He’s a busy guy, with overall purchasing responsibility for some 500 (mostly tiny) fashion collections, so one can forgive Revolve Clothing co-owner Michael Mente for not being up to speed on some of the new labels the mega–Web site is adding for fall. Here’s how a recent exchange unfolded:
What’s Helmet of the Will about?
“Helmet of the Will is one of the lines I don’t know,” Mente admits. “Or maybe I’ve seen it but just don’t remember.”
How about Elevate & Collide? Know anything about that one?
“Let’s see,” says Mente, tapping into his computer database as he chats. “If I call up some information, maybe it will resonate…”
Slow and Steady Wins the Race?
“We just got that one up on the site,” Mente says, happy to have struck a little recognition gold. “It’s a sunglasses line.” (Pretty close; the label, which also bills itself as a “bimonthly clothing diary,” focuses on one concept or product category at a time. Recently, shades were its raison d’être.)
So much for Calvin and Ralph—or, for that matter, Proenza Schouler. Today there seems to be a pitched battle to come up with the most obscure monikers possible. While no one is lobbying for anything hyper-obvious, à la Very Well-Cut Pants or Crazy-Nice Cashmere Sweaters, it’s become nearly impossible to glean a label’s MO from its name.
In other words, there are a lot of Imitators of Christ out there. And more than a few Citizens of Humanity. “By having these interesting names—almost like bands—brands think they’ll be more recognizable,” says Mente. “But at this point, having a simple name might be the real way to stand out.”
Boo hiss to that, says Humberto Leon, co-owner of Opening Ceremony. As both a retailer and manufacturer (the Opening Ceremony line of “basics plus” is sold globally), he’s quite smitten with the sartorial head-scratchers. In fact, to prepare for the store’s elaborate fashion promotions, which feature designs from a different country every year, Leon and his partner, Carol Lim, comb the planet. “For us, it’s intriguing when a label has a weird name,” Leon explains. “Someone will say, ‘There’s a line in Japan called Mercibeaucoup.’ So what is that? The name doesn’t give you any idea. We do a little research and then go to these secret locations to find them. It’s a game of telephone for us.”
Consider Opening Ceremony’s recent Sweden promotion, which showcased Cheap Monday, Minimarket and Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair. At first blush, only the last would indicate any connection to actual duds. But even that one can’t be taken at face value. “Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair isn’t really a shoe line,” says Leon. Of course it isn’t.