Strike a pose: translation in fashion

Posted on Posted in Translations, What's up?

With the changing of the seasons come changes in our wardrobes! Long gone are the days of strolling along the beach in shorts or sitting in the sun with a sombrero; now we’re reaching out for our cozy coats and woolly hats! But, what does this have to do with translation? Well, constantly evolving fashion requires constant and consistent translation, and at Intrawelt that is exactly what we do!

Fashion translation is a key component of the fashion industry, all terms must accurately describe the products to avoid any misinterpretation (especially for online stores) and the brand image must be protected and projected at all times; a slip-up in translation could be the difference between international success or failure. Technical knowledge of the products is a must for product labels and descriptions as this can be decisive in whether a customer purchases a garment.

However, accuracy is just one of the aspects that must be taken into consideration; creativity is also crucial in fashion translations. Whether it’s a press release, a brand mission, or a product label and description, it has to appeal to the audience. This requires expert understanding of the fashion industry and the client’s brand and image. Fashion is all about expression and engagement, an international point of discussion and conversation topic for many, so the accompanying translations must be as engaging as the products and brands themselves.

One key point of discussion for fashion translation is the use of British English vs. American English. Some fashion-specific terminology that differs between the variants instantly comes to mind: trainers vs. sneakers, trousers vs. pants, and jumper vs. sweater. We asked one of our in-house expert fashion translators if they could shed some light on the subject:

What are the main issues with UK/US English in translation in the fashion industry?

“The main issues are terminology, style and spelling. Managing projects for companies that are
international  is tricky because they may want ‘International English’ but that is hard to define”

International English is defined differently by different organizations but is essentially a variety of simplified English used for cross-cultural communication. But, much like fashion, languages are constantly evolving, often creating another (easily defeated) obstacle; languages borrow from and share with other languages all the time, even between UK and US English there is a constant exchange.

“…in the UK we use more and more US terms so it’s difficult to know what is UK/US anymore [Additionally] there’s the question of an English word being used in the source which may not actually correspond to its correct English definition”

This phenomenon also occurs in other language combinations, for example in an Italian to French product description translation, the Italian word “versatile” (equivalent to the English word “versatile”) in French would be “polyvalent”; instead it is often translated into French as “versatile”, which in Italian is “volubile” (“unstable” or “fickle” in English).

To work around these issues we ensure all translations undergo a rigorous revision and quality management process and each translation is tailored to each client with the choice of either UK or US English being decided after consulting the client and assessing the brand, their image and audience.

Here are some other examples of the differences between UK and US English in fashion translation.

Click through our gallery to find out more!

British English: Knickers
American English: Panties
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Sources: upload.wikimedia.org; flickr.com