29 November 2016

Brand Supremacy

Brand synergy. It is a term you hear from time to time on fashion forums and threads online, usually followed by a heated debate. The concept is simple - wearing brands that share a design philosophy and aesthetic direction is perceived as superior to an outfit where brands are conceptually disparate. For example, pairing an Acronym jacket with Arc’teryx Veilance trousers is seen as superior, both visually and conceptually, to pairing that same Acronym jacket with a pair of Dior jeans (usually regardless of how either look). While I can most certainly understand the original thinking behind such a suggestion, in the online sphere suggestions can quickly turn into ardent rules. Crossing the streams seems to have a curious effect on a small minority of those who think of themselves as 'true’ supporters and fans of a designer, versus those who are perceived as newer, and thus inauthentic, in their enjoyment of the same clothes.

I think that the term brand synergy can often be thrown around in a rather pretentious manner, simply because of the fact that it values brand name over aesthetic reality. It may seem like a semantic quibble, but I think that if someone speaks of aesthetic synergy, then they are making a point which can be discussed, but blind branded tribalism smacks of snobbery and a desire to mark one’s self out as a ‘true’ follower. To value brand synergy over aesthetic synergy seems to suggest that some manner of philosophical or conceptual similarity is more important that how the clothes actually look. I find that a rather odd perspective, because clothing is primarily a visual medium, especially when limited to photographs online or seen in passing on the street. Indeed once again I think that it becomes a way of displaying (and boasting) one’s insider knowledge.

You see instances where people will post an image of their full outfit, and simply list one of the pieces as “unbranded” or “no brand”, because they feel that it would be perceived by others as an unsuitable piece were they to list its provenance. I find that a rather sad state of affairs, because it then becomes an exercise of trying to fit in more than simply enjoying wearing your clothes and what you think looks good. I think some manner of brand synergy is a natural step for most, simply because we tend to be attracted to similar styles and brands, wherein there is usually some manner of overlap in terms of aesthetics anyway. If you happen to be into a skater aesthetic, you find that the brands that cater to you tend to have a similar background, so brand synergy tends to be a natural outcome rather than some particularly conscious decision. But to say that this synergy is more important than how something looks is not something that I agree with.

The comparison I would make is to people who walk into a museum and read the caption before looking at the art itself. Or else, coming across photographs and finding out what camera, lens and settings were used before looking at the image itself. It is as if you are afraid of saying whether or not you like something without first finding out whether it passes some basic (or, more often, quite complex and rigid) groupthink level of acceptability. I think that it can often be an incredibly narrow view of fashion, wherein stylistic creativity is stifled in favour of common uniforms - these are the clothes we wear, and these are the ways in which you must style them. Yes, you can dress according to the codes of your group and for the eyes of those few others in the know, but ultimately I think we all strive to dress in a manner we think looks good, and some manner of aesthetic coherence is a generally understood part of looking good.

I think that the idea of brand synergy can confine people in their outlook, and does rather gloss over the complexity of the self. You can own a whale foreskin wallet and still enjoy wearing Nike Dunks. People have varied tastes and varied interests, but can find a sense of kinship in the enjoyment of one brand, or select group of brands, whilst still enjoying a stylistic diversity among them. However I do not think that brand synergy is entirely useless as a concept, because I do understand the thinking behind the suggestion. For those starting out in developing their aesthetic direction, or those changing their aesthetic direction, it is an easy way of navigating the myriad of choices that make up the fashion market. It does make your job far simpler in terms of finding clothes that work together. If I like wearing brand x, then I know that l can try brand y and z safe in the knowledge that they will mostly work together visually. But to say that one is automatically poorly dressed for wearing brand x with brand c is too simplistic a view.

It can be a helpful suggestion to help navigate buying and dressing, but when it becomes an inflexible rule and demand, I think that brand synergy stifles creativity and encourages snobbery. I understand that the vision of the designer is part and parcel of the design, but ultimately the runway show is a very specific vision that simply gives you an idea of how to wear the clothing if you are wearing nothing but clothes from that collection for that season. Yes you can style the clothing with other pieces from the same designer and take inspiration from the catwalk, but to become a facsimile of the runway is not something I particularly strive for. I think that it is but one interpretation, and once you buy the clothing, you can wear it how you want and style it how you want (including altering the garments how you want to make it work better for your body or modes of wearing). While I respect the ideas produced by the designer, I also want to approach each and every garment individually, because they have to have merit of their own beyond the label attached to them.

All that to say - yeah, I wear Supreme with Yohji Yamamoto...and I look damn good. Wear what makes you happy, because life is too short to worry about whether this designer and that designer share philosophical perspectives, musical tastes and drink the same brand of tea. Once they sell them, the clothes belong to us, so wear it how you want.


1 comment:

  1. I am the worst offender I mix everything, high/low, the original with the inspired, etc… The wearer is more important than the brand. But at the same time in our own outfit of the day type posts, we (meaning me) do sneakily highlight some brands (ahem #rickowens) over others.

    I do think some people can be extremely pretentious about what brands can be mixed and how a certain brand is supposed to be worn. But to each his/her own.