Quick: How do you pronounce Proenza Schouler? (That last name sounds like ‘schooler.’) Dries Van Noten? (It’s actually ‘drees.‘) And Rodarte? (That would be ‘row-dar-tay.’) There’s no shortage of designers with terrifyingly tongue-twister names—Mary Katrantzou, Maison Martin Margiela, Ann Demeulemeester, to name just a few—and pronouncing them wrong can be fashion suicide. But sometimes, pronouncing them correctly (outside of the fashion world, at least) can feel akin to ordering “pommes frites” at Burger King.
"Laaahn-vaaahn. That's a painful one to say correctly," said a colleague when I asked her which designer names she feels silly pronouncing. "It can feel pretentious. There's a happy medium between mispronouncing it and sounding like a pretentious asshole. Like in Showgirls, when she says 'Ver-saise' —you don't want to say that, but you don't have to go all 'VAHRE-sah-shee.' Just say it. It's like on the Food Network when Giada overpronounces 'pasta.'"
When I'm not on a fashion shoot or talking with industry folks, pronouncing 'Givenchy' (it's 'zjee-vohn-shee') and 'Prabal Gurung' (it's really 'goo-roong') can feel a bit like I'm teetering on that line of pretension. Same goes for Louis Vuitton (it pains me to say 'vwee-tahn'). I'm not French. I don't have a French accent, even after nearly 10 years of taking French in school. And most people have become accustomed to hearing it called 'Loo-wee Veh-ton,'—as in, rhymes with 'baton'—so in a group of people, I'm the one who sticks out like a sore thumb with my put-on Franglish.
Yes, the line between pronouncing designer names correctly and going all "Merci, mon amor! J'adore Vweetahn!' is pin-thin. But it's arguably much worse to completely butcher a name (see: poor Jessie Spano in the video at the top of the post). So I've rounded up of the best places to get your "Is it 'Air-mez' or 'Air-may'?" questions answered once and for all. Just remember Giada.
1. This Bazaar Cheat Sheet, including how to say Hervé Léger, Junya Watanabe and Rochas.
2. And Bazaar's Cheat Sheet Round 2, with additions like Behnaz Sarafpour, Cushnie et Ochs and Ermenegildo Zegna.
3. This one gives you emphasis points, too, which is helpful when it comes to names like Raf Simons. Plus, they have a handy illustration of the age-old question: Is it Ralph Lauren or Ralph Lo-REN? (It's 'Lauren.')
4. Let's take it one step further: Audio guides! I could listen to her say 'Jean-Charles de Castelbajac' all day.
5. And the best one out there? This video below, in which the girl sounds smart and not at all try-hard. Très bien!