EMBROIDERY TRAVELS TO NEW LANDS AND NEW LINES ON STREETWEAR’S INTERNATIONAL APPEAL
Byline: MAZI GAILLARD
NEW YORK — Bright, oversized logos, a staple in marketing used to attract urban consumers, are fueling embroidered streetwear in foreign lands and new lines, as evidenced during October’s NAMSB Show, a young men’s fashion expo held here.
Large embroidered logos for the U.S. market are prominent on new lines and less prominent on the established lines, exhibitors said, suggesting that there is a differentiation of logo use in the marketplace.
In fact, streetwear exhibitors, such as Ertis Pratt, vice-president, sales manager, Maurice Malone Designs Inc., New York, said the embroidered logo-driven looks in the market and in his line are “slowing down.”
But as the notoriously fickle and demanding streetwear consumer changes tastes, the search for expanded market share has forced urban brands and apparel manufacturers in any direction they need to travel, including abroad.
While the demand for conspicuous, embroidered logos may be waning somewhat in the U.S., on the international level, especially in Japan, the trend for large logos on young men’s streetwear continues.
As computer-integrated manufacturing has helped embroidery industries compete in making flashier, detailed designs, the urban market, which caught the logo-driven fever approximately 10 years ago, is today allowing designers and brands to rethink their market target and global appeal.
Urban clothing houses such as Karl Kani, Pelle Pelle, Marc Buchanan, Mecca USA and Maurice Malone Designs Inc. have been capitalizing on the big logo influence in their sportswear, either in large embroidered patches or directly embroidered designs. The push towards structure, performance fabrics and styling for the U.S. streetwear market, apparel makers said, is influencing the proliferation of logos complementing the clothing’s design.
As Maurice Malone’s Pratt noted, brand building is a logo’s initial purpose when a new streetwear line enters the market. But once the brand’s style draws recognition, the logo’s purpose is to reinforce the line’s brand image. “After you do the whole logo biz, the kids start judging the clothes on their own merit … The consumer is becoming more educated,” Pratt said.
Roger ‘Breu’ McHayle, CEO of PNB Nation, New York, agreed, noting that today the streetwear market has come into its own. “The logo-driven emphasis has been in the urban environment since the early ’80s. There was always emphasis on what you wore, but what really drives it now is the urban esthetic,” McHayle said.
Earlier this decade, Karl Kani’s Cross Colors label, considered the pioneer of black-owned inner-city fashion, adapted the prominent logo from traditional labels, such as Ralph Lauren’s Polo, and affordably brought the embroidery down to the street looks.
While black and Hispanic youth have always embraced sportswear logos — such as Nike, Reebok, Adidas and Puma — Cross Colors, with its vibrantly striped polos and citrus-colored jeans, designed not only strong ensemble pieces but established a look and brand name now associated with urban creativity and social recognition.
At the same time, as the hip-hop lifestyle and its music permeated popular culture, the look that was popularized by Cross Colors proliferated. It was in demand not only in hip-hop’s country of origin but by kids around the globe. Hip-hop’s attitude and community, along with its brands and designers, have been exported to an entirely new, multinational group, where strong, quality logos and brands displayed by embroidered designs have become synonymous with streetwear.
McHayle agreed. “In Japan, they’re always stung by logos and the hip-hop market. It’s so logo driven over there. They spend money on clothes like they were investing in land.”
Therefore, the specialty apparel makers of streetwear said they have not yet abandoned logo-emblazoned designs on merchandise due to their marketing appeal. It seems that until a brand has a solid consumer base, it needs as much advertising as possible.
For the U.S. streetwear contingent, today’s logos must flow with the clothing instead of distracting from the total item. For global markets and the newest lines, however, big is still better.
“Your marketing has to be strong,” Tony Thorne, director of marketing, Mecca USA, New York, explained. “It’s not just about rappers, it’s global now. All of it represents a lifestyle. If the product is good, it’s going to cross over no matter how big or small your logo is. No other musical form has touched so many aspects of popular culture, and I only see it getting better.”
“International business follows whatever the U.S. market dictates,” Pratt said, noting that last time he was in Japan, kids were wearing different looks than here in the States. “They’re still wearing their clothes super baggy, whereas here, it’s starting to tone down.”
“There needs to be a category within each brand where some of the pieces are not logo driven,” Thorne said. “With something like khakis, you should be paying attention to detail, making the clothing more subdued, looking at the smaller details.”