Archive for the ‘Naming’ Category

Naming your fashion business is one of the most important things you will ever do. The name of your business, coupled with its visual look and feel, and verbal voice, will set the tone for your business and tell your customers what kind of brand you are.

Here are a few strategies, with some quick descriptions, to help you figure out your own approach.

1) The Artist as Brand
Betsey Johnson. Calvin Klein. Dolce and Gabbana. John Galliano. Versace. Armani. All are named for the principle designer, establishing the feeling that the designer is an artist, and the work is an extension of his or her personality or philosophy. This naming strategy may also be the most distinctive, if your name is unique.

2) Arbitrary/Intellectual
Helmet of the Will. Imitation of Christ. These are obscure, sometimes arbitrary names with a literary feel that may only make sense to the designer. They may also describe an intellectual approach to fashion design, where the design of the garment itself is an intellectual exercise.

3) Evocative/Lifestyle
Agent Provocateur. Miss Davenporte. Rock & Republic. Glam. These names evoke a feeling, an era, or a lifestyle. This naming strategy readily lends itself to visual branding, because it easily conjoures up visual ideas.

4) Literal
Truly Organic Apparel. Sustainable Collective. These names describe exactly what you get when you buy these brands. A good strategy when you need to distinguish your brand based on certain distinct attributes.

There is no one right way to name your brand, use what works best for you. When I work with clients on naming their businesses, we start first by creating a brand strategy and trying to figure out what feeling we want to create with their brand. Then, brainstorming names comes naturally. It should also be one of the most fun parts of starting your business. Enjoy!


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Phew! I have been crazy busy—working late nights, weekends, and I’ve got bags under my eyes to prove it!—but am now back in the blogging game.  To start, I have a question from a reader I think I’d like to answer here for everyone’s benefit:

From Layla:

I am starting a fashion business that’s due to launch in the summer of 09 and I find the that the part that I am struggling with the most is the naming and branding. I have come up with quite a few names and when I get to the point where I can put them on a business card they either are taken, too vague, or don’t equate to fashion at all. The main focus of my business is alterations and custom designs that most importantly fit the client. I read the article by Dana Wood and am leaning more towards the simple name than the flashy clever french ones that have been suggested to me (long story) because in the end if people can’t read it, pronounce it, or remember it what good is it. If you have any other articles or suggestions that would be a great help!


Layla, your instinct here is good. Being able to read, pronounce, and most of all, remember a name is the first challenge of a memorable brand name. While the clever long name trend might be fine for a niche brand aimed at 20-something hipsters who revel in intellectual obscurity, you have to consider your target market, their likes, and their lifestyle. You need to be different but also still reach your target market. What resonates most with your target market is the direction you should take. My guess is that the nature of your business demands a more direct, accessible sort of name. If your business name is short, you can also use a tagline to help people understand exactly the nature of your business.

Suggested strategy exercises to guide name brainstorming:
• write down the benefits of your brand to your target customer
• write down a list of words that describe how your brand should make people feel
• write the single most important thing you want people to know about your business.
• imagine a satisfied customer is telling a friend about your biz, what would they say?

Let that filter through your head for a few days and then use it to guide your naming.

Hope this helps!

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This is a sad tale of an illicit love affair. It all began innocently enough. I was at a department store and happened upon a really sweet, sexy bag. Oh yeah—this baby had just the right of leather, buckles, hardware and compartments to get my motor running. I loved it, and was about to plunk down some hard- won greenbacks for it, but no dice: my eyes spotted the huge logo tag on the side, upon which were inscribed the fateful words “Jessica Simpson”. Though I was madly in love with the bag, I had to put it down and walked away, heart-broken.

You see, the crowd I run with here in Seattle tends to be a little on the high-brow side, and a logo’d Jessica Simpson bag would be the end of my street cred.  I’m sure Jessica Simpson is a great gal, and I’m sure she’d be fun to hang with, but the negative public perception imparted upon the poor Ms. Simpson from her reality TV Show “Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica”  continues to exist, whether she likes it or not.

How can Jessica fix this problem? Well, I would have bought that bag if the name and logo had been subtle or cryptic. If you want to tell me on the hang tag that the bag is a Jessica Simpson creation, that’s fine. I just don’t want to shout it out to the world when I’m walking down the street. I want a bag that can become part of my iconic personal style, but not an extension of Jessica Simpson’s unfortunate negative public perception.

Dear Jessica, if you’re out there, please know that I love your stuff and even own a sweet pair of your shoes. But in the meantime, I think we need to work on your product branding. Because I’m sure I’m not the only gal who walked away from your sweet bag.

A celebrity fashion label that gets it right is William Rast. Obviously we all know by now that this is Justin Timberlake’s creation, but because the name is a made-up character, it allows the wearer to create a personal identity with the brand. This is ultimately what you want for your brand: for your customers to fill it in with their own wonderful associations. Set the tone, give them direction, but let their imagination run wild.

And hopefully you’ll be on your way to smashing success.

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The name of your label is going to be the most important marketing/branding asset you have. It should be well-chosen, should evoke the feeling of your line, and should be memorable. It should also be unique enough to be trademarkable and to distinguish yourself from others.

Unfortunately, the latter criteria is very difficult to achieve, as new businesses are exploding onto the scene every day, and new sounding names are hard to come by. Coming up with the right name requires patience. First, create a brand strategy statement that sums up your desired image. Then come up with a list of names that fit the tone and mood of your brand. This list should be longish, as you’ll need to do your due diligence and see what names are taken on the web. Once you narrow it down to your best choice, I would also seriously consider trademarking your name. A good trademark lawyer can help. But first, you can search the US Patent and Trademark website on your own to see what’s out there. Go to www.uspto.gov

There’s a great article in a recent issue of W magazine that captures the height of the unique name frenzy happening in the fashion world. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. You can read it here:

The Name Game: On Racks and Web Sites Throughout the Land, It’s the Era of the Sartorial Head-Scratcher,”
by Dana Wood

In another post, I’ll write about some naming strategies, especially those that I use when working with clients.

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