The thing is, we read these names all the time. We know their look, their shows, their controversies but rarely do we hear the names being said aloud. Fashion pronunciation can be a trap. One, I’m ashamed to admit, I’ve occasionally fallen victim to.
Once upon a time, when moonlighting as a fashion commentator for a morning television program, I’d be called on to talk about celebrity red carpet events and the minutiae of every dress, bag, hairdo. Being a live program, I was often only given my talking points just before going on air. The notes would come through while I was in hair and make-up (do I need to iterate this is an outrageously first world problem?) and I would panic-Google who the designers were. However, on a couple of occasions, while I was internally prepped, I probably wasn’t audibly.
When the camera light turned red, the host would turn and ask for my opinion. In a sudden heart-palp, I’d second-guess myself. Was Rodarte definitely pronounced Ro-dar-tay? Or is it Ro-dart with a silent ‘e’? Am I going to sound like an idiot? I knew it was Ro-dar-tay but in a sweaty, sudden backdown, I’d shoot for caution, omit the label and instead say something about the gown’s lace/tulle/feathers/swan-attachment.
Knowing your Balmain’s from your Balmarrrrn’s is essential to speaking fashion out loud.
Last week my mispronunciation shame returned. Badly. While having lunch with a colleague I made the faux pas of pronouncing fashion label Loewe as “Low”. I know. My friend put his head in his hands and schooled me quickly. Yikes. Can I blame being home with a toddler for the last two years? Probably not. Still, I think it’s better than the time I was in a meeting with a media exec who (several times) confidently pronounced Kanye West as Kane West.
Knowing your Balmain’s from your Balmarrrrrn’s is essential to speaking fashion out loud. Some names are French, some are Spanish, some are Italian and some are not as farshunnly pronounced as many think (read: Ralph Lauren).
So, here’s your cheat sheet for the trickiest names in the designer world. Save it, screen shot it, memorise it, and if you’re ever caught on live television, or just chatting fashion at lunch, you’ll be well-prepared.
Loewe. Pronounced lo-weh-ve
Yes. This super-chic design house is Spanish and my inspiration for an enunciation brush-up. Leave the “Lowes” of the world to those footy-jersey stores at Westfield…
Balmain. Pronounced bal-marrn
Sounds a bit eye-roll when you say it but trust us, it’s correct. Bal-MAIN is a suburb in Sydney’s inner west, not the name of the new square-shouldered blazer you bought from Net-A-Porter.
Christian Louboutin. Pronounced Christian loo-boo-tan
The high heel hero is as famous for red soles as for a plethora of bad pronunciations. People tend to emphasize the ‘Bou’ syllable but there’s no need.
Givenchy. Pronounced jzhiv-on-shee
This confusing mash of letters makes a “shh” sound but with a bit of a “zz” vibrato. Look, the most important thing here is to not say something like give-ench-chee. Which I heard more than a few people say after the Royal Wedding when referring to Meghan Markle’s gown.
Comme des Garçons. Pronounced comb dey gah-sown
The label famous for the happy little heart appliqué (and 40 years of the world’s most avant-garde couture) is a Japanese brand named after a French song lyric from the 70s. It translates to mean “like boys”.
Hermés. Pronounced er-mez
Do NOT say this word phonetically. It will sound like a nasty disease. Also, in case you didn’t know, if you want to type an accent on a letter, just hold the letter key down for a couple of seconds.
Ralph Lauren. Pronounced Ralph Lauren
Straight up. Ralph as in Ralph Wiggum and Lauren as in Lauren Conrad (sorry). It’s not lau-REN as many people still project.
Lanvin. Pronounced lahn-vahn
Any other way and it can sound like a supermarket-brand moisturiser. It also doesn’t need either syllable emphasised. It’s the surname of Jeanne Lanvin who founded the French label back in 1889.
Yves Saint Laurent. Pronounced eve san lau-ron
While it might look like something Kim and Kanye will call their next child, this one is French and requires your best accent effort. And don’t worry about the Yves anymore, Hedi Slimane deleted it!
Proenza Schouler. Pronounced pro-en-zuh skool-er
Guaranteed you’ve been getting the first part right, but just remember in the second the “sch” is a sharp “k” sound, not a “shh”.
Louis Vuitton. Pronounced loo-ee vee-ton
It would be wonderful to survey the assistants in LV stores worldwide to ask the different pronunciations they’ve had over the years. We’d bank on Lewis Vooton and Louise Vitton being up there.
Moschino. Pronounced mos-key-no
Similar to Proenza Schouler, this is a not a ‘shh’ pronunciation. It sounds a little like mosquito. That’s an easy way to remember it.
Rochas. Pronounced ro-shar
This one does go by “shh”. It’s a soft sound, otherwise it can sound a little too much like “rocker”. The “s” is silent. Rochas is another century-old French fashion house that derives its name from founder Marcel Rochas.
And while we’re at it, here’s how to pronounce some of fashion’s most prolific creative directors’ names too. If you know the brands, it’s worth knowing the honchos:
Miuccia Prada (Prada and Miu Miu) miew-cha prah-dah
Nicolas Ghesquiére (Louis Vuitton) nee-ko-la jes-ke-air
Hedi Slimane (Celine) ed-ee slim-ahn
Demna Gvasalia (Balenciaga and Vetements) deem-nah vas-ah-liyah
Anthony Vaccarello (Saint Laurent) an-to-nee vah-ka-reh-lo
Raf Simons (Calvin Klein) rauph see-mons
Riccardo Tisci (Burberry) rik-ar-do tish-ee
Pierpaolo Piccioli (Valentino) pier-paolo pea-shioli