On any given day, a 30-minute stroll through New York City can lead to at least a few sightings of the NASA logo. They are on backpacks, T-shirts, sneakers, caps, sweatshirts, phone cases, large bags and jackets.
Once you start noticing them, it’s hard to stop.
In recent years, there have been several trending articles about this phenomenon. And NASA multimedia spokesman Bert Ulrich, who oversees the use of NASA logos in film, television and clothing, confirms that demand for NASA branded clothing is far from waning, at least in terms of the number of logo deals he has approved. He’s been in his role for over two decades, so he’s seen the ebb and flow of trends. (basically thread)
Some of the latest sales booms can be traced back to a surprising place: American luxury fashion house Coach, which debuted a NASA-branded clothing line in 2017, Ulrich told CNN Business.
Coach initially approached NASA to ask if it could use the “worm” logo, a retro design that the space agency used from 1975 to 1992. NASA, which banned the use of the worm after it was decommissioned in the 90s, has changed its mind. about this by allowing Coach to use the logo, Ulrich said..
And since then, the “worm” has returned to official use and solidified its widespread adoration, at least among die-hard space fans.
After the release of the Coach clothing line, everything exploded.
“Until 2017, we made five or ten [logo approvals] a week. Now it’s gotten to the point where we’re getting an average of 225 a week,” Ulrich said.
There were “more than 11,000 requests” last year, he said, a record high.
Ulrich added that not all of these requests are approved. But the reason there’s so much interest in putting NASA logos on everything from Vans sneakers to trucker hats may have something to do with the fact that these companies don’t have to license the logo. It’s all free and NASA doesn’t make a dime from it.
Licensing deals don’t usually work that way, but because NASA is a government agency, much of its assets, including photos, logos, and even technological developments, are in the public domain. If a company wants to print NASA logos on T-shirts or coffee mugs, they just need to send an email to NASA’s merchandising department as required by law. It usually ends up in Ulrich’s mailbox.
Ulrich’s job is to make sure the logo is used in accordance with the space agency’s approved aesthetic guidelines. For example, unapproved colors cannot be used. And, of course, NASA wants to make sure its brand is not used for any purpose. adverse purposes, such as in a way that suggests NASA is supporting the company or product. If a company is abusing the logo, NASA’s legal department often sends a cease and desist letter, Ulrich said.
After Coach launched its NASA clothing line, high-profile designers including Heron Preston and, more recently, Balenciaga have released their own lines. Pop singer Ariana Grande had a song and a whole line of merchandise about NASA. Over the last decade there have also been Adidas, Swatch, Vans and many others.
Through this prism, one can explain the phenomenon with what we will call the “Miranda Preistley effect.” Remember that scene in the 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada in which Priestley, Meryl Streep’s character, verbally dresses her young, unfashionable intern? She explains that the blue sweater she’s wearing is actually “azure” and is as much a product of the fashion-obsessed moguls of the industry as anything else on the runway. Essentially, Priestley argued, designers and the fashion media curate trends, and these decisions influence even the least fashion-conscious consumers.
But that’s only half the story, according to Jan. Hall, creative director of the Consortium, a Brooklyn-based design agency that works on set design and styling for various brands.
Before Coach, kids bought NASA T-shirts from vintage stores because they liked the feeling of nostalgia, a longing for classic American, Hall says.
“You start with kids in cities like New York buying things like old Disney products or old NASA t-shirts, and then all of a sudden some ‘cool hunter’ in the fashion industry like Urban Outfitters. sees this and suddenly says, “We need to turn over some NASA T-shirts,” Hall said. “It’s a kind of reverse engineering of trends.”
It probably wasn’t until the “cool kids” started wearing NASA T-shirts on the streets that designer brands picked them up and sold them back.
Hall, a Brooklyn-based creative director, said he thinks wearing the NASA logo is much more about demonstrating what the logo is about than a declaration of love for space.
It represents “such typical American optimism that we can do anything,” he said.
He added that he has no political affiliation and can be marketed to young liberals and rural conservatives alike, evoking the same nostalgia.
“People who work with brands like Heron Preston and Balenciaga are just as fascinated by space travel as everyone else. No one is immune to this level of nostalgia, so it makes sense that these brands would want to incorporate this into their collections,” he said.
He notes that this has happened with other logos and franchises, such as Balenciaga doing projects with The Simpsons or Coach with Mickey Mouse.
“These enduring symbols speak to everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status. Not everyone can be associated with Heron Preston or Target, but everyone gets modern Americana from brands like NASA, Disney, Peanuts and The Simpsons,” he said. “Things like NASA act like this magic equalizer.”
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