What do you think of when you hear the word ‘monogram’? For me, the word evokes visions of letterheaded stationery, patterned handkerchiefs, and the personalised LL Bean tote bags that every posh person used to take on holiday in the early 00s.
It’s easy to make a case for monograms being the opposite of cool. Is there anything more obnoxious than slapping your initials across your chest, having them embossed below the handles of your favourite handbag, or getting them stitched in small scale on the pocket of your pyjama top? While self-confidence is a brilliant asset, the self-deprecating among us might find something jarring about putting our names on our clothes and accessories. By doing so, aren’t you basically saying, ‘Here I am, this is mine, and I’m important enough to put my name on it’?
It seems that being hyper self-conscious is a dying trend, though, because personalisation is a big deal at the moment. It no longer looks passé – or egotistical – to add your name to your stuff. Everyone and their mum has a marble-effect phone case with their initials on, and you can even personalise your favourite perfume bottles if you fancy it, or get your name printed onto a Nutella label.
The whole concept of monogramming is rooted in high society (think about it – only posh people send letterheaded thank-you cards). In the same way that family crests were used to denote status in the past, adding your initials to something is linked to money, class and a sense of prestige; positioning yourself as superior to others, basically.
Understandably, then, luxury brands have long been letting their customers do just that. Louis Vuitton spearheaded the movement, and its initialled trunks are still some of the world’s most decadent travel accessories. Now, with Burberry’s Scarf Bar, Tommy Hilfiger’s Customisation Lab, Dior’s Lucky Charms badges and Gucci’s ‘DIY’ service, it seems odd if a designer brand doesn’t give you the option to personalise your purchases.
The trend’s been brewing up on the high street in recent years too. Whistles launched a monogramming service in its Bond Street store in 2013 so, for £40, brand devotees could get their initials stamped onto their beloved Rivington clutches and tiny coin purses. The service proved so successful that the company toured a pop-up ‘Monogram Trunk’ around its UK stores. Other brands, such as Topshop, have also experimented with personalisation-related pop-ups in their flagship stores in the past.
But what’s brought on the fervour for (literally) making your mark on your possessions, regardless of your budget?
It might have something to do with mass production in fashion being the norm. Owning unique pieces of clothing – especially if you’re part of the ‘Instagram generation’ – gives you style kudos, setting you apart from those who buy their clothes straight off the rack. For today’s consumer, personalisation is important. According to the most recent of the Business of Fashion‘s annual State of Fashion reports, ‘Personalisation and curation will become more important to the customer [in 2018].’ The report points to Gen X’s obsession with social media sharing as a key factor in the rise of personalisation: ‘In pursuit of "likes" and building their own personal brands, they seek one-of-a-kind items.’
Monogrammed keyrings, bags and jewellery are so popular that they’re reaching a point of saturation, so eventually we’re going to have to move on. Perhaps we’ll ditch the monograms and look to different ways to personalise our stuff to express ourselves. Take Gigi Hadid’s bomber jackets covered in embroidered patches, for example – they not only remind us of what the model’s name is, but of what she loves too. Given Hadid’s creative clout at Tommy Hilfiger, which is already hot on personalisation, these sort of pieces may well end up on the runway – and then trickle down to the mainstream – soon. Time to roll your sleeves up, get the glue gun out and get stuck into some DIY…
Get the personalised look
Alphabet jumper, £160, Hades
Alphabet keyring, £16, Anthropologie
Initial necklace, £45, Rachel Jackson
Personalised scarf, £29.50, The Big Stitch – via Not on the High Street
Bespoke Dandy slippers, prices vary, Penelope Chilvers
Personalised phone case, £24, SilkFred