I still remember the first designer piece I ever owned. I had just turned 18 and my parents bought me a Louis Vuitton bag for my birthday. At the time, I was convinced I absolutely needed one. I didn't want it because the cowhide leather was buttery soft, or because I thought it could be some sort of heirloom. I wanted it simply because it was Louis Vuitton and had the "LV" logo stamped all over it.
Looking back now, I laugh at myself (even cringe!) at what was such a vacuous reason to purchase anything.
Don't get me wrong: I still appreciate designer items—this past summer, I had to go on a shopping fast because I realized I was spending an absurd amount of money on gear. I still do buy designer clothes. But the difference now is I rarely, if at all, wear anything with logos.
Logos are extremely persuasive. Branding has become a display of a person's status and, as some studies have shown, can heavily influence a person's behavior towards another. In March 2011, the Economist reported on a study by Rob Nelissen and Mrijn Meijers of Tilburg University in the Netherlands to be published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. The study showed that logos—especially those that were denoted expensive brands—could be helpful for landing jobs and often made a person seem more approachable. In conclusion, Dr. Nelissen and Dr. Meijers reason out that people naturally equate designer labels to quality.
To paraphrase Kanye, that's all to say that people are slaves to labels, and sometimes think that the bigger and more obnoxious the logo, the better.
A few months ago, I overheard a conversation about why you should only spend rent money on clothing/accessories/shoes that have logos. The argument was that wearing designer items without any branding would make you basic, and would defeat the purpose of buying something ridiculously expensive.
Listen: living by that motto actually makes you basic.
I'm not saying you should only buy logo-less designer clothing. It's perfectly fine to cop a Maison Martin Margiela sweater with the four white stitches visible on the back of the garment. But it's also perfectly fine to drop an absurd amount of money on a Lanvin tee with no logos (if that's how you're living).
Ideally, what should sway someone to buy designer labels over the cheaper alternative is its superior quality. You should really only be spending hundreds of dollars on that single item because you know it will last more than 10 washes, or 10 years. The fabrics and materials used are also crucial—cashmere always trumps the polyester that will maybe/definitely give you a rash; RiRi zippers and mother-of-pearl buttons don't come cheap; certain construction processes will result in higher quality, but they require more time and money to employ. And the only way to truly judge quality is by touching and handling the item, examining the cut and construction of the piece in person. Logos don't and can't always justify the big price tags that sometimes convince people.POST CONTINUES BELOW
More importantly, you should be married to the design of the garment—beyond the brand name. If it looks terrible on you, it really doesn't matter that you spent a rack on an Hermès belt or a Versace shirt with so many medusas you have snakes coming out of your ass. FYI, people can still look like trash in expensive clothes. And wearing designer pieces will never ever make you cooler, or help you get a date.
Ultimately, what we preach here is do you. So I'm not saying you have to completely forego logos altogether. Sometimes, branding is just impossible to escape. But if you find yourself basing your shopping decisions on whether or not people will know how expensive your jacket is based on a logo signifier, then you should definitely reevaluate your priorities. Plus, there's something to be said about buying clothes just because you like them instead of trying impress people you don't even like. You should be copping for you and only you, and if you happen to pass by people on the street who give you a knowing look, then that's just an added bonus.
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there is a certain pleasure in recognising something that has been well made. Good design is about using materials that are fit for purpose. The product has to be aesthetically pleasing, has to be functional – and if it has extra character to it, too, well, then that's something else.
It is always possible to tell when someone cares about what they're making. At my father's allotment I've enjoyed watching a chap take leeks out of the ground, wash them, line them up carefully. I'm always looking for that quality in any person who might come and work for our company.
One reason I look for that care is because I think for someone to make something that's going to last, there is undoubtedly an amount of love as well as skill that goes into that. And things that last are important. I'm happy to pay more for something if I see it as an investment. I would rather spend £80 on a saucepan if it means that I'll be buying one that lasts. I've always felt that about things, rather than thinking something is too expensive. I've noticed that the French think like that about clothes – they'll have fewer but better quality.
Even when I had no money I'd save up and travel to London to buy a Cacharel shirt. It's about knowing what you want and saving for it. I have a 1980s Bang & Olufsen portable radio – the sound is so good, the design is very streamlined and it's visually so nice. Good quality rides over to everything, though. It can be apparent in something like a cotton T-shirt that has faded well – it doesn't have to be expensive. I prefer clothes that get better with age – cotton raincoats that get softer, moleskin that wears in well. We should respect what it takes to produce something that is of a quality to last, and I feel we should be thinking about that now, especially in terms of protecting the environment. We should be more careful with our water, with everything.
Hand in hand with good manufacture is having an edited approach to dressing. I like to have only a few clothes in the wardrobe that I wear and wear. I'm not somebody who has lots of different things (apart from notebooks – I'm a sucker for stationery). In design, I prefer to get something right rather than the more commercial attitude of doing it in lots of different colours. I really don't like that thing of going and buying very cheap clothes and throwing them away.
Persuading people to this viewpoint isn't hard when you can actually get them to experience good design. Experiencing something that has worn well in a good quality material that gets better with age, that makes you feel fond of it. It's like getting to know a person you really like – you don't just dispense with them. I don't understand how people can throw Anglepoise lamps away. I've pulled quite a few out of skips.
I probably have this attitude from being brought up after the war. You got used to mending things. My father always said: "If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well." That seeps into you, I think. I used to love finding something at a jumble sale and cleaning it up. I remember finding an old shirt at the jumbles and really loving the cloth and the tiny stitches it was made with. That made me want to be in control of making something like that. I've always been a maker-designer in that way, not a fashion designer.
Recently the Made In Britain campaign has been getting louder. On the whole I'm in favour of it, but I don't think you can put back the clock. I wouldn't suddenly let down the manufacturing we do elsewhere simply to be made in Britain: we go where the work is good, it's a global industry now. One wants to support those who make a great product. Our knitwear is made mostly in Scotland.
For the manufacturing industry to thrive in Britain it needs investment to build nice, light factories. Younger people also need to be employed – currently it is a problem because of the poor wages. Also, good quality knitwear comes from handed-down knowledge, and you can only do that when an older person is teaching the next person to come into the trade. Good manufacture isn't all mechanised. It's about knowing and handling and about visual things as well. It's common sense fl