Published on January 29, 2014 | by Phoebe White


Languages are ‘essential’ for success in fashion

Student checking words in English/Italian dictionary.

English is not the only fashion language [Andy Fyles]

Fashion students at UAL are being urged to speak at least one language other than English.

Natascha Radclyffe-Thomas, course leader of Access Fashion Business at LCF, says that knowledge of foreign languages is extremely important when trying to forge a career in fashion.

In an interview with Arts London News, she said: “Fashion designers increasingly go abroad to work or are selling internationally – languages can bridge the gap.”

Her comments chime with PR executive Aldo Liguori’s claim that  basic knowledge of foreign languages is essential for anybody pursuing a career in fashion.

Although English is widely spoken worldwide, students aiming for top positions within the fashion industries are expected to know the essentials of at least one other language.


At LCF, MSc International Fashion Management is the only fashion course that has a language and cross-cultural communication unit and, as of yet, there are no combined undergraduate fashion and foreign language courses available in this country.

UAL and other leading universities have language centres that do provide language classes, but not at a cost everyone can afford.

With rising tuition fees, many students and graduates cannot take on the academic and financial pressure of an extra evening course, in spite of their benefits.

Conrad Heyns, course leader for Pre-sessional and Modern Languages at UAL, believes that there is a “great number of courses out there that are very affordable indeed,” and assures students that it is “ultimately very worth it.”

He said: “Being able to speak more than one language is a necessity these days. Living in a globalised world, it quite often means that you have the edge on competitors in the job market.”

Opens doors

Sabrina Hakim, a third year Textile Design student at Chelsea, chose to study Italian to open more doors for her career: “I started studying Italian because I felt that there was an opportunity there to not only learn a new language, but to have another angle when finding employment in printed textiles.”

“Language skills coupled with cultural awareness make a compelling skill set for fashion graduates.” Natascha Radclyffe-Thomas

“As Milan is well known for their focus on heavily printed fashion, I thought it would give me the chance to apply for an internship there,” she added.

Radclyffe-Thomas thinks that UAL has the cultural edge that sets students apart from competitors, even without languages: “We have experiences and ambitions from all over the world, students on work placements internationally; alumni working in the fashion industry anywhere you can think of in the world.”

“Fashion marketers are working with transnational and local fashion brands. Language skills coupled with cultural awareness make a compelling skill set for all fashion graduates.”

She added: “Don’t forget that we have many students at UAL with multiple language skills, who might be happy to act as language study buddies.”


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