What Burberry’s New Look Says About the Power of Logomania

As branding evolves, does heritage still hold its traditional value?

Words by Torey Cassidy
August 24th, 2018

Burberry announced a new logo and monogram for the first time in 20 years, under the creative direction of previously Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci. One month ahead of his debut show at London Fashion Week, and just five months into his new role, comes a drastic change for the British heritage brand. Best known for his iconic Joy Division album cover, Peter Saville is the graphic designer behind the creation. He designed an interlocking ‘TB’ in white and honey beige for the modern monogram, an ode to the late founder, Thomas Burberry.

The announcement didn’t come along with a 5-page spread in Drapers, nor a breaking news piece in Business of Fashion, but was simply announced through Instagram. Presented was an email thread between Peter and Riccardo discussing how the project only took four weeks. Peter argued how a project of such calibre would need four months. One might question if the modernisation of a logo is that important for a brand with heritage so deep? Shouldn’t that be kept for the collections? Could this be the first step in changing the perceptions of Burberry? Repositioning the brand, creating new storylines, tapping into new audiences, with an end goal of ensuring future growth? Either way, the entire brand has been built on heritage up until this point. Doing away with its historic logo seems risky. But then again, the comfort zone is a dangerous place, and nothing grows there.

 

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Rebranding in fashion is rare, not many brands have completely renovated their vision through time. People tend to regard this as a perilous venture. They can be successful when suitably administered, turning high school brands into flourishing ones – think of Gucci’s move into a digitally-savvy luxury brand under the creative direction of Alessandro Michele. But rebranding can also cause an identity crisis, destroying the narrative, and eventually sending the brand spiralling downhill.

Burberry in its entirety has experienced various rebrands, or perhaps better called readjustments. 21-year-old Thomas Burberry pioneered the brand in 1856 with outdoor attire before moving into the high fashion market as a classic, quintessentially British brand. By the late ’90s, the brand became synonymous with football hooligans and chav culture. Moving forward when Christopher Bailey took the reigns, he put several strategies in place, including relaunching e-commerce to get back on financial track, repurchasing the license, and producing a ‘see-now, buy-now’ show. While the brand’s image has been casually altered and realtered over time, other fashion brands like Calvin Klein and Diane von Furstenberg have also followed suit and recently redesigned their logos. However, the announcement of Burberry’s dramatic rebrand is more on par with Hedi Slimane’s Saint Laurent Paris than that of Michele’s Gucci.

Logomania was born in the ’90s and runways were flooded with it. Consumer priority occupied the notions of wanting to make statements about their personality, communicate their opinions and display wealth and status. A reaction to the US economic boom, people were delighted to walk about like a colossal advertisement. Although, this ideology wasn’t necessarily new, exhibitionism has always been in human nature. Displays of wealth and status through dress are prominent throughout history; think back to the heavy petticoats of Victorian England. Hats, socks, scarves, jackets, belts, you name it, all saturated with branding. But before long, the industry had reached peak logo. The trend’s popularity was the foundation of its impending demise. Knockoff culture saw this trend succumb to the darkness and it became cheap and tasteless. A minimal approach to branding was then preferred thanks to Phoebe Philo’s ‘Céline effect’. Minimalist branding was stamped onto zips and labels so that only those ‘in the know’ would recognise the brand.

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Nevertheless, fashion is in an eternal love affair with logos and it’s come back for a sartorial rebound. Demna Gvasalia of Vetements paved the way for the ricochet with the infamous DHL T-shirt, a refreshing remedy to the years of anti-logo sensibility. The success of the T-shirt inspired almost every designer brand to devise their own variant. And just like that, logomania had returned. The resurgence implies a change in consumer priority, people were beginning to grow tired of the minimalistic aesthetic, and in a world powered by social media, branding matters. However fluid logos have now become, they are taking on a new significance and evolving with unsuspecting brands such as Loewe adopting the trend, making waves for the trend’s longevity. Shouty branding is, for sure, of the minute, but it’s not going anywhere soon. The want for a logo-emblazoned garment is 20% greater than that of a product without branding. Some businesses have even strategically used the logo as a part of their plan for growth.  

The success of Burberry’s logo and monogram will, of course, depend on how they’re administered; what they’ll be adorned upon and whether heritage remains relevant to today’s consumer. It has already been extensively scrutinised with online comments stating it lacked charisma and elegance- not an ideal first impression for Tisci. The new image is certainly a far cry from the Burberry we’re accustomed to, but the original brand identity was relevant to the classic trench-coat era. It needs an identity that’s fluid and can cross over into all divisions of fashion and business. The new Burberry appears prepared to forfeit its history for potential growth in new markets and sectors. From a business perspective, it’s an excellent transit towards capitalisation, but for the heritage-rich, classically British brand, it’s a sad change. The race towards logo-drenched branding is surely going to draw in today’s consumer but it’s nostalgic of the overbranding that made Burberry a victim of its own success in the late ’90s, early ’00s. A brazen move that could have a negative effect. But what’s fashion anyway if it’s not cyclical? History always repeats itself. Who’s to say in a decade we won’t be searching eBay vigorously for today’s iconic Gucci T-shirt or Burberry’s new monogram emblazoned shirt? It’s funny to think that DHL T-shirt may be vintage gold in years to come.

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