Out with the old, in with the new. That seems to be the motto for many a creative director as of late, and it has in a number of instances taken the form of toying with the expression of classic design houses’ monikers. The most famous re-branding in recent years came, of course, by way of Hedi Slimane, who took the helm of Yves Saint Laurent in 2012 and swiftly renamed the house’s ready-to-wear collection and altered its logo. In what Slimane has called a “Reform Project,” the re-branding saw the first name of the house’s celebrated founder, “Yves,” stripped from the company’s ready-to-wear line. In addition to being a polarizing and widely press-worthy move, the rebrand proved to be nothing short of a lucrative one.
There was also Nicolas Ghesquière’s revamp of the traditional Louis Vuitton branding. Writing for the Wall Street Journal in 2014, Christina Passariello noted of Ghesquière’s tweaking of the house’s classic “LV” logo, “Here’s what Nicolas Ghesquière thought Louis Vuitton needed: a new logo. It was an unlikely place to begin revamping the world’s biggest luxury-goods brand. Vuitton’s brown-and-gold monogram is one of the most recognizable on the planet. But Ghesquière, who joined Vuitton a year ago as artistic director of its women’s collections, said he wanted ‘something easier and more supple, less geometric and rounder’ to symbolize the new style at the legendary trunk maker.”
When John Galliano took the helm of Belgian brand, Maison Martin Margiela, in 2014, the house rather quietly altered its name. In true Margiela style, the house, which is known largely for its aversion to press, a tendency that stems from its founder, simply dropped the “Martin” from its January 2015 Artisanal collection materials. When questioned about it, a spokesperson for Maison Margiela told the New York Times that the name change "reflects the evolution of the house.”
Yes, there have been other brand makeovers in recent years, as well. When Phoebe Philo joined Céline in September 2008, for instance, she envisioned and enacted widespread changes. For her debut Pre-Spring 2010 collection, Philo wanted to create a wardrobe, and focus less on trends. "It's not about total looks," said Philo of her approach, a large change in and of itself if we consider how the industry functions. "After my break [from Chloé, where she served as creative director], and with Céline in various different hands these last years, it felt better for me to work on an idea of a wardrobe than too much on trends … The collection is about interchangeable investment pieces. I worked hard to create things that will stand the test of time."
With this and other similar changes in mind, it is certainly not a stretch to state that revamps in terms of brand direction, namely, in connection with collections, themselves, are extremely common in fashion, and particularly so with the changing of the helm. Name changes and logo alterations, however, are a bit fewer and more far between, at least, in part because such changes require the expenditure of resources in a legal capacity to secure protections for the new names and trademarks, and in some cases, also run the risk of confusing consumers (something Slimane and YSL certainly did) and/or lessening the source identifying capacity of the more long-standing branding elements.
Yet, we have another one on our hands. Following in the footsteps of Slimane, Ghesquière, and Margiela is Justin O’Shea. Upon taking the creative reigns of Brioni, former MyTheresa buyer-turned-creative director has taken to implementing changes, which was to be expected. Not only has the Italian design house debuted its first campaign under O'Shea, starring famed metal band, Metallica, it also has a new logo to boot. Yes, as introduced on the brand’s Instagram account – which is extremely fitting as O’Shea is an Instagram star, after all – the brand has adopted a new logo. Along with a photo of the new branding, the house shared the following comment on Tuesday evening, announcing the change: “Reflecting the creative vision of @justinoshea, #Brioni introduces its new logo, a reinterpretation of the company’s historical branding utilized from 1955 to 1986.”
While the Brioni rebrand, at least in terms of the logo, is quite minimal, its purpose is significant. It is very likely a move intended to mark the commencement of O’Shea’s creative tenure, as the house purports, it is also (and maybe more importantly) a sure fire way to drum up press and some much needed relevance for the classic Italian house, something that is definitely not lost on the house. Brioni certainly intended to up the ante in terms of its relevance (and thus, its bottom line) in tapping O’Shea, a former global buying director, who lacks any creative directorial or design experience. A lack of technical skill is not something that has been a deterrent for Brioni's chief executive, Gianluca Flore, who recently said: “The creative director role, as we knew it in the past, changed. The market changed, the consumer changed, and necessarily we changed. I don’t think ‘trained designer’ or ‘not designer’ is necessarily relevant any longer in our industry, at least for Brioni.”
If we consider what we learned from Slimane’s revamp of YSL and apply it to the case at hand, it is that such a move will do just that (this article is, of course, proof). Speaking about the YSL rebranding last year, Slimane told Yahoo:
I believe the restoration of the name ‘Saint Laurent’ was the only right thing to do, despite the irrational reactions surrounding my first year, ironically a blessing in disguise that unexpectedly gave all the publicity that was needed for my project. Naturally, I couldn’t possibly imagine that going back to the historical and most respectful roots of Yves would create such a polemic.
And relevance is exactly what Brioni needs right now, particularly in a market that has come to run almost exclusively on hype and press and a brand’s social media footprint. This is especially true if look to the brand’s less than stellar financial results in recent quarters.
As Bloomberg noted in March, “Brioni, the Italian maker of $7,525 wool and silk suits that are favored by the likes of Donald Trump, is cutting jobs to adapt to slowing demand, another sign of distress from the beleaguered luxury industry … The cuts mark the decline of what was a top men’s tailor less than a decade ago, outfitting Trump, Barack Obama and even James Bond in some installments of the spy franchise. Despite its high-profile clientele, Brioni’s revenue has been under pressure since Kering bought the business in 2011, and in October 2014 Kering brought in a new CEO amid a broader management overhaul.”
Moreover, Brioni’s performance has been weighed down by weak demand in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, according to its parent company Kering. In short: Brioni needs help.
Brioni’s new visual/branding direction, paired with a new suit style called the Continental, which features wider shoulders, a narrow waist, a longer body and a more structured silhouette – one better suited to larger frames, as opposed to those with 27” waists a la Saint Laurent muses – might be what the brand needs to position itself as an “it” brand. While a Metallica endorsement is a step in the right direction (right?), the stamp of approval of a bona fide a street style/Instagram star, such as O’Shea, certainly does not hurt either.
As for whether a relevance-based move will entice men to shop for $7k suits (as opposed to turn them off to the brand completely) is debatable, but it seems clear that the brand is willing to bet on it. Stay tuned.