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Self-referential brand identities are the new utopia of branding

Aimé Leon Dore's key to success is not so secret after all

Self-referential brand identities are the new utopia of branding Aimé Leon Dore's key to success is not so secret after all

The world of branding is constantly changing and building a strong brand identity is not sufficient enough for a company any more in this day and age. A look into Aimé Leon Dore’s branding shows how brands can become self-referential, through integrity to their values and alignment in communication and action. Self-reference occurs when an idea refers to itself, this is done either directly or through some intermediate encoding. Aimé Leon Dore is building an self-referential brand identity, which is a brand that is best explained by referring to itself, “This aesthetic is so much Aimé Leon Dore”, the name “Aimé Leon Dore'' receives a new meaning through a connotation. This makes it possible for a brand to receive a new meaning through a connotation which enables it to describe something as being "Aimé Leon Dore’’, here referring to the meaning of the connotation. This enables consumers to establish a much deeper connection with the brand, and amplifies the distinctiveness needed to survive the echoverse today. In other words, the brand needs to be so strong and aligned that the brand receives an extended meaning, setting it apart from all other brands. The connotation of Aimé Leon Dore builds on their core values of Teddy Santis’ Greek roots, the endless inspiration of the New York Queens area consisting of Hiphop culture, Basketball, and 90’s fashion. Was this connotation LVMH saw in ALD when acquiring a minority stake in the only 8-year-old New York fashion brand? An untypical brand, which is not participating in the swanky fashion weeks and parties, but is valuing privacy and integrity. To further explain this concept, let’s examine what this connotation could actually be and how it affects Aimé Leon Dore.

Aimé Leon Dore is self-referential simply because they have managed to conceptualize their values, beliefs and associations into a brand identity. The alignment of the brand as a concept is demonstrated in everything they do, down to the smallest details; Santis Greek roots is an established part of the visual identity, in everything from location for their (gorgeous) Spring summer 2022 campaign video which was shoot in Athens, Greece, to their selection of traditional Greek coffees in the incorporated cafes of the stores, and with aesthetic moodboard comparable pictures filling up their Instagram feed and website. The 90s hiphop, urban culture and basketball are all undeniable influences and part of their core values, which gives depth to the brand identity and amplifies the conceptualization. Aimé Leon Dore’s about page consists of a short descriptive text and a link redirecting the reader to Nas’s iconic album Illmatic, which is an encapsulation of 90s hip-hop that Teddy experienced through his upbringing in Queens, New York. Keeping it street, long term supporters of ALD have also been aware of the brand’s relationship with artist Tyrrell Winston, serving tribute to the basketball culture.

When entering the London store, the first thing meeting customers is the artwork ‘English Breakfast’ by Tyrrell, featuring a grid of deflated basketballs, bringing the basketball reference into the physical space. Entering the London store is like entering the physical manifested universe of Aimé Leon Dore, but with a hint of London’s private clubs through the use of dark walnut wood, velvet wall paneling, and leather banquettes. The floor is made of dark, heavy marble, but not the usual type of marble, as it is Cipollino marble, often sourced in Greece (self-referential? I think so). What really ties the room together is the use of the iconic mid-century aesthetic. However, what elevates the store to support Aimé Leon Dore physical space to be self-referential is the thoughtful and strategic use of references through the interior such as having a pair of  ‘85 Jordan 1’s presented as an art piece, referencing the Hip-hop culture. In other words, it’s stunningly beautiful and West Architecture, the creative agency behind the store, has managed to help create an even deeper understanding of this connotation. The connotation here being amplified through the use of their core values as Greek marble, basketball culture and artist Tyrrell Winston. Why does Aimé Leon Dore invest so much in their physical spaces, when the industry is currently experiencing historic levels of pressure regarding the physical retailers, as more consumers and companies are moving towards online platforms? Because Aimé Leon Dore has managed to cultivate and educate consumers to use their physical store. During a visit to the store it is not unusual to encounter customers hanging out around the store, as the store is intended to be a rendezvous – a hub for fans of fashion and culture. The retail space becomes an extension of the Aimé Leon Dore brand as it functions as a physical showcasing of a concept built on alignment. It supports the argument of them being self-referential as the alignment is consistent in the physical and online space. This is why Aimé Leon Dore has carved out a unique space in the fashion industry thanks to their unwavering commitment to their brand identity. From their carefully curated products to moodboard-images posted on their website – every element of the Aimé Leon Dore experience is thoughtfully crafted to align with their distinct aesthetic. By staying true to their own universe and never compromising on their vision, they have cultivated a loyal following, establishing a strong and unmistakable presence in the world of fashion and lifestyle. Most importantly, Aimé Leon Dore believes so much in this consistent and cohesive identity, that they chose to pull out of all retailers some years back, focusing on their own channels instead.


The focus on their own channels has given them full control over the perception of the brand, enabling them to make the brand identity even more self-referential. This is evident in their lookbooks with their distinct Aimé Leon Dore styling, consisting of a mixture of sportswear with tailoring, inspired by the iconic Ivy League style with a modern twist to set it apart from Ralph Lauren and Nom De Guerre – two of Santis’ biggest inspirations. Aimé Leon Dore’s styling includes a depth of layers and colors, which is always displayed in a  preppy athletic look . The ability of creating remarkable settings is unique for Aimé Leon Dore and the  Spring Summer 2022 lookbook and campaign is an excellent example of this. Their campaign video is  shot in Athens, Greece, includes the only basketball hoop on the island, and is a beautiful visual presentation of their preppy athletic style. Arguably the best example of Aimé Leon Dore’s ability to be self-referential is their lookbooks, due to the integrity in their visual presentation of the brand.. Reminiscing back, you probably have experienced something that could have been best explained with “that is so much Aimé Leon Dore”. Aimé Leon Dore’s undeniable impact and domination of the internet the past year is remarkable. They’re doing everything on their own terms. You won’t even find Teddy Santis partaking in the industry buzz or at fashion weeks in Paris, as he instead apprehends the power of anonymity in a world where designers are constantly exposed all over Instagram. In short Santis’ anonymity allows the brand to become a concept in itself which is achieved through the strict alignment and attention to details. Aimé Leon Dore is exploring a new branding approach where brands become self-referential through conceptualization. 

Self-referential brand identities are the new utopia of branding Aimé Leon Dore's key to success is not so secret after all  | Image 436429
Self-referential brand identities are the new utopia of branding Aimé Leon Dore's key to success is not so secret after all  | Image 436431
Self-referential brand identities are the new utopia of branding Aimé Leon Dore's key to success is not so secret after all  | Image 436432
Self-referential brand identities are the new utopia of branding Aimé Leon Dore's key to success is not so secret after all  | Image 436433