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How to Pronounce The Top 10 French Luxury Brands

How to Pronounce The Top 10 French Luxury Brands

The iconic fashion houses of Paris are the last word in extravagance. But have you ever wondered if you’re pronouncing those luxury French brands correctly? If you can’t wait for the endless perfume adverts at Christmas, here’s a guide to help.

une marque

a brand name

French Luxury Brand Name Pronunciation Guide

French luxury brands pronunciation

Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton is forever associated with their emblematic handbags displaying the distinctive LV monogram.

Louis Vuitton

/lou-ee vou-ee-ton/

Founded in Paris in 1854 by Louis Vuitton, the definitive French fashion brand has grown into the monolithic LVMH brand, home to the equally famous Moët (champagne) and Hennessy (cognac) names.

Under the leadership of mega-billionaire Bernard Arnault, Louis Vuitton has evolved into the most valuable luxury empire in the world.

Louis, the name of France’s 16 Bourbon kings, remains a popular name despite how things played out for number 16. It sounds like “Loo-ee,” with a silent s.

Vuitton works best with a French accent. The u is almost silent but does factor into the pronunciation. Try saying “Vee-ton” or “Vwee-ton,” and you’ll match most French speakers.

If you want to sound more French, emphasize the final syllable with a heavy “ton.”

Who better to show us how than Bernard Arnault, who mentions the French brand within seconds of an interview with CNBC.

Louis Vuitton
David Adam Kess, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Chanel

Monograms are the hallmark of a French fashion brand; Chanel has the fabulously famous intertwined CC for Coco Chanel.

Chanel

/shah-nehl/

Gabrielle Chanel, known to her friends as Coco, was one of France’s most acclaimed designers and a shrewd businesswoman. She opened a hat shop in 1910 and transformed it into a marquee fashion house known for its No.5 perfume, prêt-à-porter (ready-to-wear) fashions, and high-end accessories.

Whisper it, but this legendary French fashion brand recently relocated across the English Channel to London.

Despite hints of irony, Chanel does not sound like “Channel.” Instead, like many other French words that open with Ch, this part is pronounced “sh.” And the a sounds like a short, sharp “uh.”

The result is a word that sounds like “Shuh-nel.” It’s utterly gallic sounding, like so many other French words that start with ch, including the apropos chic.

Chanel
Enric, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Christian Dior

This haute couture brand was launched with pizazz after World War II by the already-renowned fashion designer Christian Dior.

Christian Dior

/kree-stian dee-or/

He quickly built a name with a fabled fashion show in 1947 that became known as the “New Look,” when the Anna Wintour of her day (Carmel Snow, editor of Harper’s Bazaar) declared, “It’s such a new look!

Today, the luxury French brand has been consumed by the sprawling LVMH empire yet retains a reputation for revolutionizing women’s fashion, from streetwear to elegant high fashion.

Better known as Dior, this is another name that would sound curious with English phonetics. For the Parisian effect, say “Dee-aw”. For added accuracy, sound it like one syllable pushed together.

You can say Christian as we all say it. Yet all fashionistas simply say Dior when talking about the revered fashion legend.

Yves Saint Laurent

Yves Saint Laurent was a protégé of Christian Dior and parlayed his experience into a renowned French brand with business partner Pierre Bergé.

Yves Saint Laurant

/eev sain lau-runt/

Like his mentor, Yves built with his reputation with an avant-garde and sometimes controversial style.

In fashion circles, the brand is better known as YSL or Saint Laurent. That doesn’t make it easier for English speakers.

For Yves, forget the Y and pronounce it like “Eve.” As is common in French, the “s” is silent at the end of a word.

Saint introduces another silent last letter, t. It sounds like “Saan,” a little like saying San Jose, but with a light touch when pronouncing the n.

Laurent is another distinctly gallic name that is easier to say with a blocked nose. Try “Loh-rahn.”

Push it all together for “Eve Saan Loh-rahn.”

YSL made such an impact there’s a movie about the man. Watch the YSL trailer to perfect the intonation.

Yves Saint Laurent
BenSherman, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Hermès

Founded by German-born Thierry Hermès in 1837, this is one of the oldest French brands still in business.

Hermès

/er-mehs/

The Hermès empire extends beyond fashion to furniture, jewelry, and accessories. You might recognize the horse-drawn carriage logo, easily distinguishable from monogrammed competitors.

The clue to saying Hermès hinges on the accented è, giving us the rare need to sound the s, albeit like a z. Conversely, the first letter is silent.

Say “air-mez,” as you can hear in this documentary retelling the oddly compelling story behind the Hermès brand.

Hermès
Moonik, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Cartier

Started by Louis-François Cartier in 1847 in Paris (where else), Cartier is the last word in oh-so-chic bijouterie. Once the jeweler of choice for royals, Forbes ranks Cartier among the most valuable brands in the world.

Cartier

kar tee-ay

Pronouncing Cartier is less challenging than previous entries. English speakers can sound like un aristocrate français by saying “Kaa-Tee-Ay.” Then return to daydreaming about buying one of their iconic Panthère watches.

Cartier
Meshari Alawfi, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Givenchy

If any name on this list of luxury French brands will trip you up, it’s Givenchy.

Givenchy

/gee-vun-shee/

Perhaps best known for their perfume and makeup range, Givenchy has been in the luxury goods business since Hubert de Givenchy founded the fashion house in 1952. It’s now yet another cog in the all-conquering LVMH conglomerate.

Next time you shop for a bottle of their scent at the mall, turn on the French style by pronouncing Givenchy as “Zhee-von-shee.” It rolls off the tongue beautifully but looks nothing like the spelling.

Check out this video of what we assume is a huge fan pronouncing Givenchy with gusto.

Givenchy
Gunguti Hanchtrag Lauim, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Jean Paul Gaultier

The bad boy of Parisian fashion, Jean Paul Gaultier, was once lead designer for Hermès but now heads up his own luxury French brand, epitomized by his eponymous eau de toilette.

Jean Paul Gaultier

/jun pohl goh-tee-ay/

Characteristically immodest, his trademark scents celebrate his revival of the marinière, the striped sweater (tricot rayé) of French stereotype.

Forget denim jeans (also from France, via Nîmes) and pronounce his first name like “zhahn-pall,” similar to “Shawn Paul.”

Gaultier is a little trickier. A couple of silent letters typical of French (in this case, l and i) create a sound similar to “Gow-Tee-Ay.”

Lancôme

Lancôme is a French brand synonymous with premium cosmetics.

Lancôme

/lahn-cohm/

Aristocrat Guillaume d’Ornano and Armand Petitjean started the business by selling perfumes at the 1935 World’s Fair across the border in Brussels. Today, the marque represents the high-end of the enormous L’Oreal brand.

The name is a portmanteau of Château de Lancosme and Place Vendôme in Paris.

The accented ô emphasizes the second syllable, while the Lan sounds distinctly French.

Saying Lancôme out loud sounds like “Lan-Kohm,” as heard in this imaginative advert.

Lancôme
Wpcpey, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Chloé

We wrap up this guide to pronouncing luxury French brands with another that did not take the name of the founder.

Chloé

/kloh-ay/

The Chloé fashion house was created by Gaby Aghion in 1952, who coined the groundbreaking fashion term prêt-à-porter.

Intriguingly, whether you say Chloe (sans accent) or Chloé (avec accent), they sound the same. A quintessentially French name that somehow survived being mangled by the English language.

For clarity, Chloé sounds like “Klo-ee.” A gentle conclusion to this tour of tricky-to-pronounce French fashion brands.

Conclusion

If this post got you thinking about famous cross-Atlantic exports, why not tease your palate and brain cells with our guide to French wine names you’re probably mispronouncing.

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David Issokson

David Issokson is a lifelong language enthusiast. His head is swimming with words and sounds as he speaks over six languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private online lessons. When procrastinating working on his site, FrenchLearner.com, David enjoys his time skiing and hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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