The French Fashion Brands You’re Pronouncing Wrong – And Why

Marine Ferrier, native French speaker and Project Manager at Talking Heads, takes a look at the French brands many people are getting all wrong – and why it’s so difficult to get the pronunciation right!

" French fashion houses are notorious for having their brand names mispronounced across the globe. There are many different ways in which these brands are pronounced... But the majority of those pronunciations are actually incorrect, which may come as a surprise to many. How many have you been pronouncing right or wrong all these years?

Brands and their correct pronunciations:
Lanvin: lahn - vahn
Hermès : er-mess
Louis Vuitton: loo-ee vee-ton
Givenchy: jee- van – shee
Balmain: bahl – mahn

Realised you’ve been pronouncing your favourite brands wrong all these years? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! A study by etiquette enthusiasts Debretts revealed that the majority of us are mispronouncing fashion brands without knowing it.

What’s Making So Many Of Us Mispronounce These Brands?
The key reason for everyone’s misunderstanding is that you are attempting to read another language. As a native French speaker, I see the way it is spelt and hear the sound in my head differently to speakers of other languages.

Spelling is used in every language to indicate the sounds we should make when sounding the word aloud. For example, in English, vowels change their sound depending on the letters around them. The word “chose” is pronounced “ch-oh-se” where as adding an extra “o” changes the sound to “ch-oo-se”.

The same method is used in French, only the spelling/pronunciation rules are different. As not everyone is a French speaker, you will naturally find yourself trying to apply your own native language rules when trying to decipher how the French names are pronounced, hence the mistakes.

Here are some of the French rules for spelling/pronunciation to help you understand how to pronounce the names of fashion houses you know and love:

  • The “in” and “ain” is always pronounced as “ahn”. As in Lanvin and Balmain.
  • The “h” at the beginning of French words is aspirated (known as “aspirés” in French) and is therefore not pronounced.
  • When there is an ‘s’, ‘t’ or ‘e’ at the end of a French word, it’s usually not pronounced. This is called an “une letter muette” (“mute letter”) in English. So “Louis” becomes “loo-ee”, not “Loo-is”.
  • “Oui” is always “oo-ee”.
  • “Ui” is always “uu-ee” – it’s a shorter and quicker sound that the above “oo-ee”.
  • “G” is always pronounced “j” – a soft sound. However, if it is followed by vowels U, O or A, the pronunciation is “g” – a hard sound.

Contact me if you have any questions about my native language"

À bientôt, Marine.