Canadian retailer Kit and Ace – see my post about the company name here – is adding coffee shops to its boutiques: The first Sorry Coffee opens tomorrow in Toronto. “Sorry” can mean “worthless” or “inferior,” but here it’s “an attempt to poke fun at Canadians — a winking nod to the quick-to-apologize stereotype,” co-founder J.J. Wilson toldthe Star. Be sure to pronounce it the Canadian way: SORE-ee.
One side of a sandwich board in front of the John Fluevog store on Grant Avenue, San Francisco:
“Know You’re Weird!”
The other side:
“No, You’re Weird!”
The resemblance to the “Keep Calm and Carry On” oeuvre is probably not coincidental, but the weirdness and wordplay are pure Fluevog. The Canadian shoe company is weird and proud of it, starting with its name—John Fluevog is the founder and chief designer—and carrying on, as it were, through the merchandise.
Take, for example, this current boot, the Angelina.
The Escarpinhas a ball-and-claw heel inspired by the cabriole legs of Louis XV furniture.
The men’s styles are equally striking.
The Alexander. (A metallic cap-toe oxford? Brilliant.)
Sometimes the weirdness overlaps with pure design genius.
The Neptune, perfect for a gala at the natural history museum or a stroll through the Everglades.
Lots of companies pay lip service to customer service and community, but Fluevog is the rare business that follows through. Its community (or “Flummunity”) includes a marketplace (“Fluemarket”) for secondhand Fluevog shoes and an invitation to submit a shoe design. Quite a few submissions have made the cut. (It’s “open source,” so no one gets paid, but the citizen-designer gets a free pair and the honor of having the design named after her or him.)
I’m a Vogger myself: I own two pairs of Fluevog sandals (these and these), whose styling skews toward the less-weird end of the Fluevog spectrum but is still distinctive enough to elicit admiring comments. (I think they’re admiring.) The shoes are beautifully made and very, very comfortable.
The company has an athleisure*(athletic + leisure) pedigree: one of the co-founders, Shannon Wilson, is married to Chip Wilson, who founded the yogawear pioneer Lululemon. The other co-founder is Chip’s oldest son, JJ. (Chip Wilson, who is an informal adviser to Kit and Ace, “resigned from Lululemon’s board last year, after a disastrous episode involving unintentionally see-through yoga pants,” writes Widdicombe.)
Where did the Kit and Ace name come from? Here’s Widdicombe:
JJ oversees branding for the Kit and Ace line. The name, he explained, refers to two imaginary “muses” that he and Shannon came up with. Kit is the name Shannon would have given a daughter (for Vancouver’s Kitsilano beach, “where all my dreams came true,” she said). “I think of Kit as Shannon in her heyday,” JJ said. “An artist at heart, a creator. A West Coast girl. An athlete.” Ace, her masculine counterpart, is “a West Coast guy. He likes things that are easy and carefree.” He filled out the picture: Ace surfs. “He’s graduated college. He’s thirty-two. He’s maybe dating The One.”
Could Ace be modelled on JJ? His parents teased. “He’s a bit of a pain in the ass!” Shannon said.
“A little pretentious,” Chip said, laughing.
There’s no explanation of the symbol that stands in for “and.”
Besides being plausible personal names, kit and ace have other relevant meanings. Kit can mean “a set of articles or implements used for a specific purpose” (a survival kit; a shaving kit), while ace can mean “expert” or “first rate.” Both words can function as verbs (to kit out, to ace a serve) as well as nouns.
This isn’t JJ’s first foray into retail, or into company names that follow the X + Y formula: He founded Wings + Horns, a menswear company, in Vancouver in 2004.
Kit and Ace sells clothes made from a washable fabric blend the company calls Qemir (sometimes uncapitalized; pronunciation uncertain): 81 percent viscose, 9 percent cashmere, 10 elastene. The company has applied for trademark protection for “Qemir” and for a tagline: “Technical Cashmere.”
In addition to the vulgarism in the title, the movie is notable for its poster design, which is either a homage to or a ripoff of the great designer Saul Bass, who created titles and posters for Vertigo, Spartacus, Anatomy of a Murder, and many other movies. As noted in a recent Reddit thread, the Merry Friggin’ Christmas poster also bears a startling resemblance to the poster for the 2008 Coen Brothers film Burn After Reading. (A Merry Friggin’ Christmas was directed by the memorably named Tristram Shapeero.)
For the Strategy magazine Agency of the Year competition, Canadian marketing agency Cossettepromoted itself with a video that asked a single question: “What the fuck is going on at Cossette?”
NSFW unless you use headphones.
AdFreak called the video “amusing,” and congratulated “people from rival agencies who make cameos here, including Carlos Moreno and Peter Ignazi of BBDO and—at the very end—Geoffrey Roche, who founded Lowe Roche. Other folks making appearances include the Trailer Park Boys, Chris Van Dyke of School Editing and Ted Rosnick of RMW Music.”
Cossette (named for founder Claude Cossette) did not win.
Finally, a greeting card that clearly doesn’t come from Hallmark.
Ski-Doo, the snowmobile brand so widespread that it’s almost a generic term, was never meant to be called “Ski-Doo.” Its inventor, Joseph-Armand Bombardier, had named his creation “Ski-Dog,” because it was meant to replace a dogsled. As a 1992 article in Popular Mechanicsexplains: “Fortunately for Bombardier (pronounced bom-bar-dee-ay), an early brochure was misspelled and a winter legend was born.”
Bombardier, born in 1907 in the rural town of Valcourt, Quebec, had experimented with snow vehicles since he was a teenager. His first attempt, created when he was just 15, used a rear-mounted Model T engine and a wooden propeller. A 1935 prototype employed a sprocket-and-track assembly and floating suspension. In 1942 he founded Bombardier Recreational Products (now BRP); the company still has its headquarters in Valcourt but is now a multinational corporation that makes railway and aerospace parts, Evinrude outboard motors, and Can-Am all-terrain vehicles.
Ski-Dog wouldn’t have been a bad choice for the brand name, but as Ski-Doo the company benefits from the association with “skidoo” or “skiddoo”—to get away, to go out—an early-20th-century slang term that may have been derived from 19th-century “skedaddle.” It’s an appropriate association with fast-moving, terrain-defying vehicles—an association that carried over to the company’s aquatic brand extension Sea-Doo, launched in 1988. “Skidoo” is memorialized in the quaint phrase “23 skidoo,” about which Barry Popik’s Big Apple blog has the last word.
And as the 1992 Popular Mechanics story helpfully points out:
While the name of the most ubiquitous snowmobile was the result of a printer’s error, perhaps it wasn’t really a mistake. After all, there is a relationship between a dog and doo. Perhaps future historians will dig up the truth.
There are no precise equivalents to Tweed outside Canada, where marijuana cultivation and sale are federally regulated.* But even without direct comparison, the Tweed name stands out as multilayered and highly distinctive.
Frissant: A hybrid pastry invented and named by Swiss Bakery (“artisan bread specialist”) in Vancouver, British Columbia. Frissant is a portmanteau of fritter (a small cake that’s sautéed or deep-fried) and croissant (a buttery, crescent-shaped baked pastry).
Frissant photo from SwissBakery.ca: “Frissant is Canada’s cronut on the map! No lineups, no scalping. Just come on in!”
Frissants are the latest invention to capitalize on the modified-doughnut frenzy that began in May with the introduction of the cronut—a fried, cream-filled doughnut made of flaky croissant dough—at the eponymous Manhattan bakery of Dominique Ansel. Ansel—who has filed for trademark protection of “cronut”—makes just 300 cronuts a day, and they sell out quickly at $5 each. As Ben Zimmer pointed out in his Boston Globe “The Word” column and in the Visual Thesaurus, early copycats such as doissant and dossant have lacked the lexical punch, and the publicity bonanza, of “cronut.”
“Cronut” has also benefited from its New York City origins (if you can make it there…). “Frissant” may be doomed to provincial obscurity, but I for one applaud the cleverness of the coinage. Not only does it maintain the Frenchiness of “croissant,” but it also suggests frisson – a thrill, a shiver of excitement – a delectable French word imported into English in the 18th century.
The new name comes from the network’s longtime on-air identification: “Ici, Radio-Canada.” The network’s domain name, currently radio-canada.ca, will change in October to ici.ca.
The announcement “swiftly met widespread condemnation and mockery, especially from those angered over dropping the word Canada,” writes Ian Austen in the New York Times. He adds: “Some online critics, particularly on English-language Web sites, suggested that Quebec separatism was a factor in the new name.”
Coin Branding’s Andris Pone points out that ICI “cannot possibly be a good choice” because the network’s government funding stipulates that programming be “predominantly and distinctively Canadian” and that it be “in English and in French, reflecting the different needs and circumstances of each official language community.” Not only does ICI flout these requirements, the name is also “totally unrelated to the abiding message of the network,” Pone writes.
William Chambers, Radio-Canada’s vice president of brand, communications, and corporate affairs, “said it was all a misunderstanding induced by the network’s ‘enthusiasm’ for its new identity,” according to the Times story. He said the network’s abstract logo – Chambers called it “the gem,” but most people, says the Times, call it “the pizza” – will not change.