Why do brands lose their first name?

The change occurred secretly, with no official announcement. With the arrival of John Galliano as the head designer of Maison Martin Margiela, the first name Martin was simply wiped out. Renamed Maison Margiela, the brand somehow sets itself free from its founder.

Let’s recall that in 2012, Yves Saint Laurent also had its first name cut out with the arrival of Hedi Slimane. Although, in this case to the name of the brand was later added Paris, therefore becoming Saint Laurent Paris, emphasizing its legitimacy with a token of style and know-how.

From Yves Saint Laurent to Saint Laurent Paris

Every change in the name of a trademark, as trifling as it could be, is carefully studied and is part of a sharp marketing strategy of the brand. Generally, renowned fashion companies avoid making these kind of adjustments public knowledge, in order not to scare away regular customers and the fans of the brand; rather, they choose to let the new name set itself naturally in the head of the consumer.

However, this practice is not uncommon within the business of fashion; it is actually quite frequent for fashion houses to drop the first name of its originator when the latter comes to pass away, and here we are reminded of of Christian Dior for Dior, Coco Chanel for Chanel, or Gianni Versace which later became Versace.

Salvo Testa, who is a Fashion Management professor at the University of Bocconi of Milan, states: “dropping the first name of a designer is a way to perpetuate the brand, to make it eternal. It also sets its passage from a label to a global trademark. Without mentioning the fact that a shorter and simpler name is more easily identifiable, more efficient, but also more convenient to use when it comes to the actual product, whether it is for a bag or a perfume bottle”.

Some designers understood this importance for a brand to be global, before others: in 1978, when stylist Miuccia Prada, grand-daughter of Mario Prada who was the leather worker at the origin of the brand, picks up the family business called “Fratelli Prada”, she decided to only keep the last name to represent the brand. This was done with the same approach that Guccio Gucci had taken in the 60s, when the increasing success of G. Gucci & C. led him to rethink his label, transforming it into Gucci and creating a simple and efficient logo: the two intertwined Gs standing for Guccio Gucci.

Salvo Testa continues: “Most of the time, labels are associated with the name of their originator, and focus their communication around that character which is often perceived, in the case of a fashion designer, as a demiurge or a guru. This mechanism enables the construction of coherence, an identity around the label. As long as the brand coincides with the character, this type of communication can work. However, when the initial designer comes to disappear, the thing becomes more complex”.

In the case of Salvatore Ferragamo, the brand still carries the first name of its originator who passed away in 1960, but Testa notices that: “in certain cases, the emotional element is taken into consideration”.

More recently, with the death of the iconic Oscar de la Renta, we could wonder whether or not 5 years from now we will simply be buying a De La Renta piece.

Chaque année, si l’on observe bien, on voit que certaines marques de luxe modifient leurs noms, ce qui est souvent le résultat d’un changement au sein de leur direction artistique. Chaque modification dans le nom d’un label est soigneusement calculée et s’inscrit dans la stratégie de la marque. De manière générale, les Maisons évitent de rendre publics ces ajustements, afin de ne pas effrayer les clients et les fans de la marque. Ils attendent plutôt que le nouveau nom s’installe de lui-même dans les esprits.

Par Alexis Lau

Crédit photo: Logo Maison Margiela

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