“Come see this blazer I’m thinking of buying,” my friend called to me from across the room. I plopped myself next to her on the couch and she showed me a cute camel colored oversized jacket.
“'Nasty Gal'? You’re shopping on a site called 'Nasty Gal'? Really?”
“Okay, I know the name sounds weird, but some of the clothes are pretty cute!” my friend said, reacting to my raised eyebrows and mocking tone.
Nasty Gal is an online retail store selling items like mesh dresses, crop tops, and platform sneakers. Having originated as an eBay store seven years ago when founder Sophia Amoruso, above, was just 22, the shop grew with a cult following, making just shy of $100 million in revenue in 2012, according to the New York Times.
Because of this success, Amoruso has attracted many venture capitalist firms eager to invest in her company, something she describes to Times as mostly a “bunch of guys sitting around saying, ‘Oh, yeah, let’s start a Web site and put Kim Kardashian’s face on it.’” Amoruso is the CEO of one of the fastest growing online retailers, and it’s impressive and inspiring.
But I still can’t get over the name. Nasty Gal? Really? The sheer act of typing the site's URL into my browser temporarily erases that woman-in-charge image. And taking its place is, well, those of nasty gals. Unprogressive and reactionary outlook? I thought so, too. But I couldn’t help it. The word “nasty” has been conditioned in my mind to be connoted with things dirty and indecent.
After my slightly condescending reaction to my Nasty Gal-loving friend, she signed me up for the Nasty Gal emails as a joke. One of the first emails I received had the subject line "<3 NASTY GAL!" All I could think of was that it seemed like the title of one of those annoying pops-ups I get when I am trying to illegally stream something on Putlocker — except this was at the top of my inbox, and seen by a couple of friends who happened to glance at my laptop and immediately took an amused second look. It was embarrassing. But only for a split-second. I opened the email and showed them the clothes Nasty Gal sells, and Nasty Gal’s wares aren't much more risqué than their counterparts like ASOS, Forever 21, or Urban Outfitters.
On the site, Amoruso explains that she named the company after the song by musician Betty Davis, the second wife of Miles Davis. According to Amoruso, Betty Davis, “the patron saint of badass women, was known for her unapologetically sexy funk music which comprises our vision of femininity — complete with lamé platform thigh-high boots.”
An interesting female icon? I could get behind that, I thought. But then I went to the site’s front page and was met with a brown-haired girl wearing a low-cut blue dress, purple lipstick and text that says Teenage Dream: Your perfect dress is ready to twirl, twist and twerk! It’s an amalgamation of Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus (and her own induced politics around the word twerk), and badgalriri. But all these references don’t match up to one referent.
Yet, they've still managed to build a community of self-identifying Nasty Gals who frequently check the company’s Instagram and Facebook accounts. I find myself thinking, though: If you're going to model yourself after “the patron saint of badass women” and label yourself nasty, shouldn't you try to subvert a once disparaging term? Instead of creating an image of a woman who is strong-willed and willing to break boundaries, they simply encourage shoppers to twerk and twirl much like every mainstream musician. If you're going to name yourself something outlandish and provocative, shouldn't you back-up the claim and promote something that is unconventional?
I don’t think my distaste of Nasty Gal is particularly unprogressive now. As an individual in my 20s, I just don’t want to support the “Nasty Gal” and all the twirl-twerking associated with it.