Why So Many Stores Have ‘Fox’ in Their Name
by Amanda Arnold
Does every store in New York want to be sexy like a fox? We investigate the recent fad in nomenclature.
Trite phrases and hackneyed constructions in the names of stores don’t always elicit an investigative report. Rather, they all tend to have a similar origin story: An owner decided it was cool to tie two nouns together with a plus-sign, or an inventive coffee roaster figured out “& Co.” was an easy abbreviation. But what may deserve investigating is the large number of entrepreneurs who have appropriated one warm-blooded mammal’s name to advertise their often hip and pricey goods: the fox.
Were an extraterrestrial to be dropped onto planet Earth and asked to decipher what mankind ostensibly holds sacred, they would, without doubt, list the fox. While this trend seems to have hit New York City especially hard, visit any major metropolis and you’ll notice how many boutiques and high-end services include the animal in their name. In New York, there’s Stone Fox Bride, Brooklyn Fox Lingerie, Fox & Fawn, Fox and Jane, Fox Fodder Farm “floral design studio,” and Fox’s of Brooklyn. Los Angeles has Stone Cold Fox and Stone Fox Swim. New Orleans has Flying Fox. Sydney has White Fox Boutique. Paris has arthur & fox. The major French music and fashion label, Kitsuné, is the Japanese word for fox.
How did the sly creature sneak its way into the name of so many stores?
One of the first major foxy stores to hit the playground of the rich and (sometimes) famous was Kitsuné, which co-founders Gildas Loaëc and Masaya Kuroki opened in 2002. According to their website, they chose the name because foxes are “a symbol of versatility,” perfect for their fashion-music mash-up brand. Kitsuné just “struck them as the most obvious choice,” they say. The fox as a namesake has, without a doubt, lived up to it promise of versatility.
Flying Fox, a handbag store, sells purses to the type of “foxy women” who would go to either “a football game or a Sunday brunch.” Founder Tiffany Napper tells Broadly that though flying foxes are actually the largest species of a flying bat, she finds true foxes to be “much more cuddly than bats” and therefore interesting. New York’s Fox and Jane, a hair salon, describes itself as a “British pub meets upscale salon” and says its name pays homage to famous pubs named after English fables.
One possible explanation for the large number of fox-centric store names may emanate from the fact that foxes are well-known as smart and sexy creatures. Vulpes, or the 12 species of “true foxes,” quite literally run the world—they are found on every continent except Antarctica. Plus, they’ll eat anything, can live in almost any climate, and have beautiful hair. It makes sense that shop-owners want to be associated with the animal that inspired the adjective “foxy”—the animal is objectively cool.
In mythology and folklore, foxes maintain their reputation. In Handbook of Native American Mythology, Dawn Elaine Bastian cites how myths refer to “beautiful but clever and cunning” foxes as good companions, although they can also be deceitful friends who steal your food. In East Asian folktales, foxes (or húli jīng in China, kitsune in Japanese, and kumiho in Korean) are depicted as shape-shifting masters of seduction, often taking the form of beautiful women to deceive men, according to The Ashgate Encyclopedia of Literary and Cinematic Monsters. This is where the themes of versatility and duality come back into play: Foxes are witty and smart, though their cleverness also means they can’t be trusted. So, is the fox’s cunning sex appeal the reason why it’s become such a ubiquitous eponym?
In general, people latch onto animals when coming up with brand names, says Jill Stanewick, a naming director at NYC-based branding and naming agency Tanj, and it goes back to another key theme: versatility. “People gravitate toward animals because it doesn’t pigeonhole the brand,” she says. “They can offer any product or services, because it’s abstract. And if the brand changes over the years, they can still function under this broad name.” However, she also notes the downside of this, which is that when one name becomes especially trendy and people start to notice, it’s more likely to feel dated in a few years.
However, for fashion brands, where everything is du jour and trends dictate their product line, Stanewick says it’s understandable why store owners, subconsciously or not, would choose a trendy animal to represent their company. That, and foxes truly are the coolest.
“Foxes are lovable but also have that spirit that goes well with having independent fashion or style,” she says. “You wouldn’t want a koala or a sloth for a clothing brand. The word ‘fox’ is also just visually and orally appealing. There aren’t a lot of animals that can convey such emotion in just three letters.”