Where does a style-savvy girl have to shop to buy a vowel nowadays? I’m looking at you, BLK DNM, the newish anti-fashion fashion boutique in downtown Manhattan that the New York Times profiled last week. (Reporter Jon Caramanica called BLK DNM “in essence an aggressively priced Uniqlo or Gap for the upper echelon of the invisible.”)
Is BLK DNM texting shorthand for “black denim”? Maybe. Maybe not. Urban Dictionary says “d’n’m” stands for “deep and meaningful.” Perhaps BLK stands for “bulk.” Or “blerk.” Or “bollocks.”
I’d dismiss BLK DNM as a pretentious anomaly if I hadn’t seen evidence that it is in fact part of an annoying trendlet. Let’s take a look:
- BHLDN, which I wrote about a year ago, is Anthropologie’s entry into the wedding-fashion market. As I said in the post, it begs to be backronymed. (“Beware Hardly Literate Dumb Names”?)
- Asmbly Hall, a new boutique on San Francisco’s Fillmore Street, scrounged up enough cash to buy a couple of A’s, but had to cut the E (and an S) out of the budget.
- JNSQ, “the first independent, multimedia style magazine for iPad,” takes its name for French texting shorthand for “je ne sais quoi,” which means “I don’t know what.” How we’re supposed to pronounce the name? Moi, je ne sais pas. The online version of the company, according to a TechCrunch post, is called Jenesqua. Gen-ess-kwa? Donnez-moi un break.
- The Gap is catching the consonantal drift, too. Its new online catalog, Styld.by, “taps fashion bloggers from popular sites including FabSugar, Lookbook.nu, and Refinery29, to style and showcase pieces of Gap clothing,” according to a post on Co.Create, Fast Company’s branding/entertainment/tech blog. (The “by” in the name looks like a country code, but isn’t: the URL is www.styld-by.com. There is no .by country code … yet.) Styld.by was created by a San Francisco agency called AKQA. AKQA doesn’t stand for anything except a certain JNSQ.
Of course, the whole thing started several years ago when tech companies like Flickr, Plnnr, and Dlvr.it (RIP) eliminated vowels to obtain short domain names. It sends one message when a scrappy startup cheats on spelling and quite another when the vowelless name belongs to an image-conscious fashion brand. By belatedly jumping on the bndwgn, are retailers trying to sell us austerity? Or are they just moving too fast to vowel up?