Internationally yours… Fashion

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.


Fashionpedia – a must-have book for your library

I know we live in the 21st century, and yes, Internet is a great source of information. Yet, have you ever dealt with thousands of photos trying to see that very difference between two types of cuffs? Collars? Dresses?

I’ve been looking for a good visual fashion dictionary for a while now. And finally I found one, on Amazon.

Fashionpedia will never become a dust-keeper in your house. Actually it’s that useful that I doubt it will ever leave your work table. Very well-structured, minimalistic and clear content makes it easy and pleasant to use or simply thumb through. This elegant hardcover edition with a black ribbon marker will make an excellent present, too.

If you are a fashion translator or blogger, this investment will be worth every penny you pay for it.

You can read more about it and watch a video on the official website: Fashionpedia.


Is fashion translation your pair of shoes?

When I think of a newbie translator, the prince from “Cinderella” comes to my mind with his disorganized attempts to find the owner of the glass slippers. With so many areas of specialization to choose from, how can you make sure you’ve found the right one, your ideal pair of shoes?

First of all, you have to be aware of your strong and weak points. If you know your ship from A to Z, you have a higher chance to navigate it safely to the target port, on the condition that you know where it is.

At first, fashion translation may look all the same.

  • What are your working on?
  • Fashion text.
  • Ah, I see.

Yet, this “fashion text” hides many nuances and subcategories, all to be discovered by a newbie translator. In order to avoid bad surprises and costly mistakes, let’s see what kind of texts you might come across, and if they fit your style and knowledge.

The main aspects to consider before taking on a project are your style, terminology, general and specific fashion knowledge.

If your language skills and style are the envy of some experienced fashion writers and bloggers, and your 360° knowledge is enough to publish a 10-volume Fashion Bible, then press releases and fashion magazine articles might be the right choice for you. You’ll definitely feel at ease playing with words. And if you prefer working at your own pace, without EOB-deadlines and pressure, the best solution could be translating fashion books published by specialized houses.

If your style goes from good to excellent, you are a terminology expert and can describe an item on the go by simply looking at it or its photo, then product descriptions are your piece of bread. And if you manage to get a good client base – it’ll get even better.

If you belong to the Y-generation, convinced that briefness is your key to success, then you might be interested in translating banners and newsletters frequently requested by Maison and e-commerce titans. Being precise and concise is difficult. If you can express any idea with just a few words, your work will be highly appreciated by your potential clients. Add Google AdWords exam or some useful SEO courses to your portfolio, and it’s a done deal!

At last, there’s the localization universe where some specific knowledge and skills are required. Shoot for the stars in this paradise for web-guru and masters of words if you are ready to offer a full package of services to your ideal client.

Areas of translation expertise: unusual path

When it comes to choosing areas of specialization in translation, one often gets various pieces of advice, like “Have you got some hobby? Or may be some previous work experience in this or that field? Try going in that direction”. The influence of our hobbies and background on our areas of specialization is indeed huge. Yet, has it ever happened to you that some of your translation projects were SO interesting and fascinating, that you decided to try something out? Now I can safely claim: yes, it has, and it’s one of the most amazing experiences ever.

Few years ago, a promising Italian mosaicist contacted me and asked me to translate her website into Russian. I happily agreed and delivered the project on time with some SEO recommendations as a bonus. I loved her amazing works of art. They truly were a source of inspiration for me. Never could I have imagined that some years later I would be studying to become a mosaicist myself, making small steps at a time: Roman mosaics, micromosaic and mosaic jewelry with “filati”, modern glass mosaics. I’m learning it all and thinking of going to a jewelry school in a year or so. This way I’ll enrich my knowledge and vocabulary as a fashion and jewelry translator and gain valuable hands-on experience in my specialization area.

It’s unbelievable how interesting projects can lead you to a new hobby that becomes an independent area of specialization in itself.

What about you?