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dior aw04 logo campaign nick knight gisele
Dior AW04 campaignPhotography Nick Knight

The 00s monogram is back – this is why

Originally made popular by the Simple Life and Mean Girls, logomania has returned to fashion via Louis Vuitton x Supreme, Gucci and Dior

For Dior’s AW04 ad campaign, Nick Knight photographed Gisele Bündchen clad in a monogrammed Dior bikini, jacket and bag while leaning against a Dior snowboard with yet another Dior bag resting on her hip. In fashion, the early 00s was not exactly an era of subtlety. The monogram was the reigning status symbol of the start of the decade – it was en vogue to (j’)adore Dior and wear your love for brands on your sleeve, hanging from your shoulder, on your shoes, and everywhere else. Galliano’s early 2000s collections for Dior featured head to toe monogrammed looks, hats, outerwear, sheer dresses, knee-high stilettos. In Louis Vuitton’s SS00 show, Marc Jacobs refashioned the house’s monogram for the modern jet-setter and placed it on khaki colored baseball hats, sheer visors, outerwear and more.

The motif proved to be an endlessly versatile runway staple, and if it wasn’t emblazoned on a shoe or jacket, it was definitely on a bag. Part of its power was the possibility for reinvention it contained. While Galliano played with colour and customisation, at Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs collaborated with several artists to rework their iconic LV pattern. Artist Stephen Sprouse’s 2001 collaboration covered the signature bags in neon graffiti that read “Louis Vuitton Paris”, while in 2003, artist Takashi Murakami reimagined the monogram with cartoon cherry blossoms, cartoon characters and, of course, created the Multicolore pattern – which features the monogram in several different colours against black or white leather.

Monogrammed bags were, quite simply, all the rage – you could spot them hanging from every socialite or celebrity arm, paired with tiny dogs or bedazzled flip phones. When Regina George surveys the damage done by the Burn Book in 2004’s Mean Girls, a pale pink Louis Vuitton cherry blossom pochette is dangling from her crossed arms. Even when Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie ditched their socialite lifestyle for their popular reality show The Simple Life circa 2003, they couldn’t give up the monogram. The pair wore OTT Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Dior, creating brilliantly jarring images of themselves in rural American farming towns where you’d be hard-pressed to find a designer anything (see Paris accessorising a Dior monogrammed bathing suit with a Chanel belt in one episode).

This kind of logo-mania was addictive and ubiquitous, and naturally it trickled down to the affordable luxury sector, where you could easily find a tan or white bag with some letter-based motif. Among the most popular were Coach’s C print, and Dooney & Bourke’s multicolored interlocking D & B – which looked so much like Murakami’s Louis Vuitton Multicolore that the house took the brand to court in 2004. The brand’s lawyers argued that their version of the monogram wasn’t stealing, it was capitalising on a trend that had permeated fashion. Dooney & Bourke eventually won the lawsuit.

The most conspicuous versions of the monogram fit in perfectly with the fashion of the 2000s, where the trends included tracksuits, crop tops, low-rise bootcut jeans, and velour or pastel items accented with rhinestones. But as time went on, the glittery excess of the early 00s gave way to more subdued looks. With the economic crisis in 2008, fashion and retail were also in crisis mode. Customers were thinking less about luxury and more about saving. Buyers and fashion forecasters were stumped and curious as to what would still sell despite the economic downturn. They cautiously avoided items that screamed “conspicuous consumption”.

The face of luxury changed to fit the state of the economy. We traded in bedazzled flip phones and logomania for clothing and bags recognised by silhouette rather than branding. The logo just wasn’t as cool anymore – its total oversaturation (as well as the high circulation of fakes driven by the trend) meant that its classicism had lost its class – perhaps snobbishly, monograms became a symbol of an aspiring nouveau riche rather than a serious fashion consumer.

In the late 00s, Givenchy’s Nightingale, Balenciaga’s City bag, YSL’s Muse and Sac du Jour are just a few of the bags that garnered “It bag” status, with barely-there logos and little else to signify it was a designer piece. This was the new luxury, defined by low-key details, rich materials and silhouettes – in other words, it was more about being in the know than loudly declaring your wealth. This peaked with Hedi Slimane’s brand of LA grunge for Saint Laurent, which began when he arrived in 2012. While his rockstar mini dresses and embellished tights seemed to be very “normal” or as Cathy Horyn put it “a pricier version of what you could get at Forever 21”, they came with the high fashion price tag and materials. He cultivated a look, a Saint Laurent girl that was instantly recognisable, without the logo.

Monograms and logos didn’t completely leave the runways (or the stores – remember those aspiring shoppers?) after the aughts but they were less overt, and less of a selling point – it would be a while until the runways were ready to return to logo-mania. Like almost anything else in the past few years, you could certainly point to Demna Gvasalia for igniting the trend for branding – adorning his highly sought-after raincoats, hoodies and t-shirts with the Vetements logo and even that of DHL and, in a full circle since the Simple Life, Juicy Couture. Now, we have Balenciaga-branded caps, shoes, eye-masks, lighters, mugs – you name it.

As for the monogram, Nicolas Ghesquière had a moment with it when he introduced the Petite Malle during his AW14 Louis Vuitton debut. The small handbag, meant to mirror the brand’s signature trunks, was an instant hit. From then he eased us back into the motif, placing the pattern on shoes, jackets, iPhone cases and so on. Vuitton’s Eye-Trunk iPhone case is monogram for the Instagram-era, turning the one thing we almost always have in our hands into an accessory worthy of thousands of likes. The monogram thrives on Instagram, for the same reasons it did before: it announces itself to an audience. It’s just this time, that audience is a digital one.

“The monogram’s strange duality of timelessness and trendiness is it’s biggest asset. It fulfills our nostalgia for the past while giving us something new.”

And on the runway, more and more brands are playing with the monogram once more. Maria Grazia Chiuri reintroduced Dior’s logo print with bags in her first ready-to-wear show and has continued ever since, the double ‘F’ logo appeared on several pieces in both Fendi’s SS18 menswear and womenswear shows, and the interlocking Gs have also been reintroduced at Gucci under Alessandro Michele. Clare Waight Keller, too, in her Givenchy debut, resurrected the famous four ‘G’ logo, and not just on the coffee cups that were given out to guests – it appeared, subtly, on devoré velvet shirts. And of course, who could forget that this year also saw the revival of one of the 00s most infamous and instantly recognisable fashion patterns: the Burberry check.

Like most trends of late, though, these reboots come tinged with irony. The monogram is so hot right now because it’s a redux, and its strange duality of timelessness and trendiness is it’s biggest asset. It fulfills our nostalgia for the past while giving us something new. Take the wildly successful Louis Vuitton x Supreme collaboration, which featured the two highly desirable logos reworked on classic garments.

Considering how fashion cycles through trends, and teens are driven towards obsessing over a time they just barely remember, it was only natural for the 90s resurgence we’ve been witnessing for the last few years to be followed up with a revival of the 00s. But there’s something more to it. “We’re living in a period of such volatility and such change that something familiar is incredibly reassuring,” Christopher Bailey told us of his desire to reintroduce Burberry’s print. Fashion is all about forging ahead, but in an age defined by incredible social and political disruption, where the news cycle plays out like a Hollywood film people would have said was unrealistic, it’s not so surprising that we’re seeking the comfort of the past.