I was scrolling through the Instagram feed when I saw the new logo and monogram recently released by Balmain back in December 2018, completely shocked, but not in a positive way. A thick ass bolded B hooded by another thick ass bolded P? What the heck? What happened to my all-time favourite minimalist inline serif BALMAIN? I couldn’t afford a single piece from Balmain, at least for now, but hell, give it back.
For a moment, I started to wonder if my mixed feelings were any better than how CÉLINE fans felt when they heard of Hedi Slimane’s rebranding not long ago in September 2018. By dropping the accent in an effort to resemble their original 1960s logo and releasing a whole new collection that speaks Hedi Slimane, CELINE was hugely successful in raging up a thunderstorm among almost every fashion editors and lifelong CÉLINE fans.
Some immediately crowned Slimane the “Donald Trump of fashion” for putting girls in crotch-skimming skirts. Others said the show was basically a reuse of his previous work for Dior Homme and Saint Laurent (to be fair, he did).
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In last night's @celine show , Hedi Slimane picks right back up where he left off at @ysl . TBH, did we expect anything else? Hedi is a branding virtuoso with a focused, but narrow repertoire of retro club kid looks. With the likes of Anthony Vaccarello and Alexandre Vauthier churning out more elevated mega-watt 80s-inspired collections in recent years, Slimane's now look high-street by comparison. A few sharply tailored XXL shouldered looks stole the show, but most glaring was the fact that it took 30 exits to see a model of color. While he has a way of unearthing our hidden desires from time to time (all the financial reports from his tenure at Saint Laurent will attest to that), the white youth obsession is something we definitely won't be buying into lol. LVMH is banking on the $limane dollars, but apparently not the creativity. We were hopeful and prepared to be surprised, but seeing the new season thumbnail on the Vogue Runway app stacked ahead of all of Phoebe's glorious collections for Céline reminds us to always remain cynical. • #celine #hedislimane #lvmh #saintlaurent #ysl #anthonyvaccarello #yvessaintlaurent #phoebephilo #retro #glam #club #clubkid #vintage #80s #newwave #rocknroll #dejavu #sequins #ruffles #minidress #ootd #wiwt #pfw #parisfashionweek #dietprada
But hell, all I saw was a great Hedi Slimane show.
Isn’t that what you get when you let an artist do what he does best? To stay true to his own identity rather than following the footsteps left behind by his predecessor Phoebe Philo? You may call him a one trick pony, but man he’s a great one.
“You don’t enter a fashion house to imitate the work of your predecessor.”
But that’s not the entire story, isn’t it? The management board of LVMH, which happens to own CELINE and is led by Bernard Arnault (you go give yourself a research on this dude), wouldn’t easily let some new guy come in destroy everything Philo has ever done in her time for nothing.
In fact, Slimane was given a huge order – to double CELINE’s current annual sales of £800m, and that’s not something that could be achieved by simply doing what has already been done. A change was a must. Slimane took the bold move, and what he brought with him when entering CELINE was the same things that made Dior Homme and Saint Laurent so damn successful in the past – clothes that the club kids want.
Rebrand to differ, or rebrand to sell better?
But is this rebranding haze raging another war on something called “identity crisis”? No matter how hard I tried to shy myself away from recognizing a very common pattern among recent rebranding schemes, but the resemblance was so uncanny that it started to make me wonder if there was anything that I missed.
It seems that by having one successful designer hopping from one brand to another, the world starts to get more “twin brands”. Saint Laurent, which also went through a mixed-received rebrand under Slimane (him again) back in 2012, is still maintaining Slimane’s artistic visions till today even under another creative director. The current CELINE is basically Saint Laurent in a different name. I couldn’t help but think about the day when Olivier Rousteing, Balmain’s creative director since 2011, leaves Balmain and creates his own brand or works for someone else.
Back to the logo thing. I have no idea what fashion forecasters (if they still exist) or whoever else get to decide all of these rebranding games are thinking, but going all bold and sans-serif seems to be the thing of the future. Just slap that logo on everything, overstate it as much as possible and the millennials will buy it like crazy. Gucci and Balenciaga are a few examples of how being so shameless could work serious wonders in the world of luxury fashion.
It’s unknown whether Balmain is trying to join the shameless club, but according to Olivier Rousteing, rather than trying to tear down traditions and break some hearts, this change is in accordance with the fact that “Balmain is now a fast-growing brand relying on new media to communicate to a global audience. To best meet the challenges and opportunities of today, we unveil a newly updated logo for Balmain Paris.” What he said could be essentially translated to “to transform Balmain from a niche player into a powerhouse.”
Whatever the heck that they’re trying to do, one thing is for sure – by going mainstream and diving deeper into street wear and the common mass, luxury brands are giving us a hard time telling them apart. In a world where being different is what it takes to survive, it’s very uncertain if these ongoing rebranding moves are wise or not.
Even though rebranding is something that has been going on for decades, not every fan of any brand is ready for it. It’s heartbreaking to say goodbye to the logos and patterns that have already grown deep inside our hearts while holding the grudge that not all changes are for the better. But these guys are inside the loop and understand what’s going on, so there’s not much we can do but hope for the best.