"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet" is a commonly quoted part of a dialogue in William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet, in which Juliet argues that the names of things do not matter, only what things "are." Despite her interpretation, many from the sartorial world could argue that while a name doesn't in fact guarantee a specific outcome, it's as an integral piece as any in a puzzle where branding is as vital as that initial stitch.
There are a bevy of established brands as well as more recent success stories that all seem to share a common notion: name origins don't have to register on a cerebral level, but they should be a moniker that endures and outlives seasonal risks. Plainly put, if a lookbook sells the product, then a name cashes the checks.
According to Scott Sasso, "I woke up, decided I wanted to start a brand, and proceeded to write down every brand name I could think of. I hung the paper with all of the names on the wall, and crossed out ones I didn't like over the coming days. I arrived on 10.Deep as one of the final ones because it sounded powerful, and I wanted to have a name that had some strength."
A Bathing Ape
NIGO points to the 1968 film Planet of the Apes as a source of inspiration. Additionally, in speaking with CNN back in 2006, he commented that "it was meant to be sarcastic. The name 'A Bathing Ape' is short for a Japanese saying 'a bathing ape in lukewarm water.' It's a reference to the young generation being spoiled, pampered and too complacent." Thus, the name is a slight jab/critique on the laziness and opulence of the generation of youths who consumed his products.
Rob Jest describes it like this: "1999, Midtown-New York City, four individuals sat in the office of a fashion/trade publication where we all had worked, discussing our new venture which was to be, ALIFE. We discussed for days/weeks what we wanted this new endeavor to encompass and finally decided that the name should portray bringing inanimate objects to life - or [creating] hype around product that wouldn't necessarily have hype prior to being launched into the environment that we would create. The name we came up with was "Artificial Life."
We came across the name while looking through an old Lenny Kravitz album I believe. Anyhow, Artificial Life had proven to be too long for the various applications that we were being faced with so the name was shortened to ALIFE. ALIFE we believed, was the description of the top of the food-chain in terms of anything that it touched. Quality goods, quality projects, quality people. No bullshit, just real documentation of our surroundings in the Lower East Side of NYC at a time when there was NO venue of this nature at that exact time. Part lab, part launchpad, part workshop, part gallery, part meeting place. Top class, A-list, ALIFE® New York Shit 1999."
Band of Outsiders
Founder and designer Scott Steinberg told Nordstrom, "I hate naming things. Coming up with 'Band of Outsiders' was torture. The first two years, I was really tortured by it. I thought, 'This is really putting it out there.' But no, it’s, uh… it becomes semantics after a while. It just becomes sounds. And they work thematically with what we do. So, I’m into it. It’s the English translation of a Jean-Luc Godard movie called Bande à Part, which is a French new-wave film that my clothes look not very much like. It wasn’t like I was trying to recreate that world—although I’d love to be in that world—but it’s more about the tone of the brand."
In a video delving into the origins of the brand, Black Scale co-owner Mega described it as such. "Black "as in the color, and "scale" as in the balance of life. For us, we chose "black" because we've gotta put color into our everyday life.
He went on to say, "I'm not religious. I don't have a God. If anything, it's all the Gods that I believe in. But when I meditate, or when I pray, I go into the deepest black that I can get into my mind, and let that black take me to wherever it takes me when I meditate."
Translated from French to English to mean "in black," founder Rob Garcia said "it fits in so many ways with just me and my whole team. Playing around with a couple of other names, but that one, I was just super at peace with."
Hood By Air
Started by Shayne Oliver back in 2006, he told The New York Times, "The name Hood By Air is a play off being from the hood, but taking the train downtown to hang out with skater boys and artists." He went on to tell Swagger New York, "It came from going to underground parties, and we used to freestyle on the mics.
And one night I was reciting something, and that came out and kinda stuck with me as an aesthetic and a way of living. It’s also like owning your influence on the world… make the world understand what you’re doing and why what you’re doing is so important."
Kith & Kin. That means friends and family. Kith also means to make known or become known in Old Scottish.
Shinsuke Takizawa has said "the name NEIGHBORHOOD was inspired by all of us. Hanging out in Harajuku with friends like the Bathing Ape guys, we had a common DIY ethic which came from everyone being in the same area at the same time. I felt that we were part of a community, which is why I named the label NEIGHBORHOOD."
The fashion label’s moniker is a fusion of “North Hollywood” — where the brand’s founder, Daisuke Obana, earned the nickname "Mister Hollywood" while shopping for vintage clothes when he worked as a buyer in Japan — and the word “hooligan.”
"My hope was that, in questioning what 'Obey Giant' was about, the viewers would then begin to question all the images they were confronted with,” Fairey said in an interview in the book Supply and Demand: The Art of Shepard Fairey.”
"We were up a lot of late nights back in 2004, always working 'til the morning came in at Christopher's dad´s studio - making blueprints of things we all felt could be our future," says co-founder Jockum Hallin. "We all had decent day jobs, but day jobs come and go, [and] we wanted to create something that was forever - something we could build, refine and pass on to our children. 'Our Legacy' was a name that came naturally.
We all went and got tattoos stating 'OUR LEGACY ARE FOREVER.' We saw it more like we were in a band in the beginning. We were this group that was gonna stick around and make our mark in history like The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. 'OUR LEGACY ARE FOREVER' is of course grammatically wrong, but it just felt so right!"
Masta Lee, the marketing director and designer for the brand says of the origins, "Friends and Patta Founders Edson Sabajo and Guillaume Schmidt are both of Surinamese descent. Surinam, a former colony of The Netherlands, is a mostly Dutch-speaking country alongside Sranang Tongo - an English-based creole language.
Suriname's diaspora includes more than a quarter of a million people of Surinamese origin currently living in the Netherlands, thus bringing along mixed forms of language and slang words which play a role in constructing identities. Patta is the Surinamese word for shoe. In addition to referring to the Patta store and brand, the word 'patta' is now also used among youth nationwide when speaking about footwear."
The name Reigning Champ came from years of being the go-to fleece manufacturer for several brands. After honing their craft for over 10 years they decided to create a brand that focused solely on fleece with a mission to own the category.
"I came up with the name while in college about seven years ago," says Chris Stamp. "It was essentially 'stamping' my aesthetic on footwear at the time. Since then the collection has grown and matured into what we're now making, but the name is something that always stuck."
Italian designer Massimo Osti wanted a name that would express the nautical adventure inspiration of the brand and set about researching the works of Joseph Conrad, a Polish officer who often used nautical themes, amassing words and phrases evocative of the feeling he wanted.
He then combined and worked with these words, seeing what would fit, what worked, what felt right — from this process the name Stone Island was born and has become synonymous with cutting edge design and garment technology worldwide.
In 1979, when he was 24-years-old, Shawn Stussy settled in Laguna Beach to establish a surfboard business. To brand his handiwork he took a large marker and scrawled his signature on the finished boards. It soon became his trademark and logo.
In a 1993 interview with WWD, Stussy recalled, "It was seen as 'new wave,' anarchic. I had the logo screen-printed on T-shirts and sweatshirts, but it had nothing to do with producing clothes. I was trying to promote the boards."
So it’s ‘77 and you start hearing the Sex Pistols and after that The Clash, so by late ‘78, ‘79, it’s very much a punk aesthetic that I discovered and got into. So when I went to do it on my own, I scribbled it down and that was how I wrote my name. It was very much a “Yeah, fuck you old guys!”
- Shawn Stussy in Acclaim Magazine
It seems rather fitting that one of streetwear's biggest brands doesn't actually own the trademark to a name that has become ubiquitous with brand allegiance. In speaking with Interview Magazine back in 2009 founder James Jebbia said, "Supreme wasn’t meant to be a brand. I just was like, 'Hey, that’s a cool name for a store.' But it’s become a problem since it’s become a brand because we don’t own the name. It’s a good name, but it’s a difficult one to trademark."
He went on to say, "With Supreme, there were no grand plans—with the name, with the store, with anything. It all just evolved. These days, it’s a lot more difficult to do that. You’ve got to come out with all guns blazing right away or you don’t stand a chance. Whereas when we first started, there weren’t blogs ready to shoot us down the day we opened. We were given time to make mistakes and grow."
In an interview with 01 Magazine back in 2010, Hiroki Nakamura said, "I wanted it to have a brand with no meaning and wanted to make up my own name. I started researching and eventually started looking into the the Latin dictionary to find inspiration.
I liked v-lettered logos so I looked through the “v” section of the dictionary. I found 'vis,' then I found 'vim' and visually I liked how they looked together. The word 'vis' does have a kind of positive meaning around the idea of force and energy [and] things coming together.
Tetsu Nishiyama told us that "the meaning behind WTAPS comes from a military term 'double tap,' which occurred I think in the 1920s or 1930s, I’m not sure exactly. It’s a form of shooting, in which the second bullet hits the same spot where the first bullet hit, in order to penetrate for a total kill. That meaning, however, doesn’t hold any meaning for the brand."