Celine became the latest designer brand to update their visual identity this week, joining the likes of Burberry who debuted a fresh new look last month. The Celine rebrand mainly sees a reduction in tracking on their typeface. The removal of the famous apostrophe above the ‘E’ is the biggest change, which Celine explain has been removed to enable a simplified and more balanced proportion.
Following on from Virgil Abloh’s (the creative director of renowned streetwear brand, Off-white) appointment as creative director of Louis Vuitton menswear earlier this year, there seems to be a host of traditional designer brands re-inventing themselves. The key changes these traditional designer brands are making all seem to be an attempt to stay relevant in the modern market, perhaps under pressure from the new wave of ‘modern-designer’ brands that are dominating due to followings and demand built on social platforms. Brands such as Off-white, Vetements and Ader, all modern, innovative and agile, that can easily appeal to a contemporary audience. While brands like Balenciaga and Stone-island have seemed to maintain or even grow in relevance, despite their rich heritage.
A new visual identity is an opportunity to re-align your offering and re-align who you appeal to. These traditional designer brands have been around for so long, that by the nature of how human taste progresses, they have aligned with multiple movements throughout the years; often unwanted. For example, Burberry started out for luxury outdoorsman, worn by Arctic explorers, then in the 90’s became closely associated with football hooliganism, both of which are not where Burberry now positions itself. These themes provide weight for the changes the brand is making, as Peter Saville, the famous designer behind Burberry’s new identity, explains:
“Historically, Burberry's logotype was appropriate to the trench coat's utilitarian nature. Burberry needed an identity that is fluid and able to cross over into all the categories that are required of a big luxury clothing and accessories brand–something to transcend the company provenance without denying it.”
The decisions have, however, come under some criticism, with some questioning the integrity of the brands. Marc Richarson writes that the new Burberry seems one willing to sacrifice (or, reconfigure) its history for quick growth in emerging markets and sectors, where the brand’s history carries less weight than in, say, London. However, both Burberry and Celine seem aware of the necessity to acknowledge their rich heritage, with both brands explaining that their new updates were, in fact, found in the archives. The inspiration for Celine’s new logo dates to 1960, and the new Thomas Burberry monogram dates back to 1908! Whether the archive discoveries are a happy coincidence for a brand already set on a more modern aesthetic or not, it has left them in a balancing act. Juggling between staying true to their rich, long heritage and a desire to remain relevant, appealing to the contemporary consumer.
Whether you’re on board with these brands recent changes or not, it’s clear that a brand’s integrity should always take priority over instant gratification.
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