They say "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet"… but would a Chanel suit still have that je ne sais quoi without that label that seems to suggest, "Coco Chanel touched this"? In the world of high fashion, names like Gucci, Prada or Versace are everything—but not every collection is named after the designer mind behind it. We've gone in search of the story behind more nebulous designer names like Marchesa, Rag & Bone and Proenza Schouler, to find out what's really in a designer name.
British designers Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig named their brand Marchesa after the early 20th century Italian heiress Luisa, Marchesa Casati Stampa di Soncino. The name evokes the lavish spirit of the famously well-turned-out socialite who once said, "I want to be a living work of art"—which is a fitting description for Hollywood favorite Marchesa's elegant gowns.
Elizabeth & James
By the time they were designing their own runway-ready collection, the Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen name was already so valuable, they could've just stuck with it. Instead, they re-branded their fashion line with the moniker Elizabeth & James. Though the brand shares a name with their now-famous little sister, Elizabeth, and their younger brother, James, the twins have stated that the name wasn't inspired by anyone in particular but rather "a clash between masculinity and femininity." As Mary-Kate explained to WWD in 2007 when they created the line, “We wanted it to be based on a relationship between a young girl and a boy and tell the story through clothing."
When New York-based designers Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough sold their first collection to Barneys in 2002, they contemplated combining their last names, but Hernandez McCollough didn't have the high-end ring they were looking for. They settled on a combination of their family names (Proenza is Hernandez's mother's middle name and Schouler is McCollough's mother's maiden name), although they have since said that their name is "one of their biggest regrets." That's probably because it's often mispronounced. If you want to sound like a fashion pro, take note: it's Pro-en-za Skoo–ler.
Rag & Bone
American designers David Neville and Marcus Wainwright pulled from the British history books when they chose the name Rag & Bone in 2002. The brand is an homage to the "rag-and-bone man" who a century ago was known to come around to collect and recycle unwanted junk and cast-offs. The brand's bio states, "As an homage to their pioneering ingenuity and conservation, Rag & Bone derived their name from this legendary practice."
Every fashionista is familiar with designer Max Azria's name, but what about those four letters tacked onto the front? BCBG stands for the French slang "bon chic bon genre," which means something like, "good style, good attitude," and refers to the class and taste of the stylish upper class of Paris. In French, the term has the same connotations as the English terms "old money" or "preppy," which fits Azria's description of the brand as a "true combination of European sophistication and American spirit."
Cult brand Opening Ceremony's name was actually suggested by a friend of designers Carol Lim and Humberto Leon. It's a reference both to their obsession with the Olympic games and the line's sporty, worldly vibe. Most of all, though, Lim told Teen Vogue that she likes it because it's a name you can't make fun of.
Alice + Olivia
You might imagine that there are two super-cool chicks named Alice and Olivia behind this brand, but the womenswear line is actually the brainchild of one designer, Stacey Bendet Eisner. Bendet Eisner has two daughters, but if your next guess is that the brand is named after them, think again—they're Eloise and Scarlet. Actually, the line was created in 2002 by Bendet-Eisner and her then-partner, Rebecca Matchett, and they named it after their mothers.
While the word "acne" might not conjure images of high fashion, the Swedish brand famous for its denim told the Wall Street Journal that they chose the name to be deliberately off-putting. (It was the subversive 90s, after all.) The name is an acronym which stands for Ambition to Create Novel Expression, but creative director Jonny Johansson says that he was so embarrassed by the name that he didn't want to call the bank. "I don't know if I like it now either," he says.
Though there's Internet speculation that Italian designer Consuelo Castiglioni named her brand Marni after her sister, she said in an exclusive interview with Savoir Flair that the line is actually named after the nickname of her husband's sister, Marina. Either way, it's all in the family.