Opinion

Do Indie Brands Fare Better Without Logos?

Are monograms only acceptable for heritage brands?

Don’t you just love collecting handbags? I know I do! And for purse-lovers such as ourselves, nothing is perhaps a higher form of validation than a wardrobe full of our prized arm candies (bonus, if said closet is of the walk-in variety!). But while our favorite pastime, accumulating purses also constitutes a learning curve.

Think about it, you only discover what you love once you’ve amassed a sizeable collection. There will always be that one purse that’s simply more comfortable to carry or perhaps better suited to your needs and hence, just a little more quintessentially you. And with that also comes the inevitable realization that you don’t love some of your pieces as much as you’d like. Mistakes, therefore, are bound to happen, and given the rather expensive nature of our hobbies, some can be pretty costly too!

Consequently, buyers typically feel safer splurging their hard-earned dollars on a heritage brand, i.e., one that they recognize and one that, owing to its reputation, is likely to earn them back much of their “investment” if things went south. The downside of this, however, is that indie designers – independently-owned small-to-medium-sized enterprises – have a tough time surviving in the market.

It is by the force of their famous names – or in the case of fashion, monograms – that established luxury conglomerates have traditionally driven sales. But must a logo be exclusively confined to the realm of heritage brands?

Why Buy Logos Anyway?

Do you find logos to be chic, or are they gauche? Do they telegraph wealth, or are they meant to solely satisfy those at the lower echelons of the luxury ladder? What would you even classify as a logo? Aside from the usual Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Gucci monograms, do Chanel’s interlocking CCs or Saint Laurent’s cascading initials count?

So many questions and very few answers. In fact, rarely is a subject in high fashion as divisive as monograms, with feelings flaring up from both sides. While some adore the texture and opulence of a heritage logo, others refuse to serve as a walking advertisement for a conglomerate (and God forbid if you mix and match more than one brand!). Predominantly though, monograms tend to draw the most flak based on their aspirational pricing – and consequent accessibility, a dilemma designers too have begun to address in recent years.

Bags In The Wild Miami May 5th 21

But if you look carefully, you’ll notice that much of the logo lexicon is primarily centered on a handful of established luxury houses with longstanding reputations. Embodying a particular Y2K aesthetic, these big names continue to profit from the monogram-nostalgia, their oversaturated logo-emblazoned offerings cropping up season after season and still managing to sell like hotcakes!

When it comes to monograms, why do only certain highly-pedigreed brands fare better than indie labels?

The Rise of the No-Logo Indie Brand

From a company’s standpoint, the appeal of a logo print is manifold. As an obvious marketing hook, they proclaim a user’s loyalty to the brand and theoretically inspire more users to do the same. Plus, it’s also meant to act as a differentiating point, helping to make the designer more distinctive from its counterparts. Or at least, that’s what brands hope.

However, monograms have come to signal sloppy design techniques more often than actual craftsmanship; many brands are going so far as to plaster their initials over designs imitated by their competitors. And at the end of the day, logomania is a rather overpowering trend, and trends are short-lasting by their very nature.

Enter: the no-logo indie bag. The indie names of the Y2K had largely focused on manufacturing hardware-heavy dupes of the reigning it-bags, catering to a young, casual audience and, consequently, lacking a unified, tasteful aesthetic. All that changed, however, with Mansur Gavriel, whose lineup of polished and understated bucket bags, paired with a strong Instagram presence and an element of mystique – arising from the near-complete absence of branding – seriously catered to a hitherto-untapped market within the three-figure price-tag.

Polene Bags Hero 1
The Polène Numero Un

Following MG’s footsteps, a slew of new labels arose, from the likes of Polène, Staud, and Danse Lente within the contemporary segment to Acne Studios, Khaite, and Métier London at the more premium end, all with their distinct creative visions, but share one trait – the absence of a monogram. And it is this element that they used to their advantage, capitalizing on social media microtrends while offering handbags that, to consumers, had a lot more persona in a market flooded with mass-produced heritage logos. Marshal Cohen of The NPD Group mirrored the sentiment to CNBC: “Consumers want to be one in a million, not one of a million.”

Forego the Logo?

If the recent resurgence of quiet-luxury labels, such as The Row and Old Céline, is anything to go by, the no-logo trend will likely persist for quite a few years into the foreseeable future. But does that mean indie brands should leave monograms solely for their hedgefund-backed counterparts? Not necessarily.

Khaite Mini Lotus Bag

Khaite Mini Lotus Bag
via Bergdorf Goodman

When fashion is ready to swing back again towards logomania, for instance, small brands may still benefit from developing a distinct pattern that acts as a unique identifier for them. The “non-logo logo” spans everything from recognizable hardware and prominent handle placements (as seen on Luar purses) to printed/painted motifs, like Goyard or Fauré Le Page totes. In many instances, such embellishments may provide just the right amount of allure and if-you-know-you-know appeal compared to an outright monogram.

And developing specific, marketable monograms, particularly for indie brands, comes with risks. Additionally, small brands often can’t always afford to seek trademark protection for a logo, leaving them vulnerable to our old enemy – counterfeiting.

However, it is against all these odds that today’s indie brands have risen to stardom. Some have successfully incorporated overt branding – Telfar’s zany logo comes to mind. Others, such as Mansur Gavriel, have experimented with monograms and failed. But at the end of the day, small brands may be allowed to feel a certain degree of schadenfreude because the logo print itself has become a bane for heritage brands, like Louis Vuitton, who are now struggling to keep up their exclusive image. And in light of that, indie purses, with their excellent craftsmanship, photogenic aesthetics, and often lower price points, may seem more worthwhile.

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Mia
Mia
1 year ago

I always loved the Gancini on Ferragamo bags. It symbolizes Ferragamo without screaming it.

Klara P
Klara P
1 year ago
Reply to  Mia

Ditto. I love how the Gancini embossed, Loewe has a similar logo treatment, beautiful.

lalarey
lalarey
1 year ago

we love and buy from indie brands because we appreciate the unique design, the quality of the small-batch product, and the beauty of the leather (or alternative materials). None of these things are present in a logo-centric bag.

Terri
Terri
1 year ago

I love to support small indie brands as they are crafted well and much more unique, and it does not scream “look at me!”
I personally prefer bags without logos but a small brand stamp is alright.
As for logo/monogram, Valentino did a great job with their new Valentino Toile Iconographe. It looks more like a pattern than monogram.

Christi
Christi
1 year ago

I always carry Rough & Tumble bags these days. Their bags are recognizable even without any branding. Personally i’m not a fan of any external branding on the bag, I’m not a walking billboard, If you know you know. I live in maine and their bags are very popular, I see them all over. Even without branding people regularly come up and compliment me on my r&t bag. You should check out their bags!

Hervé
Hervé
1 year ago
Reply to  Christi

LOL the shameless plug.

Laura Cadei
Laura Cadei
1 year ago

In my opinion a big logo on bags make cheap, is not luxury. Luxury is not to show a logo, luxury is something beautiful that catch the attention as it is something sophistycated. Alle these woman who want to show always a logo, are not so elegant…

HotSundae
HotSundae
1 year ago

It depends on the brand and their audience. Telfar seems to be doing just find with their big logo on their bags, but fans of the Row and old Celine are often looking for something more “stealth wealth” and would be turned off by obvious branding. I personally don’t love loud logo prints or big logo hardware, it makes me feel like I’m shouting, but no shade to those that do, to each their own.

Becky
Becky
1 year ago

I don’t mind logos if they’re aesthetically pleasing and somewhat discrete, or if it’s incorporated into the design in a way that’s really amazing. But for the most part, the logo is just taking up space, or at worse, is obnoxious looking, taking away from the real aesthetic appeal of the piece.

I always laugh at the idea of people being attracted to logos so they can use them as a “status signal.” I love in a county where people really don’t care about quality things and have never heard of any high end designers, so I keep thinking “who are we supposed to be signaling?” 😀 😉

King Charles' Inkpot
King Charles' Inkpot
1 year ago

Hey Fave!!!!!!
With Mansur Gavriel, they started off absolutely minimalist, and the fans at the time absolutely loved that about the brand. The branding seemed like a “jumping on the bandwagon” moment for them because monogramming was making such a huge comeback in the fashion world (although did it every leave? 🙂
That being said, some brands seem to have jumped on the wagon successfully, and their logo-ed products seem popular, like Celine. Loewe comes to mind too.

Joan
Joan
1 year ago

Celine’s beautiful monogram pattern goes back decades. However, their bags with the big CELINE written across are just pathetic.

Klara P
Klara P
1 year ago
Reply to  Joan

I agree about the CELINE prints. When it first appeared I thought they were fakes. It didn’t make any sense. Just last week I saw someone with a large off-white tote with the CELINE print and it was sad looking. Have to say it felt the same way on some Chanel totes. They barely look the part of the courtesy shopping bags that come with a purchase.

Amanda R
Amanda R
1 year ago
Reply to  Joan

SO TRUE! There are so many pieces I’d love if they’d just take off that that CELINE printing. Such a shame.

Antonia
Antonia
1 year ago

This is what makes old school Balenciaga (and for that matter old school Rebecca Minkoff) so great….never had a logo and beautiful leather! I will always be a fan of the Nicholas era Balenciaga and original RM bags!!

Victoria Young
Victoria Young
1 year ago
Reply to  Antonia

That’s why I still love & carry my old Balenciaga Bag! Everyone loved it & didn’t know what it was! 👏🙌👜