Fashion Translation and the Global Apparel Industry

“Fashion weeks” in cities such as Milan, London, New York, and Paris may be legendary, but that’s not really where the fashion industry begins or ends. The true fashion industry is found in all corners of the globe and is worth $1.5 trillion. The industry is growing rapidly. Where’s the most growth coming from?

Of the top 20 growth cities for the fashion sector, 16 are located in emerging markets, according to a McKinsey report. In 2004, these markets had a share of only about 7 percent in the luxury apparel market; today they claim nearly 14 percent, and by 2025, their share will easily reach a quarter of the global market.

Why the Fashion Industry Needs Translation

The need to justify fashion translation is quickly becoming outdated, in the same way as no one today debates the need for a website. Even so, here are some solid reasons why apparel companies must provide multilingual content:

  • Sell to locals using their native language. The present and future growth of fashion will be led by emerging economies. Chief among them will be the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China), Kazakhstan, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. One of the common threads between these countries is language, or rather, that they do not speak the common languages of the Western world. If you wouldn’t think of selling in Spain without Spanish or France without French, why would you think these new markets don’t have their own linguistic preferences?
  • China grows more important for fashion brands each day. In virtually any industry sector today, China holds a lot of importance, thanks to ever-growing demand and accompanying purchasing power. Fashion is no different. Chinese consumers already account for 29% of all luxury goods purchased globally. Needless to say, it’s unthinkable to not cater to China. For a fashion brand that wants to survive and thrive, it could be disastrous to launch e-commerce websites without translating into Chinese.
  • Marketing luxury products requires localization. Do not commit the folly of estimating the power of language, even when dealing with luxury goods. To continue with the example of China, you can see that they account for nearly a third of the luxury apparel market in the world, and yet the Chinese are known for their preference for in-language marketing content. They also use home-grown search engines like Baidu, where you will not show up favorably or at all, unless – you guessed it right – you have translated your website into Simplified Chinese (other Chinese-speaking markets use Traditional Chinese instead). But it doesn’t stop at fashion translation and localization services. Successful global companies understand that they have to transcreate and localize to completely imbibe the local flavor. Fashion leader, Hermès, understood this and launched a localized label, Shang Xia, that intermingles Chinese cultural heritage and 21st century design.  Again, Chinese consumers of hi-fashion are not alone in their preference for translation. Vogue magazine is translated into 15 languages worldwide. Enough said.

Make Fashion Translation Easier with Software

Now you know why translation is a must for fashion content on global websites. But before you begin translating, remember this: even though human translation is best, your translation process shouldn’t be manual.

Cloud-based enterprise translation software has replaced old-fashioned project management via email, excel sheets, and other laborious ways. Translation management is no longer slow, tedious, or expensive. It also has special relevance to the fashion and apparel industry for the reasons below:

  • Preserving brand messaging is very important to fashion leaders. Translation management systems (TMS) can make sure that brand voice is retained, despite translation or transcreation being handled in any part of the world.
  • The fashion industry is fast-paced and content needs to be rolled out quickly and in multiple markets. There could be no better solution than agile translation platforms for such a requirement.
  • Fashion industry content is diverse, and includes marketing content, product descriptions, labels, and more. While some types of content may need professional translation by human beings, others might lend themselves to machine translation, if required. That means you will need localization software that gives you the flexibility in choosing your providers of translation services. The tool you select should be vendor-agnostic, and even allow you to work with your own employees, volunteer community, or machine translation engines, if required.
  • Quality is critical when the brand is on the line.  Translation quality matters extensively to fashion brands. Therefore, custom translation workflows are a must, to map to your company’s specific needs for each market and language. Again, the answer here is a flexible translation tool.

Translation is only the first step in market penetration and global expansion of your fashion business, albeit a very necessary one. There’s no reason why it should be a headache. On the contrary, if done right, translation can be an asset that will help your fashion brand continue to grow in value, for many years to come.