One important facet of graphic design is considering how typography sits in physical space. Not necessarily in an architectural sense, although it could apply. I mean that designing messages outside of any digital platform requires an understanding of how the viewer will see it. Billboards, for example, need to be designed considering the distance at which a driver will see them. If the headline or supporting text is too small and nobody can read the signage, a grave mistake has been made. But the same thinking could be applied to posters on the street or signage in a window. The function of the typography follows the form of the message.
But those specific applications have the benefit of being static, unlike typographic approaches in an art form like fashion. Typography and fashion have always mingled affectionately, and the typographic form moves from being functional to attitudinal. Typically, clothing isn’t met to advertise in the same way a poster would. Rather, typography in fashion represents the fashion designer and thus the wearer more than anything else. With that being said, both type and fashion change with the trends, representing cultural ways of thinking at any given time period. So let’s examine some current trends in fashion typography and what cultures they reflect.
One of the most popular typographic movements of the last few years is the modernist trend of labeling. This ignores massive statements or accompanying design, emphasizing the brand itself and solely that. It’s a restrictive approach that benefits the brand directly, but for better or worse, puts weight on the name or logo of said brand. It is a good sign of whether a brand can stand proudly on nothing but their name. (Examples include Supreme, Gosha Rubchinskiy, Champion.)
Anti-Culture / Anti-Fashion
Alternatively, fashion and typography both have roots of anti-culture that distort perceptions of what a clothing garment is and should be. Often these play on established cliches, an expected look twisted to a designer vision. Raf Simons continues to poke fun at prep aesthetics with tattered varsity sweaters, while Balenciaga had fun adapting the logo and typography from Senator Bernie Sanders’ last presidential campaign. Both use typographic aesthetics that belonged to a certain time, place and have considered what those messages meant plastered across the human body. (Examples include Raf Simons, Balenciaga, Vetements)
This aesthetic is somewhere between the past and present, taking clothing styles and typography of old for adoption in a modern setting. Cooper Black, a prominent typeface released in 1922 still finds a home on modern garments, it’s weighty message finding a home spanning almost a hundred years. Kanye West chose to reappropriated Copper Black’s letter for his most recent ‘Saint Pablo Tour,’ while 424 Fairfax often evokes Sex Pistols era punk with their distressing and patches.
Technological and Modern Distortion
With the rate of technological advancements increasing daily, fashion finds inspiration in the speed and distorted worldview that constant digital influence creates. Cav Empt is at constant war with its audience, world, and products, which comes off as bloody clashes between branding and online imageboards. Groups like Off-White create actively dirty their own brand and others, their intention covered with spray paint and stock word choice.
So next time you wear a garment with any meaningless phrase or minute worded logo, take a second to appreciate the type. Good or bad, the message is inherent down to the labeling.0