+ Discussions

Discuss: Logos, Brands and Signatures, Oh My!

During my awkward teen years, brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Guess and Calvin Klein were the pinnacle of middle class fashion.  If your clothing bore the logo of one of these labels, you were considered cool, on trend.  But despite my Father’s desire that I dress like a preppy princess in Hilfiger polos and tennis skirts, I never cared for clothing with logos.  Even a little Hilfiger flag was an instant turn-off.  Why?  The logic was simple:

Why would I give free advertising to a designer whose clothing I had already paid for?  Why would I want to turn my body into a billboard for a millionaire with a house in the Hamptons?

Fast forward 15 years, and my dislike for visible logos persists. Every time I see a woman carrying a logo-printed handbag, even a designer bag (or Canal Street-quality knock-off), I wince.  But given the prevalence of these bags on retail shelves, I’m beggining to wonder if I’m the only person who feels this way.

From the mall to 5th Avenue, handbags with printed logos and “signature” fabrics are everywhere.  From Fendi and Louis to Guess and Juicy, you can find these bags in any price point and retail setting.  So I asked a few friends who own printed bags why they like them?

“It’s difficult to buy a mid-priced bag without logos or designs,” says GB, a K Streeter who owns more Coach than should be allowed by law.  “Once Jessica Simpson started carrying that rainbow Louis Vuitton satchel, it was all over.  Now everyone has a signature print adorning at least half if their products.  As long as the logo isn’t obtrusive, I think it’s fine.  I own (the Coach clutch above) and they’ve made it more of a pattern than a logo.”

While I do agree that the carefully crafted logo designs are the best of the bunch, I don’t understand why all of the wristlets that Coach offers (sans the Kristen) have to have some kind of advertising (branding, if you prefer) on them.  That is until my neighbor cleared it up for me.

“Dollface,” she said as she slammed her designer tote down in front of me, “the bag is a status symbol.  No one wants to admit that they’re that shallow, but it’s a way to say, “Look!. I own a Fendi.”  She lowered her voice as if she was speaking about the Ark of the Covenant or something.

Of course, I already knew this but I thought that with so many counterfeit designer bags out there this affect had waned.  So I asked her: Doesn’t the prevalence of fakes tarnish the brand, making your particular label irrelevant?

“If I take the Metro to work, 98% of women will think my Birkin is a fake or a Mulberry or a knock-off.  BUT,” she said while she pointed at me with her finger,”if I walk into Saks Jandel with my Birkin or wander into Barneys Co-Op with my Birkin, it’s like I brought Cinderella to the ball.  It’s the same with my Louis and Fendi.”

Neighbor then explained that for women, handbags are like a luxury car that you hang on your arm.  “I don’t know if that’s how it should be,” she said.  “But that’s how it is.”

Of course, I understand her point.  Carrying an expensive purse or a moderately expensive purse is a little like tattooing your salary on your forehead, but for me, it wouldn’t matter.  I can’t stand printed bags!

What do you ladies think?  Is a printed bag just a printed bag?  Is it a status symbol?  Or do you just like the purse and you don’t care that it’s covered in someone’s logo? And is choosing a bag with a discernible shape, a Birkin or a MAB, the same as choosing a bag made with yards of logo printed leather?

Leave a Reply to Montana · cancel comment

    45 comments

  1. H says:

    Everyone knows how much they cost (might as well just leave the price tag on), but I think a lot of logo bags actually look cheap. They're not beautiful, they're not inviting, they're not even a little bit unexpected — most of them wouldn't catch anybody's eye if they weren't expensive or made by a recognizable designer. Logo and “it” bags are status symbols, but often only among the style-clueless who think expensive = in good taste.

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  2. H says:

    Everyone knows how much they cost (might as well just leave the price tag on), but I think a lot of logo bags actually look cheap. They're not beautiful, they're not inviting, they're not even a little bit unexpected — most of them wouldn't catch anybody's eye if they weren't expensive or made by a recognizable designer. Logo and “it” bags are status symbols, but often only among the style-clueless who think expensive = in good taste.

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  3. K says:

    LOATHE! Tacky.

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  4. Lisatella says:

    It's a status symbol, but one we rely on by mistake. I don't mind when a bag has a small medallion sort of logo, but I don't need to have those Coach C's all over my bag. The logos make it easier to spot fakes, which just seem trashy in comparison. I'd rather have a more subtle, quality bag. People who care about the label will know it's legit. People who don't know any better may admire it just the same.

    Fantastic post, btw. I could talk about this stuff all day.

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  5. EG says:

    I'm with you, Belle. I have never liked logos on anything. Perhaps this was because my parents never let me buy the logo-ed clothes when I was growing up, so I started hating on people who felt the need to flaunt their wealth that way early on. But I still feel that way. It almost seems like an easy way out. Instead of putting together a great outfit using colors and fabrics and patterns, people rely on logos to look put together. I think Louis Vuitton & Coach purses are the worst. I have very nice Coach bags that I love, beautiful leather, sturdy, that will last me forever, without the tacky Cs all over. But I wouldn't ever carry one that had the logo pattern. And the fake bags certainly aren't helping.

    Look at Longchamps– the design is well-recognized, and they don't need to put little racehorses all over their bags to make their style known; everyone sees the bag, contrasting straps, and knows what it is. A knockoff Longchamp can still look nice, for those who don't want to pay over $100 for a nylon bag, but a knockoff Gucci or Fendi? Yuck.

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  6. Belle says:

    Lisatella-

    I agree. A small logo doesn't bother me, when the bag is covered it's bothersome. Esp. when I walk by the Guess shop in Metro Center and every bag has giant buckle, an emblazoned logo, a keychain attachment, etc, etc. It's awful.

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  7. Kim says:

    Like Listatella, I don't mind a small logo (like on most Kate Spade bags) identifying the brand. It's not necessary for me (my favorite bag is a no-name brand I got at a travel store ages ago that has held up remarkably well), but I don't mind it, either. I am not a fan of things that are printed with an allover logo print, though. There are exceptions, but this look generally screams high school or college girl to me, particularly when it comes to Coach bags (probably because the majority of girls in my high school and college carried those very bags).

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  8. Sassy Marmalade says:

    I don't have a big problem with logo bags – I think most can be classy and tasteful in the right setting, particularly Louis – but I agree with Lisatella in that you don't need logos all over a bag for it to be a recognizable status symbol. Women who know handbags will know that you're carrying Marc Jacobs or Mulberry even without the logos, and can tell whether it's fake or not. Not even solely based on a shape, but just because we KNOW handbags. Great post!

    http://www.sassymarmalade.blogspot.com

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  9. Kate says:

    I avoid logos like the plague. I really can't with them. I am not so insecure that I need to brag non-verbally to every other woman that I have “X” bag.

    Oh, and Coach is THE WORST. I refuse to every carry a coach bag because of the tack tacky logo.

    But, that is just my drama. My sister loves the logos, she thinks they are fun. I can respect that.

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  10. Sally says:

    I have a Coach bag – covered in the Coach “C”. But that's not the reason I bought it. I bought it because I loved the color and shape. However, I regret the choice I made because when I carry it, I always feel like I'm flaunting it around. The next designer bag I buy will certainly be more subtle and without logos everywhere. Which is the reason I love my Coach wallet. It's plain black, with just the little logo above the snap. To me, that's not nearly as obnoxious.

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  11. amy b.s. says:

    despise the visible logos! and you know how bad it is when you come home…i often wonder where these people think they live!

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  12. Nina says:

    I hate when a bag is all about the logos. And most of the time the logo bags are just printed canvas, perhaps waxed canvas (Louis I'm looking at you) so when you consider the materials you are paying just for the print. I used to hatehatehate coach for their obnoxious print bags, but their Poppy line which is free of the dreaded C's may bring me around to them at last. Ultimately I really try not to buy anything that I'm going to wear/use for someone else, and certainly not to impress random people on the metro.

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  13. KLo says:

    I would love a Birkin, but it's because I adore the shape and quality. That said, logos drive me nuts. They seem juvenile, and in fact, and rather than showing a woman's salary, I typically cringe at the credit card debt I suspect she's in. But that's because I'm cheap.

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  14. T says:

    This might seem bitchy, but are people supposed to be impressed by a bag plastered in Coach or Guess logos? I don't think of those brands as fashionable, stylish or aspirational- it strikes me as a college undegrad's idea of fashion: Ugg boots, Northface and a Coach bag.

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  15. The Slapdash Sewist says:

    Ugh, hate the logo print fabric. As you say, you are PAYING to be a walking advertisement for a brand. It comes off tacky to me, and I associate it (fairly or not) with women who are insecure and insubstantial.

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  16. cathy says:

    I hate logo printed bags! For the same reasons you do, and also because I usually think they are ugly and boring.

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  17. Ms. T says:

    I go for the shape, the quality of construction and even the utility. Bags are expensive if they possess all three logo or not. But, hate the obvious marketing ploy billboard hung on anyone's shoulder. Like you said Belle…those of us in the know, know a quality handbag when we see it.

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  18. Valerie says:

    I can't stand anything covered in logos; I don't even like labels on the outside (like Kate Spade, for example). It's unbelievably tacky. Carrying or wearing anything solely as a status symbol is also tacky. You should buy and wear things because you love them and they make you feel good, not because of what random strangers might hypothetically think about you.

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  19. MAB in VA says:

    I don't have as strong a dislike for logo bags as you, Belle, but they're never the bags that I'm drawn to. I have a small obsession with Coach too, but 90% of the Coach bags that I own are leather, not logo.

    Your neighbor is right: the logo is a status symbol. And I'm not spending a few hundred dollars on a status symbol; I'm spending it on a chic yet functional handbag.

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  20. Dr. Jean Grey says:

    I do not like logos. Very tacky. But, if someone wants to carry one, whatev. It's not not for me.

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  21. Anna Della says:

    To embrace my inner Kelly Cutrone fashion bitch: Logo or no logo, It Bags are d-o-n-e (someone with more authority than I: https://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/01/03/110103fa_fact_colapinto). No one at Barney's is impressed by a Fendi or a Louis or a Birkin. Every girl in McLean has one (or two, or three). At best, they look sweetly trite. If you want to “bring Cinderella to the ball,” walk into Barney's looking like Dries Van Noten picked out your outfit. That said, everything in fashion seems to be cyclical, so It Bags will probably come back around….

    To embrace my inner Tim Gunn: If it looks good, wear it! There's nothing wrong with cubic zirconia or <insert designer name> for Target if you can make it look hot (My inner Tim Gunn does clarify that counterfeit items are not allowed). However, I'm with the author–Logos just don't look good. I see where folks might argue that the densely packed C's and the carefully arranged LV's constitute some sort of pattern or design motif. But still, they just…don't look cool.

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  22. VA Gal says:

    Put me in the tacky camp. I can deal with small logos like the Kate Spade or Prada plaques right by the handle. However, I cannot stand bags with huge logos or that have the logo printed all over the bag. The cloth Coach bags with the logo all over them are ones I hate with a special passion. I suppose the logo is a status symbol of sorts, but I was always taught that it's kind of a crass one.

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  23. Allison says:

    First of all, a Birkin is nothing like a Louis or Fendi, it's a whole different league.

    I don't like the logo print on bags. I have grown up with Coach, being from the wild west we don't have alot of shopping options but we do have a Coach outlet store. My first purse was a little brown Coach cross body bag that I lived in. It makes me sad that Coach has gone from a distinctly American, quality, classic brand to tailoring to tacky demands and throwing the logo everywhere. I still own alot of Coach, but I am moving to Kate Spade and Cole Haan (I am a grad student, mid range purse spend ability here) because I identify better with the brand. (Quality, classic, American, understated.) Oh and I stare at Rebecca Minkoffs with intense desire. Ha.

    The only logo print bag I own is a Louis Vuitton bowler bag. It's from the 80's and my mom passed it down to me. I love the vintage-ish story and that it's already been loved by my mom. What do you all think? Is that still a no-no? (I don't carry it often because I can never decide how I feel about it.)

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  24. Belle says:

    “Carrying or wearing anything solely as a status symbol is also tacky.” And how.

    Love it.

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  25. Belle says:

    Allison-

    I think that's fine, once you say, “It was my Mom's,” anyone with tact will see the sentiment and back off even if they hate it.

    I wear a truly tacky locket, but it was my Great Grandma Millie's and it has my pic and my lil bro's pic from when we were kids. So out of style or not, I love it.

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  26. missblissindc says:

    I hate “overtly logo-ed” bags that scream their provenance from the rooftops. But I like “personal” designer touches, like the beautiful green lining of my Kate Spade black leather shopper. I like little touches that make a piece special or “marked” by the designer, but not–as you say–free advertising!

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  27. Allie says:

    I agree with you. I own two Coach bags, one is a small patchwork design one (so approximately 1/2 the bag is in a logo print) that I got in high school (currently a college student), the other is a solid red leather tote. Since getting the tote this summer, I don't think I've carried the smaller one at all, even when a smaller bag was better suited to the situation. I guess it (along with the unfortunate collection of Vera Bradley items I collected in my misspent adolescent years) appear juvenile to my taste now.

    That said, I do have a bright pink logo emblazoned Coach umbrella, but I love it because it's sturdy, cheery when the weather is not, and was a gift from a very good friend who I don't see often, so it reminds me of her. I'm also generally ok with small logos (think Tommy or La Coste logos on a polo) or small amounts of a “signature print” (like the Burberry trenches with the contrast patterned cuffs).

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  28. Jessica says:

    I hate logos, nor do I want that status. But by all means, those that enjoy it, go ahead and buy it!

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  29. Ashley says:

    Worse than a bag with obnoxious logos — a bag that is perfect it every way EXCEPT for the logos. And I still won't buy it.

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  30. ~M says:

    T, Seriously! Coach bags aren't even designer. They're good quality bags that often mimic actual designer bags. I may just be a judgmental person, but when I see a bag with C's all over it, I think TACKY! and, to continue my judgementalness, it seems that at least half the time, the person holding the bag is wearing something with pink written on the butt or saggy grey sweatpants.

    Belle,
    It's funny you mentioned the Tommy Hilfiger exploding logo from when we were in junior high/high school. I said to myself I would never pay to be a walking billboard and I have refused to buy anything from that brand ever since, logo or not.

    I think if a bag has a signature style and it's clear that a Birkin is a Birkin, it's fine; the problem is when all the bag is is a logo, then you're sad, except for any lovely readers of this blog.

    January 13, 2011/Reply
  31. H says:

    Everyone knows how much they cost (might as well just leave the price tag on), but I think a lot of logo bags actually look cheap. They're not beautiful, they're not inviting, they're not even a little bit unexpected — most of them wouldn't catch anybody's eye if they weren't expensive or made by a recognizable designer. Logo and “it” bags are status symbols, but often only among the style-clueless who think expensive = in good taste.

    January 14, 2011/Reply
  32. Belle says:

    -M

    I like to break designer into three camps: mid-price designer (Coach, Dooney, Rebecca Minkoff) and high-end designer (Gucci, Fendi, Mulberry), and Hermes, which stands alone.

    January 14, 2011/Reply
  33. Rory says:

    I guess I'm in the corner by myself for those who really don't mind logo bags. I do agree that large logos, like the usual giant Guess or Juicy logo, are tacky, but the Coach C's or Dooney's various small initials are fine. I actually had no idea that the Coach logo were C's until well into my freshman year of college (at my high school we could only have plain brown, black, white, or navy blue purses, and logo patches/plaques had to be small than two postage stamps).

    I still have a few Coach logo bags, and use them from time to time. I have a Coach that I adore because it's the PERFECT size and shape, but have yet to find something similar in a non-logo form.

    January 14, 2011/Reply
  34. Belle says:

    Rory-

    Not by yourself! Look at all the designers who sell them and women who buy them, clearly, someone loves them.

    January 14, 2011/Reply
  35. Lisa says:

    By the way, can we talk about Tory Burch here too? How do people feel about having that logo plastered on their shoes all the time? Just curious as I see them all day every day.

    January 14, 2011/Reply
  36. Montana says:

    Individualism!! To each her own. I personally find the logo bags vulgar. I think they can sabotage a beautiful outfit, coat, etc. I do not understand why everyone wants the same bags, do you want to be seen wearing the same dress as someone else at work, especially on the same day? I understand that it may have to have a small identifier but thats it!!
    Ladies, Branch out!!! Have a great weekend.

    January 14, 2011/Reply
  37. Govvie says:

    I have to say I hate the Longchamp bags as well. While no obvious logos are present, why would you want to carry around the same bag that every other office worker from 25-45 is carrying?

    January 14, 2011/Reply
  38. Paolina says:

    I don't care for logo bags or shits. I did when I was younger, I would pick an Old Navy shirt over Wal – Mart anyday. But now I prefer a nice style rather than just an overpriced one. I have a few “designer” inspired purses because I love the simple style but I would never try to pull them off as an original.

    January 14, 2011/Reply
  39. lorrwill says:

    Just say no to logs/heritage prints, etc.

    Logos say a few things to me and none of them are good.

    As pointed out they say a lot about your income. Bragging, in a way, which is never tasteful.

    Second they make you look like you are trying to hard to be affluent. Elegant never, ever looks like it tries too hard.

    And third, they feel like I have been tagged by the designer's graffiti. Wearing someone else's name is defacing my own personal brand.

    January 14, 2011/Reply
  40. gingerr says:

    Sadly Coach has lost their way. At the risk of disclosing my age, they used to have distinctive bags that didn't need their name blazened across them. Their Bonnie Cashion bags, the classic leather models distinguished by piping and brass hardware were the best.

    It's my feeling that if one is out and about in DC, riding public transit and returning home past the standard rush hour, as many of us who work long hours or go to school are, that it's best to carry a nondescript bag. All those logos and frills shout out “mug me!”

    January 14, 2011/Reply
  41. Abbey says:

    I hate logo covered bags! I'm with you on the walking advertisement issue.

    Plus, I figure your “status symbol” just advertises to a thief that you have things they want in that expensive bag!

    January 15, 2011/Reply
  42. sjs says:

    I am definitely in the anti-logo camp, which is why I was glad to learn that Coach is listening to us and has recreated (brought back?) their classic leather bags with their Coach Originals collection. Yes, the Coach leather tag “key chain” is fastened to the bags (it can be removed) and 6 of the 17 Coach Originals bags have the double-C logo–but if you want a classy non-logo Coach bag it still exists. The hardest part is digging down through the Coach website to find them. You have to click on “handbags”, then “view all handbags”, then “by collection” and select Coach Originals.

    January 15, 2011/Reply
  43. BJ says:

    I have never been a fan of logos…..and unless I am attending a sports/college event in my school's paraphanelia, I don't want any parts of them.

    January 15, 2011/Reply
  44. LTH says:

    I'm with you 100%! As a mid twenties lawyer I don't have the $$$ to splurge on the bags I'm dying to have (Chloe, anyone?) but I'd rather save for a for a Rebecca Minkoff or something of that ilk than have a closet full of Coach logos. But that's just one girl's opinion. Love the column!

    January 15, 2011/Reply
  45. Nomie says:

    “it strikes me as a college undegrad's idea of fashion: Ugg boots, Northface and a Coach bag.”

    T, I am crying laughing – I live in a college town and there are batallions of girls dressed this way roaming the campus. I don't understand it at all.

    January 17, 2011/Reply