September 24, 2003
A Label That Sticks
Fashions come, fashions go — but a great brand name is always in style. As this designer realizes, the trick is finding one with legs
Q: I have been working in the urban apparel business for six years and see a lot of potential in this field, but the problem is the longevity — or lack of it — of names or brands. I now have an investor to help start my own brand, and the hardest thing is coming up with a name. Can you give me suggestions about what strategy I should employ? — D.L., New York City
A: You are right to focus on your brand. A successful fashion label will transcend your name, even if you name the company after yourself. “Figuring out which naming strategy will work best means first figuring out your brand positioning,” says Jay Jurisich, creative director of Igor [now Founder / Creative Director of Zinzin], a naming-and-branding consultancy based in San Francisco. Says Jurisich, you must “carefully define your attitude, your particular sense of style and fashion, and what sets you apart from the other labels.”
Anything goes in the world of fashion names, and the trick is to do something different and interesting — but without going over the top. The urban apparel sector is already saturated with fanciful, made-up names, like Phat Farm, Kik Wear, G-Unit and Wu Wear. Notes Jurisich: “They have lost all power to shock or stand out from one another, making them a less desirable choice for a new brand.”
RIGHT TIME, RIGHT PLACE. Your naming strategy will likely depend on whether you position your brand as the product of a designer or not. In the fashion business, cults of personality are the norm far more often than in other industries. When both names of the designer are used — Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Ann Taylor, Tommy Hilfiger — the brand is strongly identified with the designer, Jurisich notes. When only the surname is used — Prada, Versace, Armani, Gucci — the brand can transcend that attachment.
There are some powerful fashion brands that don’t depend on a particular designer, such as Nike and Fila, but such brands usually take many years and huge marketing budgets to build. Evocative, memorable words are a naming strategy worth pursuing to differentiate your brand from, on the one hand, the designer labels, and on the other, fanciful and made-up constructions, Jurisich says. “Torrid is an example of a line of clothes with a real, evocative word for its name that works especially well at positioning in its target niche, which is overweight teen girls,” he notes. “And one of the hottest young New York designers, Wenlan Chia, recently made her Fashion Week debut with her label named Twinkle.”