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NEW YORK — The luxury market might have its LV, GG and CC. But in the junior world, it’s all about butterflies, black rhinos and cats.
Though many in the world of high fashion claim logomania died a fashion death a few seasons back, the presence of logos on T-shirts worn by teen girls makes one think they’re living their after-life in the junior market.
While luxury brands such as Chanel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton are instantly recognized by the masses, junior brands still have their work cut out for them before reaching the seamless association between a company and its logo.
But that’s not to say there aren’t a few brands that are well on their way. Having established strong brand recognition with teen girls, labels including Roxy, Hot Kiss, Chica and Baby Phat have each stirred desire and a special style that are inspired by the company symbol.
According to junior apparel executives, it’s the logo that makes the initial connection with a girl. After that, it’s the equally important fit and style of a garment that are approved before a purchase can take place.
Kimora Lee Simmons, who started Baby Phat in 2000, used her household cat Max as inspiration for the line’s logo. The result is a sleek linear icon with a surprising amount of sex appeal. Executives at the company said girls have responded so well to the logo that some have tattooed it on their bodies.
“I’ve seen girls where the cat is tattooed over their entire back,” said Baby Phat marketing director Michelle Perez. “Baby Phat is a sexy line with a predominantly ethnic consumer of 12 to 36. The common thread between the consumer is that it’s sexy, which is the main concept of the line. The cat symbolizes that perfectly.”
Marc Ecko, founder of Ecko Unlimited, also chose an animal as his logo. When he formed the company in 1993, Ecko chose a black rhinoceros as the company’s symbol.
Besides the obvious characteristics — strength, masculinity, power — the black rhinoceros is only capable of walking forward. That in itself is a good metaphor for the firm, a spokesman said.
The butterfly has repeatedly made its way into pop culture, as seen when Mariah Carey named her 1997 album after the insect. But it’s also the logo of the women’s division at Plugg, the junior counterpart to the young men’s division of the same name. When parent company Andrew International decided to launch a junior denim label last year, creative director Angela Da Fonseca said she knew it was important for the junior line to carry a separate identity.
“The butterfly is a strong icon, strong seller and cute,” said Da Fonseca. “I wanted something that mixed vintage quality and modern technology, so I made it modern with two simple dots over the antenna.”
Since Plugg is the name of both a young men’s and a junior line, Da Fonseca said Plugg is never printed without the butterfly logo attached in the junior market.
If there are two equal products next to one another, Da Fonseca said the junior girl will choose one that she identifies with in terms of image. Plugg plans to launch a line of basic T-shirts for back-to-school 2003, many of which will feature the Plugg butterfly in some way.
Unlike Plugg, executives at Quiksilver Inc. came up with a new name for junior line Roxy, which the company launched in 1991. But instead of creating an entire new logo for the line, the company played with the existing Quiksilver symbol.
“In 1993, an internal graphic designer happened to take a mirror image of the mountain and wave logo, and a heart design came from it,” said Randy Hild, senior vice president at Quiksilver. “We started using it with the Roxy name.”
Hild said the company uses both the word Roxy and the heart logo as a branding tool, but noted that both can stand on their own. He said the feminine version of the Quiksilver logo, while accidental in its discovery, was one of the major contributors to the power of the Roxy brand.
Young people are always looking for something to identify with, according to Jane Buckingham, president of Youth Intelligence, a market research and consulting firm focusing on Generation X and Y. She said young people like to feel in the know, and wearing a logo makes them feel clued-in. But a less in-your-face approach to branding is more popular today she said, compared to the giant college sweatshirt-like logos popularized in the mid-to-late-Nineties.
Buckingham also said she thinks companies should not put too much thought into their logos.
“I think anything that can help someone associate with a brand can be relevant,” said Buckingham. “But [logos] are sort of hit or miss with young people.”
Overall, Buckingham said it’s the store environment that has the most influence on teen shoppers and cited Hollister Co., Abercrombie & Fitch’s lower-priced California-lifestyle, 49-store chain as a prime example. She said much of the merchandise in the junior market starts to look the same, so teens become jaded and a unique shopping environment helps break the monotony.
“A logo is important but it’s not a guarantee of popularity,” Buckingham said. “It goes hand in hand with a lot of other things.”
Meanwhile, logo T-shirts are bestsellers at San Fernando, Calif.-based Chica, which uses about four different logos to represent the company. In an effort to simplify the brand message, Chica president Chris Griffin held a contest on the company’s Web site that allowed consumers to pick their favorite image. There was a choice among four logos and all received votes, but it was the heart-with-flames logo that won.
“When you start doing banners and point-of-purchase marketing, consistency is important because you’re sending a message and crafting an image,” Griffin said. “A consistent image helps the customer over time figure out who you are.”
However, since it was rather detailed, the heart-with-flames logo was difficult to embroider on T-shirts and use on inside neck labels. So the company held on to its old logo used inside T-shirts, but will use the new one on business cards, hang tags, banners and point-of-sale material.
Developing a logo and consistent image is critical for national brands, said Griffin. Furthermore, he said that it’s doubly important in the junior market since the consumer is fickle, trendy and very label conscious.
“But my opinion [on that] changed over time,” Griffin said. “Although it’s nice to have a primary logo that is a company’s primary identification, I think consumers accept a company that has a variety of images that complement each other. But they don’t have to be identical.”