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Fashion
April 29, 2018

Livin’ La Vida Logo: Monogram Mania Is Back And Thriving

Text by Aalika Mahindra. Illustration by Pratap Chalke

We investigate the latest craze for the monogram — a fittingly resurrected fashion trend powered by the new wave of hyper-consumerism

In her book, Powder Room: The Untold Story of Indian Fashion (2012), Shefalee Vasudev discovers the curious subculture of rich housewives in Ludhiana and their private luxury designer trunk shows, during which they empty their wallets at simply the sight of those coveted double Fs and Ls and Vs. She notes their “uniform” of shirts tucked into jeans, and was informed that this deliberate arrangement allowed for the placement of a belt to showcase another expensive brand. Cut to a few dozen fashion seasons later, and the logo rage that made its way onto the international runways about three years ago is reaching its saturation point in 2018. It has become practically impossible to browse Instagram feeds or read fashion blogs without seeing women covered in over-the-top monogrammed ensembles.

Today, when you have Insta-seconds to make an impression, an outfit frenetically stamped with logos does the trick. Even the French, who generally pride themselves on their subtle approach to fashion, are jumping on the bandwagon. With a wink-wink, we’re-in-on-it approach, well-known Paris department store Le Bon Marché recently held a special event called Let’s Go Logo!, for which designers created cheeky one-off products and clothing that audaciously displayed their brand’s signage. Ironic or not, the showy irreverence of this fad has obviously pushed the right buttons with digitally savvy consumers. Especially post #MeToo, when women online are finding support in displays of self-confidence through selfies or vanity outfit shots, the similar trend of personal promotion by brands has proven to be a well-timed ally.

In India, despite the absence of fashion houses with recognisable monograms, consumers still follow the global trend of purchasing easily identifiable designer clothing. One could spot a gold embroidered velvet Sabyasachi blouse a mile away and Masaba Gupta’s patented quirky prints are unmistakable, ensuring their popularity among the self-consciously fashionable. However, the cache of a vintage ’90s’ monogrammed Dior Saddle bag (the return of which is credited to Instagram influencers) or a white tee that advertises Balenciaga across the chest is still hard to match for those who want to be on the front line of mainstream fashion. Buyers all over the world feel the enigmatic pull towards something that manages to be both unique and ubiquitous at the same time — what I call the Kardashian Paradox — and if you can’t beat ’em, keep up.

Before logos became the mode du jour, those Ludhiana ladies might have been dismissed as out-of-touch fashion victims. In hindsight, they appear as accidental oracles who foreshadowed what current It girls would be lusting after. In a post of director Karan Johar and his BFFs vacationing in London, high-society maven Natasha Poonawala poses in her classic Instagram stance, engulfed in a brown fur and PVC Gucci jacket. Every inch of the coat’s already dramatic, oversized sleeves are emblazoned with the GG supreme logo, and I have to admit that it is pretty much the only thing I remember about the photo. Gucci also has a fan in Malaika Arora who is another member of Johar’s girl gang. She recently stepped out wearing the Ignasi Monreal print T-shirt that was, yes, tucked into hologram patched jeans. A tan monogrammed belt snaked around her waist, fastened by a prominent metal buckle of interlocking Gs. As for Johar, self-professed couture cognoscente, the Hindi film industry’s sphere of influence with respect to fashion was widened with his nod to consumer culture in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998). Shah Rukh Khan’s kaleidoscopic, gloriously ’90s’ wardrobe from Gap, Polo Sport and Speedo et al was accessorised with a silver necklace literally spelling out that this was, indeed, COOL. The film’s markedly international and brand-centric approach to costume design made room for the current, more effortless air of cool that swirls around designer-draped celebrity bodies. These days it is only a matter of time before trends trickle down from screen to street.

We are in a new wave of hyper-consumerism — an indicator of the current socio-political climate — but for every Nirav Modi, there will be another Bollywood urban fantasy that mirrors and perpetuates the more is more principle of our rapidly growing economy. Right now, the demand is for excess, for conspicuous symbols of wealth, and immediate acknowledgement as a fashion insider…and the industry is supplying the logo-covered goods. We should all be grateful that this obsession has not led to Nicolas Ghesquière or Alessandro Michele personally branding our bare flesh with burning haute irons. Yet!

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