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The Logic of Logomania

Ever wonder why vintage clothing has very few external logos, and then starting around the 1970s everyone seemed to slap initials all over everything?  (Well, with at least one exception:  Bottega Veneta bucked the trend with its signature intrecciato leather and the sly motto, "When your own initials are enough.")

A new biography, Being Armani, offers a reason for logomania -- the very one that Counterfeit Chic has long surmised.  In a passage from the book, the Italian designer describes his decision in the early 1980s to use his initials on designs for the Emporio Armani line:

I liked the eagle just fine, but I wasn't sure about my monogram on it, since I had always been a little finicky about the excessive use of monograms in the world of fashion, for instance, the craze for initials everywhere, from belt buckles to overcoat linings, and then taking them from the lining to the exterior, using it as a decoration on the clothing itself.  The problem was the growing phenomenon of copies, which were increasingly common.  The imitators were really good at it.  Sometimes I fall for it myself, and I would really have to look closely to see whether something was by me.  We needed a logo, even if it did not constitute a foolproof deterrent. 

In other words, absent protection for actual clothing and accessory designs, a clever lawyer somewhere realized that liberally deployed trademarks could serve as a stopgap measure, and the word spread.  Even Giorgio Armani, the most elegant of minimalists but also a clever businessman, succumbed to the lure of trademark protection. 

Of course, there are other reasons for using prominently displayed logos, including social signaling and aesthetic preference.  And emerging designers whose logos are not particularly recognizable or valuable can't deter copyists whose target is their designs, not their trademarks.  Still, it seems that logomania is what you get when the law has a lacuna -- and fashion designers cede their authority to trademark lawyers.