Naming a product line pt.69

And no, there aren’t 68 entries preceding this, only one. More evidence of my silliness when I’ve decided to elevate a perseveration into a sometime series. From the brevity of this entry, you won’t believe I spent most of the morning writing this piece. Well, this and a few other rants forever relegated to the dustbin of my personal archives.

From here in the forum:

I am planning on doing something a little different than I’ve done in the past with my next line. I figured I should make this transition now while I still can. I’m going to go under my name instead of a label. I found while I was at the show in NY this past weekend that my label that I’ve had for 6 years now doesn’t correctly represent my new lines. If I go under my name I don’t feel backed into a corner to always have to use vintage fabrics. I still plan on using all eco friendly fabrics though.

To which I responded,

Oh, I think that is an excellent idea. You’ve grown, time to move on. Besides, “recycle xxx designs” doesn’t say “vintage” to me anyway. I think it’s a good idea in another way too. Right now, eco stuff is all the rage. Everybody’s putting eco this and green that in their label names. I know that ten years from now, those label names will be very dated. Not that the impetus toward sustainability will be less (who knows) but it’ll just look dumb. Look at it this way, assuming everyone’s on the bandwagon then and sustainability is de rigeur, it’ll be too obvious. Like saying you have a food restaurant. What other kind of restaurant would you have? Better to impart your sustainability values to a name that isn’t trendy, one with longevity.

I should have used some examples. Patagonia isn’t an eco name; but they’ve created a solid eco identity. Linda Loudermilk is simply that but few have any doubts what her brand stands for either.

Another list I’m on, had a related topic on how green businesses struggle to get financing. In a rant I similarly did not submit, I said that acquiring funding -in my opinion- has nothing to do with the viability of a “green” business focus. Rather, it has much more to do with the viability of their operations and eco businesses are no more likely to prioritize well than any other young business. The difference being, it’s a cop out to complain financing isn’t forthcoming because you’re too progressive. As it happens, I’ve been thinking about it because Eric and I have been talking about starting a micro-lending program. The problem is, there are so few manufacturers doing things right, we wouldn’t -couldn’t- cherry pick between green or brown ventures. What’s worse, I realized that the few businesses I would fund, were operationally prioritized such that they most likely wouldn’t be willing to assume debt. Not without planning. I know, we tried to lend somebody $7,500 (based on prime, so it’s not as though we’d make money on it) and she turned it down! And not that she doesn’t need the money. Far from it. Her priorities are such that she won’t commit to the assumption of debt until she feels poised to handle it (why she’s attractive to loan to). The take home lesson being, your name, priorities and operations can’t be trendy. Your core values should be imbued into everything you do for all time. You shouldn’t have to bang on about it if it’s genuine. Investors won’t care if you’re green, only that your operations and priorities are sound.

If you’re curious what I deleted from this entry, it had a lot to do with this [the comments are quite good; regarding eco production, Alison’s are particularly pithy.] and the parameters of identity strangled together with an umbilical cord. Specifically, the whole faddish mompreneur or WAHM-preneur thing. A whole other “movement”, it feels disingenuous coupled with narcissistic overtones. Apparently, I’m not the only woman to feel this way:

…women are constantly complaining that they’re not treated equally when it comes to the business world, but they feel compelled to alienate a whole gender by making it seem like their accomplishments are that much more important because they experienced motherhood while crafting a business concept.

Women have been working from home for hundreds of years. Will you still be a WAHM when you’re fifty or sixty? No, you’ll have to switch identities to be a GRAMpreneur. These are gimmicky self-applied self-adhesive labels. Your choices are to either mature and evolve, or you’ll flail and fall into the next gimmick that comes along. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself covered in discarded identities represented by sticky tape residue and remnants of water soluble tattoos. The transience of fads isn’t attractive to long term investors either. The only people who can make a permanent gig of mompreneuring are authors and owners of subscription networks and thus, are financially motivated to propagate the meme. Perhaps it’s best to pick a name, identity and business model that isn’t so temporal.

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  1. An excellent post that could go in a multitude of directions. Just on one point, the eco-explosion that has happened in the 12 months in fashion, at least as far as the web and blogs go: Kathleen, I don’t think we have to wait ten years. Calling your stuff ‘green’, ‘eco’, ‘sustainable’ or the et ceteras ad infinitum is already starting to sound tired, and partly it’s thanks to all the greenwashing out there. I’ve said this before a million times but my problem with ‘sustainable fashion’ is that it makes sustainability a nice little option. But it ain’t. Or won’t be in a few years, anyhow. I could rant till this box blows but I won’t. Make your business sustainable – get it? On terminology, I do prefer ‘sustainable’ over ‘eco’, ‘green’ and the rest because it includes the social aspect (as well as the economic – see Kathleen’s post on the 100-mile suit if you didn’t die from laughing at first reading). An organic cotton sweatshirt sewn in a sweatshop isn’t sustainable, even if the potential for puns is endless, now is it?

    (And if anyone missed it, the third aspect is the environment. But I doubt anyone did. And it’s as important as the other two but it alone won’t sustain your business. Not for long anyway.)

  2. Anne says:

    I have been mulling this over a lot recently, as I am a new eco company as well. Although there has been an explosion of green product lines, they are still the small minority overall, so for the near future it would be to a company’s advantage to broadcast its green-ness. As a shopper, I do check out lines with eco terms in them before others, simply because there are so many lines and it is one way to weed through them all. I agree with Kathleen that a name completely composed of eco terms will soon become dated. A better option may be “[Your Name] [your eco word] Designs.” Once the eco word becomes irrelevant, it can be removed without much notice, as by then everyone will know the line by [Your Name].

  3. Jennifer Michelle says:

    Women who have to let you know how motherhood has impacted their lives, no matter what the topic under discussion may be, do not only alientate men. This has been a pet peeve of mine for years.

  4. Lisa Bloodgood in Portland says:

    Ok, this part might tick off some people here. I have heard from multiple sources that I can’t name off the top of my head that global warming is a bunch of hooey. However, I strongly believe that we need to take care of our planet, be good stewards of it, since we only have one planet anyway. I’m all for stuff being sustainable.

    I recycle all the time and plan to keep my business as sustainable as possible. But what does one do regarding fabric choices? I love silks and feathers and linen and a ton of stuff that isn’t organic cotton or hemp. I mean I like that, too, but I don’t want to base my clothes on just that. There is too much else that I like and will use in my products. I have a lot of fabrics I got second hand, silks included, that I’ve been using. I don’t use real fur.

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