Whilst studying for my Translation Masters in London, I had a part time job working for the Spanish fashion retailer – Blanco – Spain’s answer to Topshop.
Over the years, as stores were forced to close down, Spanish clothing companies were beginning to colonize the world.
Despite having to cope with Zara as its main rival, together with Spain’s recent economic crisis, Mango is still prosperous, cementing its stature across the world. This Spanish multinational clothing company, based in Barcelona, has over 850 stores dotted across 81 countries. The Mango founders, Isak and Nahman Andic are among the wealthiest in Spain.
Generating 70% of its profits outside Spain (primarily in China and France), it’s no surprise that Mango’s focus is on international expansion.
Let’s take the French Market as an example. As I mentioned in my recent blog “The Medium and the Message”, when businesses want to make their content accessible to international audiences, they will need localisation and professional translation from a qualified native speaker.
This was obviously not taken into consideration when Mango’s French site was selling jewellery branded “slave style.”
A gold chain which was described as “Style esclave” on Mango’s French website, triggered consumer backlash over the weekend.
Mango issued an apology following the incident and the necklace in question was removed immediately.
Mango blamed the mishap as a translation error. The word “esclava” – which means “bracelet” or “bangle” in Spanish – was translated as “esclave” on the French site, which translates to “slave” in French.
The result: a tornado of vexed and offended consumers.
A basic error like this could have easily been prevented. Whilst some people accept this resulted from a non professional translator or a badly paid job, others are not convinced. In their eyes, this was owing to ignorance and racism.
Racism perhaps, but although this was a scandal for the French public, it appears that “slave style” jewellery is a term that already exists in Italian -“bracciale alla schiava” (which is a cuff bangle but translates literally as a slave bracelet). With Italian and French having common ground as Romance languages, Mango’s French translator might have assumed that it would be acceptable to follow the same path in French.
What do YOU think?
Let’s hope that this will all have been swiftly forgotten in time for Paris fashion week…