There was a time when seven years didn't feel like an eternity. Certainly, it was known for coming with an "itch," and the superstitious among us link it to a string of bad luck invoked by a mirror breaking. But today, say "seven years ago," and many have trouble not thinking of it with a nostalgia once saved for childhood – ahhh, yes, seven years ago, back before the economy flew into the side of a mountain! Those were the days.

When we look back over seven years of consumer data, fewer than 3% of US apparel buyers felt fashion brands and logos – particularly as they related to luxury brands – were rising in importance when it came to differentiating what clothing they would buy, back before "derivatives" became a dirty household word and the economy was blamed for every problem a brand had.

But a funny thing happened for consumers on the way to the bank. Fashion brands, instead of shrinking along with 401k balances, doubled in importance. In 2010, the importance of fashion brands and logos, jumped from 14% to 28%. And, in 2011, that has held—demonstrating it was not an anomaly. Brands are how consumers are making fashion decisions, and that requires that brands actually stand for something.

This year, for the total audience of 7,500 men and women, 21 to 65 years of age, who participated in the Brand Keys annual Fashion Brand Index, the top-15 fashion brands, named and ranked on an unaided basis, were:

  1. Favorite Sports Team
  2. Ralph Lauren
  3. Armani
  4. Calvin Klein
  5. J. Crew
  6. Banana Republic/Burberry
  7. Levi's/Polo
  8. Chanel
  9. Dior/Versace
  10. Guess
  11. Tommy Hilfiger/Donna Karan
  12. Brooks Brothers
  13. Juicy Couture /Marc Jacobs /Victoria's Secret
  14. Dolce & Gabbana /Gucci
  15. Abercrombie & Fitch/Izod /Yves Saint Laurent

The rising importance of fashion brands generally, and luxury fashion brands specifically, indicates that value – or the perception of value-via-brand – is of much greater import to consumers, and ultimately to the success of fashion brands.

Gilda Radner once joked that she based her fashion choices on what didn't itch! But given the levels of clothing available, it's not surprising that consumers are looking to brands to make a difference, to meet their expectations, and to engage and delight them.

As well as not itch.