How Our Favorite Fashion Items Got Their Names
Usually when we’re drawn to a particular fashion item, it’s a purely aesthetic response—rarely based in reason or facts. Whether it’s a bag or a shoe, we simply love the way something looks or what it (and the brand behind it) stands for. But one result of those instantaneous attractions is that we seldom dig deeper into a piece’s history—like where it came from, when it first debuted, and what its mysterious name refers to.
We go around coveting these Drews, Pashlis, and Falabellas without really knowing what those names even mean to the houses that made them. Surely that’s no crime, but as a fashion-obsessed editor, I’ve always been curious about the naming process behind it all. Do designers just pick names they like out of thin air? Do they obsess over their decisions as if naming a child? Where—to put it simply—do these names come from? I set off to found out, and each answer was totally unexpected.
Scroll down to read the stories behind our favorite items from Balenciaga, Chloé, Rag & Bone, and more!
Balenciaga Le Dix Soft Mini Cartable ($1935)
Le Dix (or the number 10 in French) signifies both the status of the bag as a “perfect 10” but also refers to the historic address of the Balenciaga House at 10 Avenue George V, Paris—site of the original Balenciaga atelier under Cristóbal Balenciaga and the site of the global flagship boutique today. It was also the first bag created by artistic director Alexander Wang for his debut fall/winter 2013 collection and has become a new icon of the house.
Paul Andrew Rhea Suede Point-Toe Flats ($545)
The Rhea flat was named for the Greek goddess Rhea—the daughter of Gaia and Uranus (earth and sky, respectively). When designing this silhouette, Andrew wanted to create the perfect balance between performance and beautiful design, i.e. earth and sky. This silhouette works with jeans or for a black-tie affair, thus uniting down-to-earth practicality with a loftier elegance.
Elizabeth and James Cynnie Leather Bucket Bag in Koala ($495)
The subtle hardware on Elizabeth and James handbags is architecturally inspired. The Cynnie is named after the cylinder zipper pull on a particular group of bags including, but not limited to, the Cynnie Sling, Cynnie Mini Bucket, Cynnie Bucket, Cynnie Shopper, and Cynnie Cross-Body.
Ray-Ban Classic Wayfarer 50mm Tortoise Sunglasses ($150)
As new airplanes allowed people to fly higher and farther, many U.S. Air Force pilots were reporting that the glare from the sun was giving them headaches and altitude sickness. A new kind of eyewear was introduced with green lenses that could cut out the glare without obscuring vision, hence the brand name Ray-Ban. Although the naming of the Wayfarer has been lost to history, we do know that it debuted after the brand’s first pair, the Aviator, and was made of plastic in contrast to the Aviator’s metal. Being that “wayfarer” means a person who travels on foot, it seems the name was chosen to highlight the differences between Ray-Ban’s first two releases.
Chloé Drew Leather Crossbody Bag ($1850)
Chloé names its handbags using an alphabet naming system that was reintroduced by designer Clare Waight Keller in celebration of its 60th anniversary. Each season, the handbags are named after the next letter of the alphabet. For example, for pre-fall 2014, it was the letter D, so the bags that were introduced that season were the “Drew,” “Dree,” and “Dilan.” The Drew was given its name as the roundness of the name mimicked the roundness of the bag’s silhouette.
Louis Vuitton Speedy 25 ($990)
In 1930, following the success of the Keepall, Louis Vuitton launched a smaller version aimed to be a handbag for travel: the Speedy. The original name, “Express,” was changed to “Speedy” as a reference to the development of modern means of transportation and the increasingly faster way of living.
Rag & Bone Classic Newbury Boot in Black ($525)
The name Newbury was conceived as an homage to the designers’ British roots, as it was named after the Newbury Park stop on the tube line (which is the London equivalent to the MTA subway in Manhattan). Another best-selling boot, the Harrow, was named after another stop, at North Harrow.
3.1 Phillip Lim Pashli Medium Satchel in Agave ($895)
The Pashli was launched on the fall 2011 runway, and the video campaign for that season was called “Girls on Bikes,” so all of the bag groups in that collection, including this one, were inspired by different bike company names.
Are there any other fashion items whose names you're dying to know the origins of? Let us know in the comments!