DRESSED —Branded: A History of Designer Logos | How Stuff Works Podcast (Transcript)
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CZ - Cassidy Zachary
AC - April Calahan
CZ: With over 7 billion people in the world, we all have one thing in common. Every day, we all get dressed. Welcome to Dressed: the history of fashion. A podcast where we explore the who, what, when of why we wear. We‚Äôre fashion historians and your hosts, April Calahan and Cassidy Zachary.
CZ: On this week‚Äôs episode, we explore a history of luxury branding. We‚Äôll examine a few of the signature motifs and logos used by four of fashion‚Äôs most powerful players. From the intertwined Cs of Chanel to the signature red soles of Christian Louboutin‚Äôs footwear, iconography plays a significant role in shaping a brand‚Äôs identity.
AC: Yeah, and whether someone is a consumer of high end fashion or not, these signifiers are instantly recognizable to billions of people worldwide. They transcend language barriers, the most famous of them stand the test of time and for many people, products featuring luxury brands monograms and logos are the ultimate status symbol.
AC: And well, these may be some of the most recognizable symbols on our planet, few‚Ää‚Äî‚Ääaside from fashion industry insiders‚Ää‚Äî‚Ääare actually familiar with their origin stories. Sometimes these stories are romantic, sometimes they‚Äôre myths and sometimes they go to the very core of the brand in a way that just melts your heart.
CZ: April, you know, I am always up for a romantic tale and I truly want to believe the hypothesis that the mirrored Cs of Chanel for instance stand for Chanel and Capel. Captain Arthur Edward Capel, known as Boy, was Chanel‚Äôs lover whom is largely regarded as the love of her life and he financed her first business ventures into fashion in the 1910s.
CZ: Now sadly, Capel was tragically killed in a car accident in 1919 and one theory is that the interlocking Cs stand for Chanel and Capel, an homage to their unbreakable bond. However, this is just one of several conflicting stories surrounding the creation of one of fashion‚Äôs most famous logos. And it‚Äôs a little bit of a delicious mystery I must say.
AC: And we‚Äôre going to get into that later in the episode. But before we do, let‚Äôs take a trip back in history even further, to the early 19th century; 1835 to be specific, when a 13 year-old boy [inaudible] on his own to ultimately seek his fortunes in Paris leaving behind the comforts of a country home in the French region of Jura. That young boy, his name remains synonymous with luxury today. His name was Louis Vuitton.
CZ: April, I think we can all agree that 13 is a really young age to be all in one‚Äôs own.
AC: Yeah, it is. And we‚Äôre not exactly sure why he left home so early. Some evidence suggests that maybe he didn‚Äôt get along particularly well with his stepmother, his own mother had died when he was 10 and his father eventually remarried. But we also need to remember that it wasn‚Äôt particularly uncommon at this time in the 19th century for families to send away one of their sons to an urban center so that they could establish themselves in a profession. And we do know that Louis‚Äô brother, Claude, later joined him in Paris.
CZ: in 1837, Louis accepted an apprenticeship to a box maker. And that may seem a bit of a strange profession to us now. But at the time, when the goods were transported by horse drawn carriages and travel was by way a boat or train, the creation and packing of boxes and crates of all sorts was an absolute necessity.
AC: Right, one would call on the services of a box maker to create custom boxes to protect precious items that were destined to travel, exceptionally fine things like jewelry of course, but also everyday things like furniture, clothing, maybe even your favorite tea set which is going to accompany you on a voyage that lasted months as opposed to days or weeks that trips might last today.
AC: These box makers, or malletiers as they were known in French, they would even come to your house and they‚Äôd measure all your possessions for you and they‚Äôd talk with you one on one about your specific needs.
CZ: For 17 years, Louis practiced this trade under the eye of his mentor learning how to provide his customers with artful packing solutions and sturdy encasements that were light and practical. But also during this time, he was carefully saving money with the goal of establishing his own business which he did in 1854. This was also the year he married. So 1854 was kind of a big year for him.
AC: Naming his company Louis Vuitton, he set up shop in Paris near the place Vend√¥me, an extremely chic area that was home to much of the Parisian fashion industry at the time. And from the very start of his company, he cultivates this connection to fashion. Early Louis Vuitton signage explicitly states that the company‚Äôs specialization is in packing fashions.