There's an interesting article today in the New York Times' "Thursday
No, no, read on! It's not another critique of an out-of-touch story on youth trends or pandering pitch about how great the rich are and why we, the not-so-rich should thank our lucky stars they exist. Our friends over at Marx Marvelous have that end covered pretty well.
Rather, today, we're calling out a piece about the absence of logos on Bottega Veneta's luxury sportswear.
The piece, which can be read in full here, looks at how the Italian luxury label has revamped itself without going the route of high-profile monogramming or logoing.
Within the article, journo Ruth La Ferla, extolls the virtues of creative director Tomas Maier's consistent attention to high quality goods that hit the real deal in luxury, rather than merely the perception of luxury, and how his actions have driven the brand to a $500 million annual business, thereby making it the second highest earner for parent Gucci Group.
And then our favorite luxurist, Milton Pedraza, CEO of The Luxury Institute, chimes in to tell La Ferla that during a recession, the rich "don’t want to be screaming luxury right now...They don’t want something flashy that everybody else has. They are looking for unique handcrafted things that can’t immediately be reinterpreted at every level of the marketplace.”
The thing about logos, as we've long felt, is that they can cut both ways. In fact, we've been thinking about our own logo, for Fashion Notebook, which you can check out, at right, but the tech guys haven't yet gotten around to installing it. And maybe, now, we're thinking that's a good thing.
But back to the relevance.
Taking Vuitton, for example, when one of perhaps mass-affluent or aspirational means has laid down the dollars for a fashion piece that is truly of excellent quality, not to mention name recognition, it's, we think, safe to assume that we'd like others to know it. After all, that monogram tells others that we care about quality, perhaps that we're hip to hot or established names in the industry, and, let's be honest, that we could afford to purchase it. In a sense, we want everyone else to know what that handbag, dress, or accessory was worth, and, by proxy, that we're worth something as well.
The problem, of course, is logos also tell us what everyone else is worth, too. And if we see a bunch of Louis Vuitton monograms on my friends' purses, or luggage, shoes, or, god help us, something bigger and obviously more expensive than the piece we bought, suddenly, Vuitton just doesn't seem so special anymore.
This is to ignore the further complications that arise from knock-offs. If everyone on Canal Street is rocking the monogram, and for a mere percentage point of what we paid, why we'd have a fit and would feel somewhat obligated to inform everyone we saw that, well, no, ours is in fact, real and then go into a litany about the stitching and leather quality that, at best, wouldn't gain us any friends, and, at worst, would lose us those we already count in our ranks.
And let's not forget that this isn't, obviously, just a Vuitton problem. Many other luxury brands feature highly-identifiable logos, monograms, or signature patterns on their products that identify the brand with all the subtlety of a bull horn. Think about those brands you recognize within seconds on some of the products worn by your friends: Coach, Gucci, Burberry, Chanel, Marc Jacobs, Dolce & Gabanna, DSquared, etc.
As far as the recession, the no-logo route is probably a good idea. After all, those who can afford luxury goods without batting an eye are usually so acclimated to that lifestyle that, well, they don't need to scream it, as Milton says, like the rest of us. And those customers are precisely the ones luxury brands need to be going after in times of serious economic downturns. Sound familiar? Yeah, we've said that before.
And we've also dished with Maier on his strategy. When we were writing that tome about the opportunities and potential pitfalls of lower-tier secondary collections for high-end designers, it was Maier who said (towards the end of the article) he would never consider such an extension because he felt that it would potentially overexposure of the handbag business that is the core of Bottega's sales.
"The philosophy of Bottega Veneta is to produce innovative designs with the highest quality materials and contemporary functionality," Maier told us at the time. "All of this comes with a cost that can't be recreated at a bridge level price."
What remains to be seen, however, is whether or not Mr. Maier's activities give the brand something of a glass ceiling when we're in economic boom times, and everyone is scrambling for top-end designer merchandise. Then again, at $500 million in annual sales, I don't think he's got anything to worry about.