The summer before I started high school, my best friend’s mom bought her a rectangular shaped Louis Vuitton bag. It was a more of a pouch with an arm strap, really, and featured the ubiquitous Vuitton LVs chickenpoxed all across the coated canvas. Because she had one, I think I really wanted one, which naturally prompted that I beg my mother to buy me the bag.
But would she? Of course not.
And at 14 years old, this wasn’t a matter of the bag itself, or the relatively hefty price tag ($300 for a sprouting teenager in the early 90s). Her concerns were far more tangled in the logo, the assumptions tethered to it and the notion that no girl who wasn’t yet eligible to elect her country’s president should own a designer handbag.
It was a fight I knew I couldn’t win — when my mom said no with conviction, it was always an affirmative no — so I threw in the towel (which, by the way, was conspicuously branded Ralph Lauren,) and ten years later, to my contentment, I feel pretty proud when I can say with veracity that I never gave in to the era of explicit branding.
Sure it wasn’t at my behest but does anyone need to know that? (Hint: nah.)
It’s a strange notion to stomach now — the prospect that people around you (fashion initiated or not) could know precisely what you’ve spent based on the mere branding of your handbag or belt or the shoes that you’re wearing — especially considering how deeply we’ve become enthralled in the Phoebe Philo-fostered era of anonymity and the corresponding sense of great pride we may feel when someone asks that magical question: great [insert item here], who makes it?
We’ve discussed and rediscussed a horde of explanations for our recent, collective nose-up at discernible branding. Most simply, we might just be gyrating in the cycle that is fashion, finding ourselves far more compelled by what feels fresh, which today means a sense of mystery. On a more esoteric level, we could be feeling overexposed because the Internet, though at the hand of our control, is exploiting our privacy. Or perhaps it’s something a bit more personal. Could it be that we’re finally done trying to prove our worth?
On another trend train running parallel with minimalism, the wheels of irony are still well in motion. And there, it seems, a new wave of perceptible label is slowly percolating through fashion, sprouting up like small benign weeds we might think we don’t need o tend but may in turn obliterate the rest of our harvest.
The above image was taken by Tommy Ton last week in Paris and then posted on Style.com. This should theoretically offer it a stamp approval. While it’s not the first incident we’ve noted of sock-with-teva-heel (come on, that’s what it is), it is the first time we’ve seen such deliberate branding that may or may not provide some astute intel into the future of fashion’s relationship with irony.
Ultimately, in fashion, we’re always making a point. We often use what we’re wearing to make said point but every so often, it’s less about the actual clothes and more about our selected brands. While Vuitton may infer wealth, Nike suggests something to the effect of: “I don’t give a shit,” which in this day and age is de rigeur.
And that’s when high or low end becomes irrelevant. As far as I’m concerned, this is a much greater testament to a more flagrant human condition — one that establishes us as a pack of consumers driven by label validation. And whether it’s by way of a black embroidered swoosh or two monogrammed initials, the point is that it’s still about the label.
Photos courtesy of Style.com and The Cut