When logomania began reappearing on the runways a few seasons ago, a lot of fashion observers pointed out that the trend was a throwback to the 1990s. That’s true, but the use of brand logos as a decorative element in clothes has a much longer history than that. In fact, you could credit Valentino with originating the idea. In 1968, Mr. Valentino presented his “non-color” collection—the tonal haute couture collection shown at at the Sfilata Bianca in Rome and dedicated to Jackie Onassis. Current Maison Valentino creative directors Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli paid homage to that collection in their special Sala Bianca Couture show at the former Whitney Museum in Manhattan in November.
The Haute Couture Spring/Summer 1968 collection was a landmark for Valentino—and for fashion at large—particularly because it saw Mr. Valentino incorporating his “V” icon into his looks, repeating the letter as a graphic motif and referencing it in hardware elements such as the V-shaped gilded metal accentuating a white wool gabardine A-line coat. Another look in the collection, a gold-tone mini-dress, wove the double-V monogram into the pattern of the brocade. There were other sly appropriations of the Valentino “V” in the collection, and over the years, Mr. Valentino would make an occasional habit of repeating the trick—always with a sense of subtlety, as in a figure-hugging evening dress from the Haute Couture Fall/Winter 1992/1993 collection, which features a flared skirt of black-and-white stripes shaped diagonally to form repeated Vs. Needless to say, Valentino logomania has recurred most frequently in the house’s handbags: The idea originated in accessories. But where other fashion houses restricted their use of logos to their bags and other leather goods, Mr. Valentino was the designer with the playful idea to make his branding a part of his clothes. And then other designers took the idea and ran with it. Grazia Chiuri and Piccioli ran with it, too—a felted wool coat and mini-dress in their Sala Bianca Couture collection came patterned in the iconic double-V. Their take paid homage to Mr. Valentino’s originals, though, not only in the deployment of the monogram, but in the circumspection of its use. Even at its most emphatic, Valentino logomania has always been in good taste.