Hear the word “Iconography” and plenty of images come to mind: the icon on your phone, the emoticon when you chat online, and the sign you see on the street. Iconography has a huge role in our everyday life. In the fashion world, we can spot iconography through religious, pop culture symbols, and brand logos. However, fashion never fails to surprise us, what appears on the surface usually has a bit of irony behind it.
From the early ages, religious symbol has been a key example of iconography. People use it as an expression of their spiritual belief. When people think about religion, they immediately think of the symbols connected to it: the cross, Star of David, and Islam’s crescent moon.
Jean Paul Gaultier’s Spring 2007 collection. Source: Vogue.com
Religious use of symbols in fashion was seen in Jean Paul Gaultier’s Spring 2007 collection. His aesthetic statement inspired by early Christian and Byzantine art. His appreciation and ingenious view of the Virgin Mary’s shining beauty was captured in a full religious runway experience. The models’ faces were painted like plaster statues, with halos as headgears. Gaultier’s saints were wrapped in beautiful dresses made of chiffon, crochet work, and lace, and accented with beaded sacred heart and appliques.
Outside the haute couture world, the mass production of the classic Christian symbol might lessen the spiritual value of those holy details. When it is not done tastefully, using religious iconography in something as clichéd as fashion raises controversies. Religious communities are very protective of their icons. Treating religious iconography in a provocative way is the same with mocking the religion.
The iconography in pop culture and fashion are often linked. The public looks up to pop idols, what is famous in pop culture often become an iconic fashion trend. A great example is the legendary David Bowie, who we dearly miss. He was a brilliant singer and eclectic fashion icon, known with his avant-garde futuristic costumes. Homages to both David Bowie and his alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, have been ruling the fashion runways. Burberry, Gucci, Maison Margiela, Katie Eary and again Jean Paul Gaultier are few that who paid tribute to the zigs and zags of Bowie’s legacy.
From left to right: Gucci, Maison Margiela, Jean Paul Gaultier, Katie Eary, Burberry. Source: Vogue.com
Each luxury brand has its own iconic logo. When people see those logos, they tend to believe that they are paying good money for the best quality. If branded stuff is what celebrities and prestigious socialites wear, then the item must be good, right? Wearing an expensive designer logo becomes a symbol of pride for some.
However, be wary of becoming a brand whore. It is ironic when someone on the street flaunts a series of giant logos from head to toe. When this happens, luxury labels, which are supposed to project elegance, ended up looking tacky.
Fashionistas who understand the humble luxury of high-end brands believe that brand iconography should be hidden inside the outfits − the lining, small buttons or zipper. Instead of becoming “logomaniacs”, they are paying for the design, rather than the logo.
From left to right: Moschino’s Fall RTW 2015, Menswear Spring 2016, Pre-Fall 2015, Spring 2015, Resort 2016. Source: Vogue.com
The rebellious designer, Jeremy Scott, takes an opposite approach. He purposely sneaks in gigantic iconic logos in each collection. In his way of thinking, the bigger the logo the funnier it is. Moschino used McDonald’s, Barbie and other topical symbols in his past collection. His apparel was built around retail clichés, for example is the instantly iconic “Sale!” tag dress. Scott has turned a joke into an art form, and the public seems to be in love with his vibrant cartoonish collection.
Iconography loses its original meaning when it comes to fashion. Sometimes it becomes too subtle that we don’t even realize the existence of fashion iconography. Designers adapt the icons and add another layer of their interpretation. Fashion consumers then also add their personal style and believe. It is all about multilayers perception in this crazy cycle of fashion; the change could be a very exciting constant. What could be more exhilarating than that? (MT)