Language and Cultural Barriers in the Fashion Industry: How to Bridge the Gap
The fashion industry is one of the most international industries in the world. It is not unusual for a garment to have a global DNA, with designers, manufacturers, sourcing teams, and so on, scattered around the globe. A fashion brand with a diverse pool of employees is always fun, but it can sometimes be daunting and complicated. When production deadlines are tight; and flights aren’t an option, language and cultural barriers in the fashion industry can be frustrating, and most importantly, expensive.
Here are some tips on how to overcome language and cultural barriers in the fashion industry.
- Use plain language
- Keep the communication consistent
- Rely on visual cues
- Keep informed
- Ask for insights
- Be open
Use Plain Language
If you are working daily with colleagues from all over the world, try to leave fancy terms at the door. Focus on using simple words, present-tense verbs, no idioms and repetition when necessary. Make sure most of the communication is in written form, so it is easy to use tools such as online translators. And, don’t be afraid to go straight to the point, no one has time to waste, after all.
Keep the Communication Consistent
It is harder to avoid misunderstandings when communication is fragmented and sporadic. Language and cultural barriers in the fashion industry can sometimes be a result of unclear communication between both parties. Centralizing your communication in a PLM enables the correspondence between company and supplier to be in one specific place, leaving aside the usual back and forth emails. On one hand, your supplier can always make sure to be working with the latest information. On the other, no fragment of the conversation gets lost in translation.
Rely on Visual Cues
The good thing about the fashion and lifestyle industry is that it is pretty visual as it is. Sketches, patterns, and POMs speak a language of their own: garment-making! Make sure to keep words to a minimum and rely more on visual and intuitive cues.
“Delogue is a strong visual tool that facilitates the communication of our employees across companies and borders – this includes our teams in Denmark, Ukraine, Lithuania, Turkey and Bangladesh,” shares Mogens Jensen, CFO of UTG.
Stay Informed About the News
Language and culture barriers in the fashion industry can rise between countries as distant as Denmark and India. When suppliers and employees reside in places culturally and geographically very different from your own, keeping informed shouldn’t be underestimated. Being aware of the general situation of the residency country of the person you’re speaking to can give you a better understanding of why they might be having difficulties fulfilling an order or meeting a deadline.
Keeping up with the local news can also help you predict delays and adjust consequently. Finally, showing your co-worker that you care enough to keep informed is a great way to display your effort in bridging your differences.
Ask for Insight into How to Overcome Cultural Barriers in the Fashion Industry
The saying goes: “If you want to know something, ask!”. If you’re sensing a lack of communication or understanding with your co-workers or partners, make sure to make yourself available to improve the situation. Take the time to ask if there’s anything you could do to avoid misunderstandings or ask for clarification if there is something you really can’t wrap your head around. The world is full of different cultures, each with its own quirks and idiosyncrasies, and that’s what makes it beautiful!
There’s nothing worse than being set in your own ways and refusing to change. Remember that even if you’ve always been working one way, that doesn’t mean it is the right one. Be open and receptive to other cultures, and you’ll be surprised at the amount you can learn. You might even make some good friends along the way.