I’m researching a longer piece on “plus” in branding, from plus size to Nic+Zoe to all those +-suffixed streaming services. Along the way I stumbled on a couple of new plussed-up brands with unusual naming stories.
Deceased cattle may technically qualify as “dead stock,” but on a ranch or farm, deadstock is the opposite of livestock in a different way: It refers to equipment and implements.
The deadstock on Carol Young’s site is “dead” in the sense of “previously manufactured but unused.” Here’s an excerpt from a deadstock explainer published in September 2019 by Techpacker, a Brooklyn company that helps companies make samples quickly:
Deadstock fabrics are textiles which are sitting around as leftovers and are not part of a plan for immediate or future use. For example, it could be the leftover fabric of a fashion brand’s collection or it could also refer to unused textiles from movie sets or fabric mills.
Deadstock fabric is also known as overstock, surplus or jobber fabric; they all mean the same thing.
This sense of deadstock has been in use for centuries. Here’s the relevant entry (under dead) in OED:
c. Of goods: Lying unsold, unsaleable, for which there is no market.
1670 J. Dryden Tyrannick Love v. i. 64 And all your Goods lie dead upon your hand.
1879 C. Hibbs in Cassell's Techn. Educator IV. 263/2 A large quantity of finished articles lying as dead stock in the market.
In the niche market of athletic-shoe collecting, however, deadstock has a different and specific meaning that began emerging in the early 2000s. A June 2005 Urban Dictionary entry gives a terse definition:
Brand New. Never worn, Never Tried and would usually include a box for the shoes.
Unlike deadstock fabrics, which may have been sitting unremembered for years in a musty warehouse, deadstock shoes are often bought with the intention of future resale at a profit.
Analysts predict the global sneaker resale market will reach $30 billion by 2030; last summer investment bank Cowen estimated the U.S. resale market was worth $2 billion in North America alone. Apart from Supreme, the hottest merch “collab” (usually indicated with an “x,” for example, Supreme x Comme des Garçons) a brand can score is with Nike (Adidas comes in second). Unworn Jordans, Airs, and Dunks — called “deadstock” — are the gold standard of the resale economy — and, really, as liquid and versatile a global currency as a U.S. dollar or a euro, “a bona fide asset class” as Bloomberg Businessweek put it recently. In marketplaces like StockX — founded in 2015 and now valued at over $1 billion — Stadium Goods, and GOAT a valuation of any given shoe can be obtained instantly.
Hat tip to Colin Morris, who posted the Marker link on the ADS-L listserv. He also found an 1897 instance of deadstock being applied to unsold clothing offered for resale in Laotian shops: “felt hats of various antiquated shapes, hard and soft, the deadstock of the shops of Bombay, Calcutta and London.”
In January, Opening Ceremony—the New York City-based “innovative retail environment and global brand retail experience bridging the worlds of style, travel, and culture”—announced it would be closing all of its locations in New York, London, Los Angeles, and Tokyo. The company, which was founded in 2002 by college friends Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, introduced style-savvy customers to labels like Proenza Schouler, Alexander Wang, and Rodarte, as well as to its own designs. It was acquired by New Guards Group, which is owned by the global e-retail brand Farfetch (another interesting name, no?).
This month’s book recommendation is Uncanny Valley: A Memoir, by Anna Wiener, who, as a twenty-something in 2012, left a low-paying publishing job in New York to work in the world of San Francisco tech startups. Until she moved across the country, she writes, it had never occurred to her “that I might someday become one of the people behind the internet, because I had never considered that there were people behind the internet at all.”She goes to work for company founders even younger than she is, managing millions of dollars of seed money and wearing “startup twinsets, branded hoodies unzipped to reveal T-shirts with the same logo.” Wiener’s voice is original and unforgettable: a mixture of skepticism and gullibility, of clarity and befuddlement. San Francisco is “an underdog city struggling to absorb an influx of alphas.” (Perfect.) San Franciscans, “living in neighborhoods where every other storefront had a pun in its name, were corny.” (True, alas.) Notably, Wiener declines to identify by name any of the companies she works for or near: they are, instead, “the social network everybody hated,” “an app for coupon-clipping,” “the online superstore” with the “chelonian” founder (a word I had to look up).
For more on the “uncanny valley” of the title—in tech, it refers to the dropoff in humans’ acceptance of robots when those creations’ appearance becomes eerily lifelike; in Wiener’s book, it also refers to Silicon Valley—see my December 2009 post.
There was a time, not so long ago, when brands avoided the word secondhand, with its overtones of “second class” and its toxic whiff of “secondhand smoke.” If they had to broach the subject of non-newness, they used tech-sounding words like upcycling—Cambridge Dictionary’s word of the year for 2019—or coy circumlocutions like nearly new. Or they opted, as Stan Carey notedin a 2011 blog post, for euphemisms like preloved or even experienced—as in “experienced cars,” the winner of William Safire’s 1979 Language Prettification and Avoidance of Ugly Reality Award.
Lately, though, plain-spoken secondhand (sometimes spelled second-hand) has been reclaimed with something like pride. “As the secondhand apparel market booms, used clothing is becoming an acceptable holiday gift,” reads a November 27, 2019, headline on CNBC.com. In the UK, the Oxfam charity promoted #secondhandseptember. In the US, the giant online reseller thredUP—whose tagline is “Secondhand clothes. Firsthand fun”—is behind the catchy hashtag #secondhandfirst. (More than 170,000 Instagram posts use that hashtag.) In August, thredUP announced partnerships with JCPenney and Macy’s to sell secondhand fashion in the department stores.
Secondhandis even the title of a new book by Adam Minter with the subtitle “Travels in the New Global Garage Sale.” (Listen to or read a Fresh Air interview with Minter here.)
Maybe it’s because I was reading The Fifth Risk, Michael Lewis’s 2018 book about how the current administration in Washington is “government led by the uninterested,” as NPR put it, but my first response to the announcement last week of the Fifth City makeup brand was: What are the first, second, third, and fourth cities?
It could have been worse: They could have called it Fifth Place.
Women’s-wear retailer Anthropologie is launchinga new “inclusively sized” (women’s 16 to 26) collection today. The collection’s name is clear, simple, and elegant: APlus.
Anthropologie’s last foray into fashion sub-branding was the misbegotten BHLDN, which I wrote about in 2011. I am happy to report that APlus is a vast improvement: The capital A evokes the parent brand, and the “plus” in this context is positive rather than pejorative. My favorite label for this category remains Alexander McCall Smith’s “traditionally sized,” but APlus gets a high grade from me, too.
(For more on the use of “plus” in retail – you may be interested to know that at one time in U.S. history the category was called “stout” – see my 2015 post “Plus Is Equal.”)