- Herve Dewintre |
In July 2016, a rumour was whispered in the fashion world, claiming that Bernard Arnault was disappointed with the results of Nicolas Guesquière who had done wonders at Balenciaga. Guesquière had replaced Marc Jacobs as the head of Louis Vuitton with the mission to breathe its “premium” aura back into the leather goods maker. The rumour was false, with the proof being that Guesquière is still there. However, it was true that the figures for Louis Vuitton were disappointing: the star brand experienced a fall in growth in Asia.
The analysis of the fall was that the brand had succumbed to the charms of the “total logo." The decrease in numbers of Asian customers was interpreted as indicating there was a new, more demanding and subtle generation of consumers. This new generation of consumers aimed to mark themselves out from the mass by separating themselves from flashy items that were too visibly branded. Any extravagant and ostentatious symbol was deemed excessive and therefore vulgar. Bottega Veneta was considered a chic brand. Louis Vuitton therefore wanted to develop its “premium” brand and place less emphasis on items displaying the overly famous monogram.
With the fall, it must be recognised that this analysis was inaccurate or patchy. If Asian customers were suddenly opting out of buying monogrammed items, it was not out of contempt but an obligation. In December 2012, one month after his appointment as head of the Chinese Communist party, General Secretary Xi Jinping launched a wide ranging anti-corruption campaign. The campaign was aimed at restoring credibility to the government as the extravagances of some of its members had profoundly shocked the people. Xi Jinping announced with determination that it was targeting the “tigers ,” namely the powerful, as well as the “flies,” meaning the lower officials. The number of officials who were punished for corruption in the space of five years was 1.3 million. Under these conditions, it was understood that it was no longer possible to appear in public with an expensive watch on your wrist or with luxury, blatantly monogrammed bags. It was what may be called a “low profile” period.
This restrictive and enforced asceticism has ended. The taking in hand of the Party by the Chinese President is complete and Xi Jinping’s enemies have melted away. The 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party held in October 2017 gave all the signs of a relaxation in the rigour, to the great relief of the financial markets. The President now has new priorities including reducing the unequal geographical distribution of Chinese growth. The president also is aiming to unify this two-speed China, which is now necessary to promote the average affluent society. This average affluent society is the ideal target for the luxury brands. Ultimately, there is nothing like a logo for winning the loyalty and encouraging desire of a new set of customers.
Strong rise in the sale of fashion and leather goods in China
Currently, the growth in fashion and leather goods in continental China is between 30 and 40 percent. This rise is over the whole of the fashion and luxury accessories sector. LVMH and Kering have substantially benefited from the rebound of demand in Asia since the second six-months of 2016. The excellent results announced by the two luxury groups are proof of this.
Why are brands going back to the logo?
To grab the attention of this providential manna of customers reverting to sound and healthy behavior, the brands are using some old tricks, like everyone: the monogram and the logo. One tool that particularly helps them to promote the visual power of this ceremonial symbol is Instagram. For several months, the stars have been unashamedly posting in Total Look, without excessive concern for shades. They are right: the social network with its small size labels that can be seen on mobile telephone screens is not the place to display a visually over-subtle and complex message. It needs to make an immediate hit. The last post from Rihanna, literally dressed from head to toe in clothing clearly labelled with the Gucci name collected 3 million likes in record time. On podiums, the star brands, led by Vuitton and Gucci, no longer design fashion parades without clothing on which is spectacularly displayed an explosion of immediately recognisable acronyms.
This week, the very chic department store Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche, owned by the LVMH Group, is taking over the reins in spreading the word during Paris fashion week with its new exhibition event called “Let’s Go Logo!” There are 130 brands in all categories including: fashion, accessories, beauty and the home. The department store had agreed for the occasion to produce exclusive limited collections and to play with their identities. Two guests of honour attended the gathering: the lifestyle label Lola James Harper created by Rami Mekdachi who transformed the first Bon Marché stage into a hotel lobby; and the luxury streetwear label Off-White founded by Virgil Abloh who signed an exclusive “Rive Gauche” [Left Bank] collection and re-wrote the spirit attached to this title with a stage design inspired by places and cafés in Paris.
Here, the generation born in the 1980s is the clear target. To be convinced of this, just look at the site 24 Sèvres which honours eight personalities, that is, eight “influencers” who for this occasion are sharing their opinions on the use of the logo. These opinions are clearly positive. For Anil, whose fame is attested to by his 700,000 followers, the logo “represents the true identity of the brand." He adds, “It is not necessarily the name of the brand that creates the exclusivity, but its logo, such as the F in Fendi or the cross in Off-White." This view is shared by Alice and JS, the lifestyle couple who write on their blog, “without a logo, no brand can build its identity." With this insight, it's best to pay attention to the foregoing.
Photo Sources: Louis Vuitton / Gucci