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How retail copywriting has embraced the power of a name

Tori, Hallie, Jenna and Yazmin – the newest, coolest girls on the block. But they aren’t up-and-coming models or exciting movie stars. They’re styles of New Look jeans. By now, we’re all familiar with the fashion-language trend of giving products names. Think Topshop’s ‘Jamie’ jeans or the Hermes Birkin, named after 60’s icon Jane Birkin. But where did this phenomenon begin, and how has it evolved to suit the ever-changing landscape of retail copywriting?

What’s in a name?

The trend of giving products human names isn’t new, as we’ve long named our apparel after inspiring people. James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan and a key figure in the Crimean War, gave his title to a piece of military knitwear. Likewise, the wellington boot began life as a cavalry boot, named after its creator the Duke of Wellington. Even Mahatma Gandhi left a stylish legacy when he popularised the ‘Gandhi cap’ during the Indian Independence movement.

The trend takes off

In today’s retail industry we’re bombarded with choice, so retailers have to make sure their products stand out and resonate with customers. So, the trend of naming products has moved on to individual garments, rather than just a style.

To do this, clothing and footwear companies are choosing to give personality to products by giving them human names. Buzzfeed.com’s content writing regularly focuses on this kind of thing, summarising the assumptions we all make. Maybe we think Jennifers are artistic, that Emmas are sweet and that Erins are edgy.

Although the articles are light-hearted, it shows that, despite what Shakespeare’s Romeo might profess, there’s a lot in a name. Brands are likely to choose names which the designers associate with certain traits – perhaps they want to project a bit of their effortlessly cool friend Ava into the product. And even if, in the words of The Atlantic, you know it’s “just a bra with the appended personality of an archetype”, this retail copywriting tactic still affects us.

Choosing the right words

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

For example, many brands favour the word ‘faux’ over fake or artificial. They all mean the same thing, but their connotations are vastly different. Fake indicates illegality, like the product is a cheap counterfeit and artificial is too clinical and scientific.  Neither is desirable in the fashion world. Faux conjures up images of chic, classy Frenchwomen. Much better, right?

Likewise, ‘pleather’ is favoured over ‘fake’ or ‘plastic’ leather. It’s not that fake leather or fur are undesirable things, as many consider the real deals unethical and undesirable, but a new language and tone is needed to stop these popular items sounding cheap or ugly.

The future of fashion language

It’s hard to predict where the language of fashion will head next, but it’s clear the human naming trend has become a mainstay of the sector. Designers could take the trend to the next level, using desirable names from the fashion industry or social media to elevate their products’ desirability. Think Molly-Mae scarves or Bella jeans?

The fourfold increase in Veganism between 2014 and 2019 [The Vegan Society] could also influence how the fashion industry speaks to consumers. Language emphasising sustainability and ethical practice could become a key focus of digital copywriting when talking about products that are made with the planet in mind.

Fashion is also becoming more globalised, as previously niche cultural phenomena like K-pop have entered the mainstream, according to Brandwatch’s ‘Five Huge Fashion Industry Trends for 2020’. Brands catering to young, western K-pop audiences might opt to call their products ‘Jennie’, ‘Lisa’ or ‘Kai’ to evoke the cool image of these stars. 

Recent television shows like Euphoria have also helped keep the love of throwback fashion alive. Everything from 90s bandanas to ‘Mom’ jeans to clueless-inspired cropped co-ords can be found in Gen Z’s wardrobes. And with a Friends reunion in the works, it seems like this trend could be around for a long time.

Speaking to Marketplace, NPD Group Analyst Matt Powell said:

“We’re very much in a retro fashion cycle today. [Young people] are really flocking to wearing old-school looks.”

Finally, as the popularity of influencers only seems to be growing, according to McKinsey’s 2020 fashion industry report, this could influence both the content strategy and names that pop up in retail copywriting and branding. Expect to see ‘Tammy’, ‘Kylie’ and ‘Chiara’ pop up in your favourite shops.

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