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Language and fashion – what’s the latest trend?

Leyla, Hallie, Jenna and Yazmin – the new girls on the block, or should I say the ‘New Look’ jeans on the block. These four names are just the latest to join the latest fashion-language trend of products being given real names. Clarks’ kid’s wellingtons are called ‘Harrison’, Topshop’s skinny jeans have become the ‘Jamie’, and Debenhams is currently selling a women’s ankle boot called ‘Glenda’.

With this in mind, I’ve decided to explore exactly how the trend of using names in fashion and retail copywriting has evolved, what retailers hope to achieve by doing so, and what we can expect in the future.

History

The trend of naming particular items after certain people comes from the long-standing idea of naming products after inspiring people . Did you know, for example, that the ‘cardigan’ was originally created to keep British soldiers warm in Russian winters and was named after James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, who led the Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War (1854)?

Did you also know that the Wellington boot was a cavalry boot devised by the Duke of Wellington? It might not surprise you therefore to hear that the Gandhi cap, a white coloured sidecap made from khadi, was named after Mahatma Gandhi who made the item popular after wearing one during the Indian Independence movement.

Continuing trend

The trend of naming products after people has accelerated in today’s society and made its way to individual product names, not just the overall style name. In today’s retail industry where we have a huge choice of high-street brands on our doorsteps, alongside additional designer and online brands available, retailers have to make sure their products stand out and resonate with customers.

To do this, clothing and footwear companies are choosing to give personality to products by giving them human names. An article from Buzzfeed.com summarises what it thinks are the personality traits which can be attributed to each name. For example, “Jens are amazing at drawing”, “Emma is sweet and kind” and “Chelsea is super friendly” . Although the article isn’t particularly serious and is very much opinion based, I think it shows that we assign names to certain characteristics and personalities, mainly through stereotyping. Brands are likely to choose names which the designers associate with certain traits – perhaps they know of a trendy Melanie in their life and want to project her personality into the product.

Choosing the right words

And it’s not just the use of human names which are carefully considered within retail fashion; the language used to describe the products is as important.

For example, have you ever seen a leather-look jacket being advertised as a ‘fake leather jacket’ or an ‘artificial leather jacket’? Chances are you would have seen it advertised as a ‘faux leather jacket’ instead. This is because fake sounds illegal and artificial sounds too clinical; fake money, fake clothes on holiday and fake DVDs are not things you would wish to acquire, whereas ‘faux’ has an attractive French sound to it.

Similarly, you may have seen the word ‘pleather’ used to describe any items of clothing which are made from ‘fake/plastic leather’. A pair of pleather trousers sounds much more appealing than a pair of ‘plastic trousers’.

And it’s not as though this language is being used to cover up a bad thing – quite often people don’t want to wear real fur or leather – which is why there’s a need to develop new words and tone, so that a people aren’t put off a popular concept because of unattractive words.

The future of fashion language

It’s hard to predict exactly what the next trend will be in terms of the language used within the fashion industry, but if I had to take a guess I think we’ll continue to see human names being used to name individual items. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s taken to the next level and instead of using general names, the designers use well-known celebrity names within the fashion industry to utilise their status, e.g. perhaps we’ll see Gigi scarves or Kendall jeans?

I also think that the increase in veganism (there’s been a skyrocketing 350% increase in the last 10 years ) could influence the fashion industry massively. I think more and more designers will produce vegan-friendly clothing and the language used to name the products will become very green, wholesome and ethical.

Retro is making a massive comeback, particularly in the world of sneakers. It’s popularity is great for long-established brands like Nike with a back catalogue of styles to bring back. But it’s causing newer brands like Under Armour big problems.

Speaking to Marketplace, NPD Group Analyst Matt Powell said: “We’re very much in a retro fashion cycle today. Millennials are really flocking to wearing old-school looks.”

So perhaps the future for newer kids on the block is to use retro language to plug the gap in genuine retro styles. In fashion’s next move, we might see the ‘Shania’ jean, ‘Morissette’ boot, ‘Beck’ bag and ‘Kravitz’ jackets in homage to some 1990’s music icons…

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