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Right way up or wrong way down? Mirror or selfie? What is behind companies using an inverted logo or a mirrored brand name?

By Thomas Wagner.

There is an unrelenting war for visibility played out in the media. And the currency that matters is called attention. Everyone wants to have their offers displayed in the greatest window to the world, that is, the screen. In the conditions prevailing in an economy reliant on images posted on Instagram and shared on social media en masse, there is a constant need for new ideas. For brands, standing out, surprising and being different from competitors means almost everything. While this maxim does not apply exclusively to fashion, it is especially relevant to that industry.

Mirror-inverted brand names

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Hoodie. © Vetements Group AG
Vetements hoodie. Photo: © Vetements Group AG

Lately, for instance, there has been a visible trend towards shirts and jumpers using more brand names or logos with mirrored lettering. Whether screen-printed, embroidered or knitted, passers-by think that the logo or brand name is reversed when these articles of clothing are worn. That in turn makes for somewhat of a surprise. However, the person wearing a shirt such as this sees the text the right way round when they look in the mirror.

A Comme des Garçons piece has mirrored lettering appearing vertical and somewhat fragmented, while a Vetements hoodie displays it in simple white on black underneath the collar. A black Hugo sweatshirt features black letters in a white box, and 032c Berlin even knits a word mark into its pullover stitch by stitch. The label Telfar even called its take on the concept the “Mirror T-Shirt”.

Turning the traditional inside out

Firstly, the phenomenon of the inverted logo is part of a long list of ways in which logos and labels themselves have become the dominant design element, being impressed on goods as if by a stamp or branding iron. Secondly, the simple idea is to make an otherwise plain T-shirt or humble jumper look a bit more chic. Turning the conventional, honed element inside out, so to speak, gives the logo a tongue-in-cheek and slightly disrespectful treatment, adds a layer of irony to the whole label and suggests a rebellious use of the brand’s trademarks and values.

A commentary on selfie-based narcissism?

Gucci Logo © GUCCI®
Gucci logo. © GUCCI®

In an article for the Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German), Jan Kedves presented two different interpretations. He writes that the phenomenon “can be interpreted as a commentary on the permanent narcissism that takes place on Instagram and other social media platforms these days”. People constantly use their smartphone to take photos of themselves, for which they of course put on their newest clothes. The good old mirror has apparently been rendered superfluous, its task fulfilled by the smartphone. According to Kedves, everyone is apparently saying, “Mirror, mirror in my hand, who has the hottest selfie in all the land?” However, the smartphone functions differently when it acts as an electronic mirror. It typically corrects mirror images and turns selfie shots the “right way round” when saving them. What does that mean in the end? Selfie-takers normally never see themselves mirror-inverted, which also means that the brand reflected in the photo appears just as it does on the clothing item: a mirror image.

Chanel, Fendi and Gucci are on top of the inverted logo game

The Fendi Logo is reminiscent of an inverted logo © Fendi
Fendi logo. © Fendi

Is fashion holding “a tongue-in-cheek mirror up to social media’s thirst for likes”, as Kedves speculates? There is also a second convincing interpretation, arguing that the current play on logos “can be read as a sign of respect to old luxury brands”. Were brands like Chanel (two intertwined Cs) or Fendi (two Fs in a point reflection) or the two overlapping mirrored Gs of Gucci already ahead of all the media’s mirror tricks, in a display of sage foresight? Based on this logic, the victors would be logos that are limited to just a few letters. However, that ignores how word marks such as “Hugo” also have a high recognition factor even when inverted, with a mirror image irritating to the eye and therefore attracting interest.

Gags about digital life

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The extent to which the community’s response dictates if such visual gags work or instead seem stale can be seen in Kedves finding the “preliminary king of the trend” in the knitted “Selfie” pullover from Berlin label 032c. He contends that the hip label “is happy to do quite a lot of analogue work for a little gag about digital life” – as if the designers knit these jumpers by hand themselves. Though the industry may love such paradoxes, they nevertheless do little to prevent the effect from soon seeming as outdated as last year’s collection. Any grandmother who knits knows that this surprise can be achieved by turning a pullover with stitched-on letters inside out. That being said, these grandmothers take selfies less often, which is why they do not feel compelled to like and share everything all the time.

Inverted logo on wool: 032c Selfie Pullover © 032c
Selfie Pullover by 032c. Photo: © 032c

Turning oneself inside out for the internet with an inverted logo?

The article concludes by asking, “So, what is oversharing other than permanently turning yourself inside out for the internet? Jumpers turned inside out – maybe they could be the next big trend after mirrored logos?” Or the next revival, re-enactment, redesign? Back in 1974, fashioner designer Sonia Rykiel was already incorporating visible external stitching into her creations.

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