Wednesday, October 7, 2009


In "Fashion & Graphics," Tamsin Blanchard writes of the brand: “It is just a tiny rectangle of fabric, sewn into the back of a jacket. But what power it holds. Tied up in that little label is money, aspiration, sex appeal and status. Unpick it, and the jacket might as well be worthless. The label has become its own form of currency.”

Blanchard explains that a label can transform a similar product from $5 to $50. Fashion brands now reply on the packaging and presentation to reach consumers. The branding can transform a product and includes the graphic stamp, the photography, look books, catalogues, invitations - the total campaign, which has only been in total practice since the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

Brand consciousness was alive in the 1970’s but only understood as name power. Gloria Vanderbilt for example was paid simply for the right to use her signature on pre-made jeans.

Blanchard discusses the branding of the Yohji Yamamoto in the 1980’s as an early example of cohesive fashion branding. This was in part because when photographer Nick Knight was hired, he wanted to work with designer Peter Saville. Together they created the fall 1986 catalogues with huge success.

Fabien Baron, New York Times

Giorgio Armani is an example of a designer who creates all his own graphics out of dedication to integrity and the philosophy and character of his vision. Fabion Baron is an example of someone who creates many fashion brands for clients, most notably the re-launch of Burberry in the 1990’s.

Blanchard discusses at length the creation of the Stella McCartney logo in 2002 by Tyler Brulee and his company Wink Media. Brulee is best known for founding the magazine Wallpaper while on recovering from a bomb attack as a journalist. The McCartney logo demonstrates the clean confidence of the clothing itself and was actually the result of many studio visits and studying the clothes and designer.

Yves Saint Laurent is an important historic example of branding. The simple YSL was designed by illustrator A. M. Cassandre in the late 1950’s and has remained the same even through current ownership by Gucci group. Alice Rawsthorn states that the design communicates “elegance and sleek sensuality” of the brand. In some ways fashion at large was behind music in branding. Designers Stephanie Nash and Anthony Michael of Michael Nash did music before Galliano, McQueen and Marc Jacobs’ labels. Micahel Amzalag and Mathais Augustnyiak M/M are designers who intentionally distort and scratch images to create an alternate aesthetic in the fashion industry, including the re-design of Calvin Klein. They are quoted as saying “in fashion, once you have seen it, it’s dead.” The author states that “presentation is in danger of becoming everything?”

The author continues with a case study on the Paul Smith label. The label is unique in that it is a signature, however the author reveals that it was not Smith’s signature. At first it was someone who created it for the designer. In time it has been changed to match the designer’s signature working with designer Aboud Sodano. Eventually multicolored stripes were introduced to the brand, actually inspired by a Bridget Riley painting. Now a similar aesthetic has been used by architect Rem Koolhaas as a proposed flag for the European Union.

Owning the rainbow

Bridget Riley

Paul Smith

Rem Koolhass

In his essay "Identity Ambivalence," Fred Davis is interested in the relation between ambivalence and fashion. The author suggests that ambivalence or confliction, is perhaps the normal human condition. The author describes that clothing is “ambivalence management.” In the act of dressing we take existing cultural meaning in clothing and we communicate asserting particular identity factors. He continues by explaining to dress is to “relinquish one image of the self in favor of another.” This idea of identity transformation has been accelerated. “In all societies clothes serve to communicate more or less standardized meanings about their wearers, but not all societies subject wearers to the periodic alteration of meaning effected by fashion.”

Davis describes how the attempt by woman to dress powerful in the 1970’s had already become an accepted uniform by the 1980’s. The “symbolic” force of the dress, and the type of identity it suggested had dissipated. Davis also suggests that the daily ambivalence of “master statuses” of Western society – such as gender and race types – are a fuel for fashion designers who negotiate these values. Fashion is called a “continual, largely uninterrupted, and ever more institutionalized, succession of stylistic changes in dress.”

In his article, "The Artist and the Brand," Jonathan Schroeder specifically focuses on Andy Warhol, Barbara Kruger and Cindy Sherman. There are also contemporary artists who are directly concerned with brand, like German artist Hans Haacke. We can also think of art tied to consumerism with Christie’s and Sotheby’s. It is because of the art market that we can validly think about art as having brand.

Warhol is an obvious starting point for the discussion of artist and brand. For Warhol the “ultimate consumer good” was oneself. He was known for saying “everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes,” and he was most concerned with painting celebrities. He was also fascinated by Coke, a strong brand that he felt offered consistency. His original soup can paintings presented in 1962, were similar but each unique. He also painted over the years variations in the cans such as tears and types of soup.

Warhol, Dollar Signs, 1981

Kruger, Campaign for Selfridges, 2008

Barbara Kruger is a graphic design artist who worked with magazines and then began to create slogans as art work. I Shop Therefore I am, 1985. The work is a modification of Descartes statement “I think therefore I am.” The consistency across her work also gives a brand aesthetic. Her work is in many ways intended to raise consciousness of brand strategies.

Cindy Sherman’s “film still” photographs were her first works in which she dressed in costume of classic film genres. They represent glamorized versions of women, portions of stories that do not exist in film but in the minds of consumers. Like the other artists she also uses reproduction as a tool for extending her work and fame and she demonstrates brand consistency.

Sherman, Film Still 13, 1978

Sherman, Film Still 48, 1979

Schroeder concludes that artists interact with brands by
-appropriating the brands and symbols
-uses an art market
-creating visual brands out their work
-addressing cultural meanings and associations to illuminate branding at large

Artists also reveal how brands are reflexive. Representing brands in works of art reveal that brands retain meaning across platforms. Artists are also able to visually critique culture, such as Barbara Kruger.

In "The Branding of Damien Hirst," Pernilla Holmes explains that Hirst not only had his work sold at Sotheby’s for the highest price of $19 million but also sold his skull, in part to himself for $100 million. He has his own company Science, Ltd., that includes all his work and studios. The artist has invested in restaurants and music and designed for the Warhol Factory X division of Levi’s. He has had many major shows such as Pharmacy in 1998. His dealer Jay Jopling and the gallery White Cube are his promoters. He actually bought back his own work from collector Saatchi, which is said to be buying back stock to regain brand control. He has his own personal collection of other artists that he is going to make into a museum, as well as real estate. For the Love of God is his most expensive piece which will be re-sold on a travelling exhibition.

Resurrection, 2003

Hirst, Controlled Substances, 1994

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