labels

   The use of labelling on clothes has historically served a number of purposes. Essentially a badge of assured quality, the labels became for a time more a sign of conspicuous consumption. The switch towards more ostentatious advertising of names has been accompanied by the development of the cult of the individual designer. For a time, the fashion world dictated that t-shirts, belts, and clothes emblazoned with the name of the designer or producer were de rigueur, a trend developed by top designers such as Calvin Klein. This was a boon for counterfeiters, who were easily able to incorporate the fashionable look at little extra cost; it is the names and logos that identify the copied items for the pirate market. This was made even easier by the move towards more casual and sports clothing, which utilized materials that were more readily available to counterfeiters and correspondingly cheaper. A series of trade mark and intellectual property infringement cases were brought against offenders, but the problem is not easy to contain in a global market. While designers may not find much comfort in the notion that ‘copying is the highest form of flattery’, it is certainly true that a designer can be said to have arrived in the mass market when pirated versions of his or her designs begin to appear. As well as the issue of counterfeiting, a further attack on the exclusivity of designer clothing has been made by one of the giant supermarket retailers, Tesco. The company has sought to buy large quantities of designer products and sell them at greatly reduced prices. It became apparent that there was some resistance to this attempt to bring designer clothing into the mass market.
   The concept of consumer goods identified with a particular designer extends beyond clothing and into other products such as spectacles and cosmetics. While some trendy designers have still embraced the idea of ‘clothes as adverts’ (notably Duffer of St George, which has evolved from a Camden market stall to a big-label business in little over ten years) and preppie designer Tommy Hilfiger still finds takers for clothes emblazoned in this way, there has been something of a backlash against this concept; more recently, the emphasis has been less on the conspicuous and more on the understated.
   See also: designer labels
   GUY OSBORN
   STEVE GREENFIELD

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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