Your Heart On Your Sleeve: Does Branding Matter?

You're just paying for the label!

we’re sure you’ve heard that one before. 

It’s a sentiment that challenges one of the biggest shifts in the fashion industry for years. Love it or hate it, it’s hard to escape it – we’re in the era of the brand. 

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In a world where social media opened the door to an ever more saturated market of models, influencers and trendsetters, brands and designers are forced to break free from traditional promotion and need to carve their own niche.

Branding is the modern-day intersection of fashion and function, and it’s difficult to know who benefits from branding more, the wearer or the designer? It is an identity, it is a lifestyle, a brand is you, you want to be, yet you are representative of something larger, a group, a community, a family of people who share the eye for style.

Well then, which is it?

There are very few things in this world that we can reduce to black and white – there are no straight answers, especially in the ever-fluid world of fashion. Similarly, there is no single branding strategy, and the creative bent fashion houses and designers use in their branding is our focus – here’s how some of our favourite brands approach the art of branding!

Off-White

OFF-WHITE


The world of fashion is a very busy place and it’s not surprising to see brands rise into stardom and then in a blink of an eye fall back into obscurity. It’s a risk that comes with the job; trends and fads move so fast that for many, keeping up is a struggle. That wasn’t the case for Virgil Abloh. In fact, the late great fashion mogul stumbled across something even more important, a ‘workaround’ so to speak – he discovered the endurance of simplicity.

Take a look at anything in the men’s Off White catalogue right now, and you will immediately recognise what sets their approach to branding apart from everybody else – simplicity. It’s really been the driving motivation behind the brand’s astronomic rise to success, and when we think about branding, we can try and imagine why.

Moncler

MONCLER

A brand like Moncler is a bit of an anomaly – they straddle both sides of the culture of the fashion industry. Their birth as a luxury fashion house in 1952 firmly sets one of their feet in the realm of the classic brands, earning tenure and immunity simply for doing so new so early. However, the outstanding thing about men’s Moncler can be found on their foot – their incredible ability to maintain relevance where so many other brands have failed.

Their approach to branding is rather special, and actually, with their semi-divided brand identity, they are utilising a strategy few other companies have. Moncler pride itself on its heritage, and when looking at some of its most popular products, it’s clear to see how much the past plays into its strategy.

The iconography of their quilted jackets is exemplary of this idea. As one of the first brands to really specialise in the field of winter sportswear, their jackets were aimed at a niche of buyers. However, intentionally or not, their designs seemed to want to break free of this small group, and soon the icon of a Moncler quilted jacket outgrew the reasons for its creation. The important aspect is that what could have been just a fashionable flash in the pan, Moncler made into a cornerstone of their brand identity – still today we see the direct influence of their early years.

Even in their current catalogue, references and call back to the previous styles and branding attitude are resurrected in their modern garments as if building a Moncler mythology. If we were to bring the branding question to those at Moncler, perhaps their answer would be that they stick to what’s always worked.

Balenciaga

BALENCIAGA

For our final exploration into the branding attitude of different brands, let’s direct our attention to one of the biggest names in the fashion industry at the moment. More than a fashion house, Balenciaga are truly a powerhouse. After analysing Off White and Moncler, in Balenciaga, we can find similarities but most importantly one major difference.

Emanating from 1919, the name Balenciaga has over one hundred years of heritage to support itself. However, translating century-old ideas into the 21st century is not only difficult, but it also may not be entirely possible. They cannot achieve what Moncler has managed – there simply isn’t a consistent enough timeline, and when you factor in the fact that Balenciaga was originally a dressmaker for the upper echelons of Spain (including the Spanish royal family), you can see why.

They don’t have the privilege of having something that has worked consistently for a very long time, yet they can’t take a leaf out of Off White’s book and reinvent themselves for a new generation; there is simply too much to lose.

So what can they do?

Well, they’ve been doing something extremely special, and in many ways, even more, exciting than some of our previous mentions – they just keep creating. The reason Balenciaga are not the first brands many of us think of is that they are masters at relevance – perhaps even the architects. Season after season, drop after drop, they are constantly reinventing the game and reworking the playing field.

Ask Balenciaga what branding matters, and you’ll receive no answer. They’re all too busy creating something you’ve never seen before.

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