Monday, October 18, 2010

Discussion: Name Brands as Description

Yesterday, as I was reading Jane Lindskold's Thirteen Orphans, I came across a section where one of the POV characters, an elderly lady, was described as wearing a Chanel suit. I came across a similar description in Louise Marley's Mozart's Blood. Other urban fantasies often drop brand names when describing the protagonist's clothing; most often, these are high-end brands.

As a reader, I don't get much out of these descriptions. Sure, the Chanel label carries a certain cachet, evoking not just wealth, but a classic sense of style. But I'm not familiar enough with fashion to look at someone in real life and say, "Oh, she's wearing a Chanel suit." I'd notice color and styling, perhaps maybe even figure out the material, but unless the label is plastered all over the suit, I'd be clueless. Maybe there are readers out there who can do this; I could be the odd woman to lack this ability, since I don't dress up for work and don't read fashion magazines. Even so, I'd personally get a better visualization out of "a pink silk suit" or "a black suit with big gold buttons" than a brand name.

I'm interested in hearing other's thoughts on this. How do you feel about using name brands as descriptions of clothes? Do you find it helpful or not when you find them in books you read? If you were reading an e-book (I know not everyone likes them, but please bear with me for a moment) and came across a brand name that linked to an ad for that piece of clothing, would you find it annoying? If you were the author of that book, would you drop name brands as another source of revenue?

9 comments:

Misha said...

I think it depends. For example a money-orientated character will note exactly which lables she is wearing.

If necessary, I say that something is designer without naming lables. In Doodways it was pretty important that Callan's dress is a hand-made designer when she gets kidnapped. It has to do with the world I created. So I make a point of mentioning the fact early on. But it hardly matters to her who made it. So the name doesn't appear. Although I think I know who the designer was...

:-)

Maria Zannini said...

If someone dropped names I don't think I would even notice. Those things don't even register with me.

As a reader I probably would be annoyed if someone were trying to sell me something. But then I don't have to click on the link.

The only exceptions I would make is if it were for a charity or foundation.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Misha, good point about POV. In the examples I cited, the characters seemed wealthy enough that they could afford more than one designer suit. It might seem more natural if they specified which particular suit they were wearing.

Maria, I'm with you in not wanting ads in my fiction. Even if they were to support a charity, I wouldn't want them in the story itself; that would disrupt the flow. They might work in an Afterword from the author, though.

Mary said...

Certain designer names, like Chanel, can show a personality type. Chanel usually says classic elegance but can also infer a certain amount of snobbery - an elitist attitude.
Ads in a book I'm reading would be a real turnoff. I even hate those little cards in magazines and some paperbacks!

nomadshan said...

When I come across a description like that I know that one of two things is happening: (1) I'm not the market for the book, or (2) the described character is out of my league.

I do read ebooks and would be annoyed with links in fiction works, especially if they led to a buy page. I'd be a bit more forgiving of a nonfiction work that linked to informational or product websites.

Pk Hrezo said...

Oh! I'd find it SO anoying. I would absolutely HATE to get ads while I was reading something.. and I love my eBooks.
It doesn't really bother me to read label name droppings, but I don't think it's necessary unless fashion is a major part of the story.

Kelly Dexter said...

I don't usually think twice about the dropping of name brands, so I guess it's safe to say it doesn't bother me. Ads, however, would be a different story . . .

Quinn said...

No ads for me.

As for the brand names ... Misha beat me to it.

If your character would care, then yes you should use the brand name. I think the biggest part of this is just the name. The fact that you care that your suit is Chanel or Versace or Gucci or Armani says something about you.

I do pay attention to fashion, but even I don't know everything and the brand name wouldn't add much, except to tell me that the character cares. I mean, I know that Chanel conveys a clear message. The other designers and names, I'm not sure they carry as much of a connotation.

Sarah Bromley said...

I'm not one that usually gives the brand name. Why wouldn't saying "The man was dressed in a chic, Italian suit" evoke the same image as "The man was dressed in an Armani suit"? I am, however, guilty of often putting my YA characters in Chuck Taylors for shoes, but for me it's not the brand but the style of the shoe. That's a far cry from being okay with a clickable link to the Converse website in an e-book. I'd find that far more distracting.

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