Sick of living smack in the middle of the reactor-core of fashion, a backlash underground movement has spawned threatening to become the very cult it was hoping to avoid: Becoming trendy. This is the no-logo logo movement. You can see this not only with trendsetters on the street who carefully choose to wear brands that are so-called “unbranded” and the retailers that supply them.
The school of anti-fashion, or blanks movement, or no-logo movement, has actually been going on for years, but never really surfacing as much as it has today among more mainstream players, thus calling more attention to this style trend than the players in it ever hoped it would have. It’s a backlash movement. From those sensitives once caught in the fast-paced world of fashion that no longer want to play the game as it is. It also comes from a utilitarian vibe of going back to the originals. Seeing style for its fabrics, silhouettes, textures of materials, sustainability, rather than graphics, brand logos, or even color.
Some say that the blanks movement -meaning wearing for example, a dark-colored T-shirt and pants without a single logo on it, cut-off label tag if there even is one, and absolutely no graphics in the entire outfit -is courtesy of American Apparel bringing back the base layers as fundamental apparel. While American Apparel did contribute to the look, they have become a strong brand in and of itself, with a color palette like a box of Crayolas, and styles that change bi-monthly. So there is some crossover in making the blanks movement mainstream via American Apparel, but this was not the original intent of blanks movement fashion players (for whom many feel American Apparel copped their scene).
The real players in the blanks movement are so incredibly original and stylish, they are the quiet leaders of a new cult that simply breeds followers -once they understand the genius of classic understatement. These people are very into high-end fabrics, cashmere, organic cotton, tweeds, linen, silk, and the purest denim, but nothing that is obtuse and outlandish or calls attention in the usual, consumer-driven marketplace we know today. The style and cut of the cloth is what’s important -not the brand. These people may have, say, 3 plain grey wool logo-free sweaters in their wardrobe ordered from prep-school catalogues, white button-up shirts of high quality but understated elegance, T-shirts in grey, white, black, but no graphics whatsoever.
Other leaders in this scene include H&M to some extent, the fast-fashion giant from Sweden which is quietly dominating the scene in the USA, and Uniqlo, by Fast Retailing out of Japan, known for good quality garments in trendy silhouettes, minimal graphics, and absolutely no logo. If we were to choose, we’d say Uniqlo is the leader of this no-logo logo trend, which we picked-up on years ago in Japan.
While working on our first Japanese Youth Culture Study in 2004, our research manager took us to a Uniqlo store which at first appeared quite plain with racks of similar apparel but trendy styles, and no logos at all. This, he said, is what was cool in Japan -especially, as we later discovered in our data. Young people didn’t know the brand name of their favorite apparel but simply called it the store name -Uniqlo. Which gave it a brand name in place of the apparel having no logos. In many ways, this strengthened the “brand” because it was preferred and yet only remembered by its store name. A very Japanese trait. Obviously, American Apparel has a similar appeal. And all of them, including H&M, American Apparel, and Uniqlo, are able to produce trendy pieces quickly, changing over inventory fast, and offered at relatively affordable prices.
What’s also interesting about this growing movement is the locally produced aspect that goes with the blanks movement. Knowing where the garment is made and the process for which it comes to market, is of great importance, which in many ways, is redefining the traditional concept of “what is fashion.”
Even Rick Klotz, founder of Freshjive, a once popular American streetwear brand, is tapping into the no-logo movement with an entirely new spin on his upcoming collection, which basically doesn’t say Freshjive anywhere. Going logo-free has given Freshjive some publicity from those who think its suicide and others who think it’s actually very forward-thinking. Even Absolut Vodka is testing the concept with label-free bottles. As Klotz described the concept in a recent interview with Downtown LA News, as “subversive branding and pushback of labeling.”
As more people start to move away from the plethora of tattoo-artistry saturated apparel, old-school streetwear logo-ing, even action-sports inspired logo-ed apparel, you can expect that the blanks and no-logo movement will gain even more momentum, much to the chagrin of the real fashion players that started it.
For more information about the no-logo movement and fashion in North American and Japan, email email@example.com for information about our Premium subscription.