Monday, March 8, 2010

Brand Power

by Sam Goodman

Fashion & Graphics by Tamsin Blanchard: In this reading, Blanchard discusses the importance of graphics and branding in the fashion industry. She says, “There comes a point when designer clothing is not about cut and cloth, but about graphic design, packaging and communication [….]” (pg 534).

Increasingly, a designer puts as much energy and resources into their brand image as they do into their collections. Many work with graphic designers to “express the philosophy and character of the line to the customer” (pg 535), and this is done through the creation of a brand logo, and even ad campaigns.

Gloria Vanderbilt is an early example of basic name as logo. Her name alone was licensed for jeans she had not designed.

The underlying importance of the introduction to the reading is that of the increasingly intertwined relationship between graphics and fashion. Blanchard discusses Belgian graphic designer Walter Van Beirendonck, who talks about the “language between designer and public” that is created through graphic communication and brand identity (pg 536). Several examples, such as the brand development for Stella McCartney and Yves Saint Laurent’s houses are discussed. McCartney is mentioned because of the unique situation her graphic designers were presented with when they were commissioned to create a logo for her: she already had a strong brand image but needed to create a new one upon launching her own label under the Gucci umbrella in 2002. YSL has been known to have the longest lasting and most universally-recognized logo. He is also mentioned as being one of the first fashion designers to work with a graphic designer before the trend became popular in the 1980s.

Peter Saville and Nick Knight were responsible for the look books and graphic design of Yohji Yamamoto. Cassandre was the illustrator of YSL.

Tyler Brulee created the Stella McCartney logo.

After the introductory segment of the reading, Blanchard brings her case study into focus. The relationship between Paul Smith and Aboud Sodano is one of the more unique business relationships in both the fashion and graphic design industries for several reasons. The first being that they have worked together for over twenty years and have very relaxed interactions with each other every three weeks or so.

The next, and probably most interesting aspect of this relationship, is the fact that Aboud did not make many changes to the Paul Smith logo, which had already been established. He only slightly refined the signature logo and added the now recognized colorful stripes in 1996. Before the stripes became a part of the logo, the brand had simply used black and grey, despite being known for extremely colorful collections. Aboud says, “We do stuff on a whim and a hunch,” nothing is created by a committee or out of market research (pg 542).

While the Paul Smith logo is unique with a signature, the background resembles both the art work of Bridget Riley and Rem Koolhaas' proposal for the EU flag.

The most important aspect of the Paul Smith/Aboud Sodano relationship to note is the success that the two companies have attained in working together. Their relationship is not structured like houses that are owned by conglomerates: being independently owned by Paul Smith himself has helped the brand to retain its creativeness, and allowed for Aboud Sodano to retain a long-lasting partnership as their calling card.

About the Author: Tamsin Blanchard is a journalist and writer. Since 2005, she has been the Telegraph Magazine’s style director. Before that she wrote about fashion and interiors for the Observer, and spent three years as the Independent’s fashion editor. She is contributing fashion editor to the V&A Magazine, and a sometime contributing editor to 10 Magazine. She has also written for Vogue, Marie Claire, US Harper’s Bazaar, and The Daily Rubbish. In the late nineties, she co-founded ‘it’ a luxury boxed magazine for fashion, art and design. She has taught fashion journalism at Central Saint Martins and University of Westminster and is currently an external assessor at London College of Fashion. (


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