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A Lesson in “Fashionable Linguistics” for Fashion Week

Updated on February 28, 2017

What challenges are there for translators working in the fashion industry?

With so many cultures and languages melding together, fashion is one of the most international businesses there is. Supermodels and designers travel to – and from – all corners of the earth to show off the latest trends in fashion. When languages differ, they rely on translators and interpreters to deal with clients, reporters, photographers, and more. Interpreters deal with real-time discussion between parties, while translators work with industry documents or in the production of commercials, magazine articles, and marketing materials. This might involve audio and video translation, subtitling, and voice overs. But the variety of work is not the only challenge that fashion translators have.

Staying Up-to-Date

Because fashion is all about the “here and now,” fashion translators must keep up on current trends, lingo, and attitudes. Translation is not necessarily a word-for-word transliteration; rather, skilled translators are able to convey the meaning and feel of the original language text. This requires a strong sense of culture; that is, the culture of both languages being translated, as well as the culture of the fashion industry itself.

Invisible but Invaluable

Chances are, if you’re not working with them, you won’t notice translators among the crowds at Paris Fashion Week. Interpreters may be more obvious, as they will be on hand near the designers, models, and producers who are centre-stage. On the other hand, fashion translator Galina Green calls herself and fellow translators, “the invisible link in the chain” that holds together a designer’s vision across languages.

They may not be “on the job” at Global Fashion Weeks' (their work has come before the show, translating marketing material and recording voice over for the event), but many fashion translators will likely be there among the crowds. They take time, often unpaid, to learn about textiles, design, manufacturing, and more – all so that they are better able to translate information for their fashion designer or fashion magazine clients.

So if you happen to be attend any of the fashion week events this year then keep your eyes – and ears – open for the different languages you will hear spoken. You might just overhear some fashion translators, busily discussing fashion language and taking notes on new trends that will need the perfect translated phrasing.

Fashion Translators

Fashion translators have to be very meticulous with what they use as a single word can emit an emotion and association beyond its literal translation and it is not always possible to convey this. When a brand expresses its personality to their audience, the words, language and tone used is a majorly important. There could be two words that seem to mean the same thing but there is a reason one word has been selected over the other.

Emotional Words
Intellectual Words

When you take into consideration cultural or religious externals things can get pretty tricky. A fashion journalist describing a new lingerie line in Arabic may come with its own set of issues, addressing taboo topics or unapproved language for example. Yet the translator doesn’t want to strip the brand from its original message and deliver something that’s false. Both the brand and the audience need to be considered, and it’s not always as easy as you think.

London Fashion Week Spending

With the fabulous smell of London fashion week still lingering in the air (or is the just an overkill of Chanel no.5?) we wondered, how did the event do post Brexit? Drapers Online informed us that sales in the district were up 1.5% since last year and even better for department stores, which were up a whopping 5.2% from 2015. It seems the Chinese are the latest demographic to be noticed in the industry their spend was up 65% since August last year. To put that into perspective the Chinese shopper spent an average of £1,453.


The Language We Use

Although English still dominates the language used during fashion week whether it be in London, Milan or Paris, the need for a fluency in other languages is growing. Yes, it is possible to ‘connect’ with colleagues or future partners in Milan or Paris in English but being able to communicate with them on a deeper level and in their own language will put you ahead of the competition. Native English speakers are known for their laziness when it comes to speaking a second language so making the effort on conjugating your verbs in a foreign language will give you extra bonus points.

Learn Some Essential Italian Phrase for Milan Fashion Week

Did you know you can get any of your fashion videos subtitled or add a voice over in any language.There are many ways expert translators can get your message across. Check out an example of a subtitle project in Mandarin for Mulberry brand below.

© 2016 Jade Robertson


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