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Language and fashion – what’s the latest trend?

Leyla, 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. And they’re just the latest to emerge in the fashion-language trend of products being given human names. Clarks have the ‘Harrison’ welly and Topshop have their iconic ‘Jamie’ jeans. So how has this trend evolved and where will it take retail copywriting in the future?

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 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 regularly runs articles 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 know want to project a bit of their effortlessly cool friend Sadie 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, 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 are 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 seems like the human naming trend could be here to stay. Designers could take the trend to the next level, using desirable names from the fashion industry to elevate their products’ desirability. Think Gigi scarves or Kendall jeans?

The increase in veganism (a 350% rise in the last decade) could also influence how the fashion industry speaks to consumers. Language emphasising sustainability and ethical practice could be used to name products that are made with the planet in mind.

Retro is making a massive comeback, particularly in the world of sneakers. Its 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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