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by Calvin Anthony-Duscheid

Graphic courtesy of Deanna Klima-Rajchel

Last month at the GQ Men of the Year Awards, Jaden Smith wore a tailored, navy blue suit. He also wore a bright red side bag with clearly printed white letters spelling out “Supreme.” While it might have clashed, Jaden’s look fit the 2017 trends. His bag—a collaboration between skate brand Supreme and high fashion house Louis Vuitton—represented the growing trend of highly branded clothing featuring prominent logos, which has only recently been pushed into the world of high fashion.

Brands such as Balenciaga––since the appointment of Demna Gvasalia as creative director in 2015––and Off-White have used obvious, and some might say gratuitous, branding as part of their most prominent and talked-about collections. This trend of plastering logos across high-end garments might seem like a cheap way to market pieces and create buzz, but designers offer another explanation.

If you’ve walked down Commonwealth Avenue, you’ve probably noticed the diagonal white lines and bold, quoted lettering that grace the black hoodies of Off-White clothing. This brand is a perfect example of the trending collision between logo-heavy streetwear and haute couture fashion. Creative designer Virgil Abloh explains how Off-White, rather than simply use branded pieces as a means to advertise, attempts to “challenge notions of luxury” by combining high end prices and quality with low end graphic design.

Off-White collections are ironic comments on consumerism in fashion, Abloh said in a GQ interview. While Abloh espouses an artistic motivation behind his brand’s use of logos, this strategy has nonetheless lead to the massive amounts of hype and excitement that has propelled Off-White, and brands like it, into international fashion fame.

While price and exclusivity might limit the mainstream appeal of brands like Off-White and Supreme, BU students still hold brand names and logos as standards when shopping.

“The logo represents more than just the article of clothing,” said Cooper Dinowitz (COM ’21). He explained how wearing his Ralph Lauren shirt—emblazoned with its signature horse rider silhouette—acts as free advertising for the brand, but it also shows his support for its overall message and attitude.

“It shows that I care about the way I look,” said Dinowitz. Even though he doesn’t spend hundreds of dollars on designer clothing, Dinowitz likes to display logos from the brands he does consume like Ralph Lauren and Patagonia. The trend of logo-heavy clothing has translated into fashion that fits even the budget of a college student, which has contributed to its massive popularity and profitability.

Brands from Ralph Lauren to Supreme have achieved massive revenues and market values, in large part due to the popularity of their logos. Just recently, the Carlyle Group purchased a 50 percent stake in Supreme for $500 million, placing their market value at an impressive $1 billion. Clearly, Supreme’s heavily branded clothing acts as a useful advertising tool.

The limited nature and exclusivity of releases from brands like these means their pieces are worth even more on the resale market, where their values can shoot through the roof and boost the overall value of the brand. The value of branded clothing in both high and low-end fashion has skyrocketed in the past few years and many brands have enjoyed simultaneous financial and critical success. Whatever the motivations behind contemporary designers’ obsessions with logos—economic or artistic—they have helped shape the state of fashion today.

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