luxury symbol. This wouldn’t be referring to the bags you find in your usual tiangge. To put things into perspective, think of fashion’s present affinity for wittily incorporating other brand logos into their designs. A good example would be Moschino’s Mcdonald’s, Barbie, and Looney Tunes designs. Demna Gvasalia even reinvented Bernie Sander’s logo in his A/W 2017 menswear collection for Balenciaga.
This bootlegging culture in fashion, although seemingly new, had actually started way back in the 1980’s with none other than the iconic Gucci logo. Well, it was sort of Gucci (remember, “bootleg”!). According to Fashionista, a New York-based tailor named Dapper Dan catapulted bootlegs into the mainstream. He created his own designs with Gucci, Fendi, and Louis Vuitton logos. Eventually, he gained a hip-hop following with supporters such as LL Cool J, Run DMC, and Salt-N-Pepa. In short, people got a taste of luxury without the hefty price tag.
Fast forward to October 2016, cool kid brand Vetements put bootlegging back in the spotlight with its pop-up store in Seoul, Korea. It featured the brand’s popular designs which were tweaked to make it look “fake”. It was aptly entitled The Original Fake. Yes, Vetements just faked itself…but that’s not the only brand that had some fun. Last A/W 2016, Alessandro Michele, launched bootlegging in Gucci through his collaboration with graffiti artist GucciGhost—remember those bags spray-painted with ‘REAL’? As meta as this gets, this stuff gets even more interesting.
To give you a sense of context, think of fashion’s current obsession with collaborations. Luxury brands have been adopting a high-low aesthetic by collaborating with streetwear brands. Supreme, probably one of the most bootlegged brands, partnered up with Lacoste and even Louis Vuitton.
There’s also Gosha Rubchinskiy who collaborated with Fila, and of course, H&M’s highly-anticipated luxury brand collections. What do all these have in common? Well, the products are mostly emblazoned with logos, logos, logos…because why would you wear something from the collection if people didn’t know that it is from the collection?
It seems that such a visual strength of emblem-showcasing is what bootlegging feeds on—and when two logos are hashed and mashed, its appeal is even more solidified. Case in point: brands started bootlegging other brands. Vetements bootlegged once again by using Champion’s logo, which even lead to official collab collections with the brand (they’re gorgeous!).
In another case, writer and artist Ava Nirui, upped the ante and bootlegged Vetements’ bootleg—she designed her own sweatshirts using Champion’s logo (that famous “C”) and incorporated it into the names of other luxury brands such as Chanel, Rick Owens, and Marc Jacobs. A look at her Instagram shows other jaw-dropping designs all handmade by her (and they’re not limited to your cliché logo t-shirt). One shoefie shows Tumblr pink Nike Air Max, the Swoosh logo replaced by a studded double-C Chanel logo. A Louis Vuitton ribbon replaced the shoelaces—and all these envelope a Gucci sock-clad foot in a webbed logo design. Her designs aren’t all pastiches of brands, though. In one post, a woman wears a simple white slip dress with the Prada logo on the top and bottom. Nirui writes, “just chillin in some dust bags”. According to The New York Times, she began her project as a “critique of consumer capitalism, not as an application to participate in it”.
It’s easy to understand the simple trend of plastering t-shirts with D&G or Gucci because it simply makes the statement “this is our brand, this is who we are.” However, when bootlegging comes into the picture and things merge into a crazy collage, one can’t help but to raise questions—how can something so “fake” reach such magnitude?
Others have pointed out that it’s simply a matter of consumer demand. Although it is unclear what this demand is, it is safe to say that maybe, we’re just living in an era wherein wearing our hearts on our sleeve is a way of life. However, in the other side of the fence, there is the deeper context of luxury and authenticity. By carrying the latest Louis Vuitton x Supreme bag, does that mean that we have become comfortable with the statement of luxury? It’s clearly different from sporting a plain white tee from Alexander Wang. And so, is the logomania trend a mark of how maybe, we’re afraid people will think that our original is fake? It could be so.
On the other hand, we can of course think of this developing statement of luxury not as an insecurity, but as that which blurs the line between the exclusive and the familiar. Maybe that cute shirt with the McDonald’s-looking Margiela logo makes you feel like a cool girl. Maybe your Gucci shirt makes you feel like Tommy Ton is snapping photos of you at fashion week. Or maybe that “Champion x Chanel” sweatshirt just put a bounce in your step even if you’re not hitting the gym.
Whatever the case, now is probably the best time to cozy up to Fashion.