If fashion had a mother tongue, which one would it be? French, Italian or English? Fashion has “spoken” all of these languages throughout its history and modern times, thus, looking for terms and translating descriptions with “foreign intruders” here and there could be quite tricky. Now and then I come across French or English words in the Italian product descriptions or some French terms in the English source text. Needless to say, that if I hadn’t studied French for a couple of years, it would have been more difficult for me to understand their meaning.
Historically, French is often used in fashion terminology. Some of the terms might sound totally unfamiliar, like “damier”, while some words are well known worldwide: tulle, couture, Chantilly, crêpe de Chine, Trompe l’oeil, and others. If you have good passive knowledge of this language, it is more than enough for you to work in IT-X or EN-X language pair. If your linguistic skills are way better than that, consider adding French to your working languages as it could open a whole new market for you (with brands like Chanel, Dior).
English, the global language of the fashion industry, is used by most of the brands and designers, regardless of the country. Don’t be surprised to receive an English source text from an Italian luxury brand. Nowadays it’s common practice, and sometimes it can help reduce the costs and achieve better quality in terms of procedures and results.
The importance of the Italian language is due to the fact that a lot of major brands and maison (yes, another French term here) are located in Italy. It could be a good idea to master Italian and make it one of your working languages (if you haven’t done so yet) because having this “trio” – English, French, Italian – in your portfolio might turn to be the ace of trumps.