Fashion in Translation

Posted by Athena Parthenos

Fashion weeks always take place in big cities such as Milan, London, Paris, and New York, but fashion mostly happens through different distribution channels, the retailers net, and even through languages and translation.

Weird? Not really.

Due to its international appeal, any career in the fashion field requires knowledge of one or more foreign languages besides English. In fact, many people who have successfully built a career in fashion can fluently speak at least two or three foreign languages.

Aldo Liguori, global head of PR at Fast Retailing, the Japanese company behind Uniqlo and Comptoir des Cotonniers, values his language skills (Italian, English, French, Spanish, and Japanese) as a key element in obtaining highly rewarding jobs and adapting to different roles and locations.

Fashion in Translation
The photo is taken from the website sinisha.net

But languages skills are not only necessary to build a brilliant career, they also allow you to increase a company's income and reach new markets and customers.

According to an article published by The Guardian some years ago, "The British Fashion Council has highlighted the power of languages to extend the worldwide reach of UK-based designers and brands. In its latest report, they want to improve the British fashion industry's world standing by focusing more on languages."

This implies that websites, clothes labels, and all other information and marketing materials must be translated into the language spoken in the country products are exported into. Sometimes, translation itself is not even enough, as a website must be localized—that is, its layout must be adapted to the culture of that country and its people.

Let's take, for instance, the Chinese people: they expect everything to be translated into their language, and that’s not so strange if you remember that they even use their own search engine, Badu. Thus, you cannot conquer the Chinese's heart simply by optimizing your website in Google and approaching them in English, especially when the luxury field is involved.

As reported in an article by Tom Hancock in the Financial Times, Chinese consumers buy more luxury goods than those in any other country, and since 2016, they have been buying them directly in China.

"Foot traffic rose in opulent Shanghai malls, Swiss watch sales shot up, and top European luxury brands from Burberry to LVMH reported sharply improved revenues from China in the second half of 2016."

In 2010, Hermès even launched its own Chinese luxury fashion brand called Shang Xia, which sells clothes, shoes, accessories, furniture and décor, and jewelry and gifts, mixing the contemporary taste with the traditional Chinese aesthetics and crafts.

Fashion in Translation

Nowadays, one-third of global sales of luxury goods are made in China; whether in physical stores or through various e-commerce channels, the sales are made in the Chinese language and not in English—another good reason to professionally translate and localize a website or e-commerce platform into Chinese or any other languages spoken by the target market.

We say “professionally” because fashion is often an underestimated field when it comes to translation. Many fashion words have entered our daily vocabulary like glamour, trendy, skinny, or outfit. But translation goes far beyond these common words, and, for instance, you must be aware of the fact that a pair of boyfriend jeans are not your boyfriend's jeans, and you must be able to properly translate this and other technical words.

Translating product descriptions is not such an easy job either. They must be concise, but at the same time, they must convey the idea that lies behind the product and its characteristics, which involves a good dose of creativity. This can be done by a translator specialized in fashion and marketing translations.

On top of that, as we said before, when translating a website, you must acknowledge the fact that it must be localized, and not simply translated—that is, its content, graphics, pictures, and language must be adapted to the culture of the country you are planning to reach.

If you need to localize your website, please check out our localization service here.

Written by Marcella Sartore, Marketing & Communication Assistant @ Athena Parthenos

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