When the Belgian fashion designer Martin Margiela created his first collection in 1989, the label he sewed into his pieces was blank. Instead of advertising his company by placing his name on every garment, he left four diagonal white stitches showing on the outside of each piece. Only those in fashion’s inner circle could appreciate the secretive Margiela’s unorthodox and conceptual signature.
Fast forward to 2019: the discreet Margiela tag is now widely recognizable. John Galiano, the company’s new creative director, has transformed the once enigmatic label into an overt branding ticket, and with it, Martin Margiela’s revolutionary fashion brand has become established as “Maison Margiela”. Galiano has begun capitalizing on Margiela’s avant-garde approach to logos, which paved the way for other alternative designers and even mainstream brands to consider how to make their own logos a conceptual component of their collections. What they’ve discovered is that exceptional graphic design can easily generate buzz, not to mention monetary rewards.
Today’s fashionistas do not want static, predictable logos across their T-shirts. They’re looking for labels that do more—both graphically and culturally—than just spell out the designer’s name; brands that are not afraid to dissect their own logos to find a new relevance. For example, the Paris-based collective Vetements based their 2016 streetwear collection on 1990s-inspired reinterpretations of their own logo. The Vetements’ sans serif capital letters in Helvetica Neue Bold Condensed was literally dissected and translated into all kinds of typographic styles. Two years later, Comme des Garçons collaborated with Supreme on the 2018 Nike Air Force 1 low to simply and provocatively chop the Swoosh in two. It was a simple take on the classic model that became an instant sellout. These deconstructed logos have turned out to be the perfect antidote to sleek, over-polished digital aesthetics.
Martin Margiela’s effect on the fashion industry only becomes more obvious as designers work towards turning their labels into essential visual and physical elements of their collections. This means that innovative typographic designers can have more impact on fashion industry than ever before. If integrated logowear is here to stay, then more brands will be looking to skilled graphic designers capable of transforming conventional logos into captivating graphics. It seems that fashion designers are realizing what graphic designers have always known: good typography goes a long way.