What’s in a name? The history of luxury fashion branding

What’s in a name? The history of luxury fashion branding


In the quote above, legendary English playwright William Shakespeare raised an age-old question, ‘What is in a name?’ In the luxury fashion branding scene, the ‘name’, in other words, the ‘brand name’, is everything.

This is because it is the ‘brand name’ and the ‘brand logo’ that attracts consumers to a brand and launches the often enduring relationship between them and their chosen luxury brand. Shakespeare indicated that if a rose were to be known by another name, it would still smell as sweet.

Does the same principle apply to the luxury fashion sector? Would brands like Louis Vuitton and Giorgio Armani have the same associative elements and success if the names of their founders were different? The answers to these questions will become clear as we take a trip down the history lane to the origins of branding and the evolution of the global luxury fashion sector

Branding evolution

The notion of branding as part of ancient trading can be traced to the Greek and Roman empires, before the modern industrial revolution. During this period, market awareness was created through carving out shop route signs and product descriptions, in stone along footpaths.

This method progressed on to the early sixteenth century when whisky distillers began to ship their products in wooden barrels with the name of the producer burned into them. The sole purpose of this method was to differentiate the maker of each type of whisky from his competitors and to aid consumers in identifying the original products from cheaper substitutes.

Branding can also be traced back to pre-historic times when cattle-rearing men imprinted their names or a distinctive mark on their livestock to differentiate one farmer’s livestock from the others. This system was also used to separate the good quality cattle from the low-quality ones and helped consumers to make better purchasing decisions by associating certain attributes to certain cattle farmers.

Origins of luxury fashion

The history of luxury fashion is similar to that of branding in terms of development from ancient to modern times. Fashion’s history has, however, been written about extensively by those more qualified than myself to do so; therefore its repetition is not the purpose of this chapter. However, there are key periods, events, and circumstances that led to the evolution of modern luxury branding, which is worth recounting.

For example, events following the industrial revolution brought about mass production techniques and led the way for the current prêt-a-porter fashion. Also, the dissolution of the world’s monarchies, aristocracy, and social class systems brought a change in luxury fashion, notably after the First World War. These factors show an important link between fashion and mankind’s history and social evolution. Fashion is a symbol of society and has continuously been influenced by historical, social, traditional, religious, political, economic, psychological, and more recently technological changes.

The luxury industry has also witnessed 14luxury fashion branding these aspects of evolution and like a fine sculpture, the old luxury brands have become modified and enhanced with age; and the new brands have become highly appealing with the aid of effective modern techniques. Several of today’s largest and most valuable luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Guerlain, and Gucci originated in France and Italy in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and therefore have a long history.

These brands and their countries of origin have played a key role in the development of the global fashion industry. The twentieth century also produced several American brands like Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan; as well as Far Eastern brands like Yoji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake. In addition, other respectable global luxury brands such as Burberry of Britain have a strong historical legacy surrounding their creation. A look at the very beginnings of luxury fashion will provide some direction to the analysis and understanding of the current luxury fashion scene

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