Translating Fashion Copy: How it Changes Across Cultures

Fashion model with a pink shirt and creative bow tie


The fashion industry is undoubtedly an international and highly globalised sector nowadays. Nevertheless, fashion brands still need to localise their products, as well as advertising and marketing copy, in order to suit customers’ specific needs around the world.

Fashion translation plays a vital role in this process, especially for luxury brands whose values are inextricably entwined to their marketing and communications efforts. Every single piece of copy must be carefully adapted to the local audience, conveying the right message accordingly to the brand’s tone of voice and personality.

As we’ve already addressed some of the major challenges of fashion translation in general, we would like to dig deeper and explore the fashion world through the eyes of those who experience its cultural influence from a local perspective.

We asked three of our fashion specialist translators – respectively from China, Belarus and Jordan – to share their thoughts and tell us more about their experience in translating for global fashion brands… And we couldn’t resist finding out what AW 14/15 is looking like their part of the world.

Q&A: Fashion and Translation across Cultures

Q: Before we start, we would like you to tell us something about yourself and your experience in translating/writing/editing for the fashion industry.

Sylvia, Chinese market: I’m a 26-year-old editor in a Chinese TV station and freelance writer/translator for the fashion magazine ELLE China. My interest in the fashion field started to develop during my internship in ELLE China, where I discovered the beauty of design and style for the first time.

The sheer creativity and talent involved in fashion, the way fashion people live their lives and their pursuit for beauty impressed me a lot. I see fashion as a way of expressing personal identity, exploring the idea of beauty and pursuing an ever better life. And to this extent it does share some common ground with art and even philosophy.

Katsiaryna, Russian market: I’m Katsiaryna, a Belarussian living in Italy, I’m almost 32. I have 2 linguistic university degrees, the first one from Belarus, the second one from Italy, Bologna. I collaborate as a freelance translator with different agencies, almost exclusively in the fashion/luxury/cosmetics sector. I’ve got my specialization thanks to my loyal customers who literally brought me up as a fashion translator.

Fatima, Arabic market: I’m a 28-year-old freelance translator from Amman, Jordan. I started working in this field two years ago, when I had the opportunity to translate many pieces of advertisement for a famous fashion brand. I just love anything to do with fashion and last trends.

Q: How do you think the fashion industry is seen in your country? Do you think this affects the way you translate/edit/write for fashion brands?

Sylvia, Chinese market: Fashion in China is on an upward track, usually associated with luxury, new, modern and western, and more relevant with the well-educated and affluent class. This is also what needs to be conveyed through translation, for example instead of translating the English/French/Italian designer or label to Chinese, magazines mostly keep them intact.

Katsiaryna, Russian market: I live in Italy, so here I’m immersed in beautiful things (shops, magazines, people…). As for Russia, Russian people like luxury, fashion and visibility. If you are rich you have to show it to everyone. This is why Russian people love very extravagant and finest things. Best of the best.

Fatima, Arabic market: People in my country follow fashion all the time, especially young people who love to be seen as fashionable and trendy. They follow even the brands they can’t afford! Just to be “in”. Of course this affects the way we work, we find ourselves attracting a young target and this requires knowledge of their way of talking and the way they perceive fashion.

Q: What aspects do you think are the most satisfying/interesting and the most annoying about fashion-related translation?

Sylvia, Chinese market: When translating fashion texts, you need to constantly search for the word that best interprets the core meaning and brings up the right association. It’s at the same time satisfying and annoying.

Katsiaryna, Russian market: The most satisfying: fashion is so exciting! And you are always “in trend”, up-to-date! The most annoying: the low rates (especially in Italy), most customers want a “sartorial” style for “nothing”… Even if I like the job, I don’t accept it because of the low rates offered by the client.

Fatima, Arabic market: What I like the most is the ability to be creative and the chance to have a look at new trends before they come to my country! The only annoying thing is that sometimes I find it difficult to convey the tone and meaning in Arabic, especially when the meaning is somehow taboo in my country. I also find it annoying when the client doesn’t give us freedom to create something more suitable for our culture but a bit far from the source.

For instance, one of the most difficult pieces I had to work on was for a lingerie brand, the piece had some words that were kind of taboo in Arabic. It was difficult to come out with an Arabic line that satisfies both the client and the target audience without sounding weird too.


Q: So what everyone is going to be wearing this A/W? What are going to be the top trends in your country?

Sylvia, Chinese market: I think in every country there will be those following magazines and show pieces, and those who just grab randomly from their wardrobe. For those who are “fashion addicted”, this A/W will be 60’s glamour and super-long overcoats.

Katsiaryna, Russian market: Grey colour can be the dominant one. The stylists call it the “new black”. But not only this, there are also colourful prints, military style, sporty chic and knitted wear. Oversize outwear, 70’s style dresses, men’s suits for women. The choice is endless!

Fatima, Arabic market: People in my country will be wearing the new trends, especially young people. Last time I was shopping, the sale associate told me that people are so fan on the coming back of old 70’s fashion. I have also seen different colours, patterns and materials for all tastes and ages.

To discover how we can help you translate your fashion copy, call us on +44 (0)20 7294 7710 or email us at for further information or a quick quotation for your next project.