Fritinancy Fashion Week marches into the trenches today with a name that aims for edgy, teeters precariously, and ends up lurching over the cliff.
Edgy names are nothing new in fashion branding. Here in San Francisco, there’s an upscale boutique for men and women called Acrimony. I’ve seen an online store called Dolls Kill, a fashion brand called Skingraft, and, of course, a sneaker called Tampon. And with “street style,” pretty much anything goes.
Which brings us to the nom du jour: Bombfell, a clothing-by-subscription service for men.
Yes, that’s a lit fuse on the mascot’s head. But Bombfell wants us to think metaphorically and word-blend-ly. Care to guess?
Here’s an explanation of the name from the company’s press kit:
I find multiple problems with this reasoning:
1. There are, in fact, corresponding terms for guys: Adonis, Beau Brummel, dandy.
2, The Bombfell portmanteau is clumsy and non-intuitive. Fell is not a recognized abbreviation for fellow, but bomb is a recognized slang term for “failure.”* If you feel compelled to create a word blend based on bombshell, how about Bombshellow? Better yet, why not avoid implications of maiming and destruction?
3. “Bomb fell” is a recognizable, intelligible sentence meaning “explosive weapon descended.” (Try searching for “bombfell” in Google News, but only if you have an appetite for carnage.)
3a. I can’t get past the echo of my mother’s voice: “Clean up your room! It looks like a bomb fell in here!”
4. The consonant cluster in the middle of “Bombfell” is awkward to pronounce. The company’s target customers (nerds, according to a 2012 TechCrunch review) already feel awkward about shopping for – or even thinking about – clothes; and the idea of a monthly subscription at $69 to $199 a month is probably pretty daunting. A tongue-twisting name makes the enterprise seem difficult and off-putting.
5. As my colleague Christopher Johnson would say, it’s an example of awkwordplay: wordplay that fails to delight.
6. As the Brits would say, it’s too clever by half: overly confident about one’s own cleverness to the point of annoying other people.
Bombshell has raised $730,000 from respected investors like 500 Startups. And you’ll find upbeat positive reviews of the service both on the site (where customers are called “Bombfellows” – ouch) and elsewhere. Still, clothing-by-subscription is a tricky sell, and it’s going to take a lot of positive word-of-mouth to save duds-peddler Bombfell from being a dud.**
* True, “bomb” can also, paradoxically, mean “success” (that sense comes from 1960s British slang), and “the bomb” (late 1990s on) can mean “the best.” (Bomb is a slang term for marijuana, too. Maybe that explains “Bombfell.”)
** For more on the dual meaning of duds – clothing and explosive – see my January 2014 column for the Visual Thesaurus.