When Shakespeare’s Juliet waxed philosophical, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet?” her concern was over family crests and titles. Her disregard of social tribes proved unpopular, yet the concept of what matters is what something is, not what it is called resonated; until fashion took branding to a new level and products were named as intently as their labels established. As the cult of the “It” bag exploded in heightened interest in a particular bag, the inevitable shopper’s question followed, what is it called?
The naming game is a process so complicated in-house departments and specialized branding services exist for that purpose alone. Handbags, like babies and pets yearn to be named – perhaps a marketing instinct to distinguish themselves from the others on the display table. Some bags are named after places (“City”), occupations (“Spy”), food (“Baguette”), streets (“Madison”) and possibly bears (“Paddington”). Most handbags are named after women. Alexa, Lucy, Clare, and Phoebe. Even more seem to be named as odes to celebrities. The ever-elusive Hermes “Birkin” bag, a somewhat conservatively designed albeit hand-built leather carryall purse is named after the British actress/singer Jane Birkin.
Interestingly enough, Jane Birkin was a lot more bohemian than ritzy – she did moan an explicit duet with her then husband French singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg. The bag was created in response to Ms. Birkin’s need for a suitable leather weekend bag. Somehow the allure of the status piece morphed from a symbol of weekend-getaway chic to Park Avenue-lunch chi chi. Other designer’s have followed suit. There’s the hugely popular Marc Jacobs’ “Stam”, named after the equally popular model Jessica and Devi Kroell’s grunge-couture “Mary-Kate” named after fashionable Olsen twin.
While paying homage to a muse through naming is a popular tradition, it is also a predictable one. Memorable product names give symbolic references to a concept/moment/feeling/experience, which becomes personalized by the owner. Recently Joanna, asked Facebook members for their help in naming her latest baby, a perfect hobo. The suggestions poured in. “Queen of the Road”, derived from a spoof on the song “King of the Road” that is about real hobos, also known as migrant workers and homeless vagabonds (she passed on that one). “The Swag” – a savvy name better suited for the oversized, roomy, pleated clutch. And then there was “Soho” – “a little London, a little New York and sounds like Hobo!” Grateful for all the creative input, Joanna opted for Dew Drop, a perfect name for the soft and puffy pleated Italian leather design. In essence what the bag resembles.