Want to inject your brand with some relevance without having to swear off runway shows, change creative directors or announce an oft-completely-random collaboration? Rebrand. That is what no shortage of fashion brands have been doing in the age of the Instagram attention span.
Hedi Slimane notoriously dropped the “Yves” from the title of the Yves Sint Laurent ready-to-wear line during his tenure at the famed Parisian fashion house, in one of more extreme cases in recent memory. More recently, Calvin Klein, Balenciaga, Brioni (under the very-short watch of Justin O'Shea), and Alexander Wang have all switched up the design of their logos, while Coach, Inc. became Tapestry, in a move that aims to distinguish between the Coach brand and its corporate parent company.
We can now add Alyx to this budding trend, but possibly for more reasons that just to garner fashion headlines.
Matthew Williams’ 3-year old brand announced that it is rebranding to a significantly more verbose “1017 ALYX 9SM” ahead of its Paris Fashion Week debut this season. According to a release from the brand, the numerical addition to the name includes a numerical reference to Williams’ birth date and an abbreviation of the brand’s founding studio on Saint Mark’s Place in New York City.
As for what prompted the name change, there has been some speculation. The Wall Street Journal’s Jacob Gallagher is probably the most spot-on in suggesting: “I would assume it has something to do with [trademark]? Why else would you overcomplicate your name like that, esp. after gaining some (some) notoriety?”
Rebranding to avoid potential (or pending) legal complications would make sense. One example: Budding New York-based brand Terez (nee Zara Terez) was forced to drop the "Zara" from its name after the Spanish fast fashion giant initiated legal action, arguing that the Zara Terez name was "likely to create, and has created, confusion in the marketplace as to the affiliation between the parties."
Trademark troubles do not appear to be the issue for Alyx as it stands, as Williams’ MMW SRL has maintained a trademark registration for the Alyx name in the European Union since last year for use on clothing and an array of accessories. The brand was granted a registration last spring for use on clothing and bags after fighting oppositions from the likes of Clinique and German company SIGNA Sports, among others, which asserted that the Alyx name was confusingly similar to trademarks in their portfolios.
Clues, however, are provided by the rights that Alyx currently maintains in the European Union and those claimed its pending trademark application for registration for "1017 ALYX 9SM."
In addition to citing uses of the new name on clothing and various accessories, such as belts and bags, the application, which was filed in March, claims the anticipated usage of the “1017 ALYX 9SM” mark in connection with cosmetic products, such as cologne, body lotion, soaps, and lipgloss. This is almost certainly why the brand is opting to rebrand.
Considering that Clinque's April 2015 opposition appears to have prevented Alyx from registering its trademark in the EU in Class 3 (i.e., for use on cosmetics), after the U.S. cosmetics giant argued that the Alyx mark is too similar to its “Calyx” mark, the name of one of Clinique's fragrances, the new name likely signifies an endeavor by Williams to bank on a beauty range.
Such a collection would not be entirely unheard of. The similarly situated Off-White brand, for instance, recently debuted a fragrance collaboration with Byredo in an attempt to tap into the burgeoning (and oftentimes, more profitable than fashion, as indicated by the various multi-hundred million dollar deals that established fashion brands maintain) beauty market.
Williams, himself, seemed to elude to expansion beyond fashion in a statement about the name change, saying, “Fashion is not just about making clothes. It is an applied art form. It is a way of seeing and an approach to the world. ALYX must be a representation and record of what we believe in.”