Promoting the Craftsmanship of our Profession

1944. Wartime France. No fabric. The norm had been 100. They were down to an index of 26. There was not even enough material to make socks! Paris, the world’s fashion capital, had lost hope of reviving its precious haute couture.

American photojournalist Lee Miller came to France as a war correspondent. She connected with Edmonde Charles-Rouxe, a French war correspondent. As they were occupied with war reporting she revealed her true purpose. A group was secretly planning an exhibition of haute couture in Paris that was expected to have tremendous impact, and she wanted Charles-Rouxe to be involved. A month later, Paris flocked to see a display of miniature dolls created by the great artists of haute couture, put on display for their pleasure. The French Resistance was even involved in bringing haute-couture back to Paris with British support!

The exhibition was so successful that it continued until after the war was over. To promote the exhibition abroad at that time, a French government official wrote to the Ambassador of France in Britain: “France has little, alas to export, but she has her appreciation of beautiful things and the skill of her couture houses. “In 1946, it went to New York and San Francisco, where the mannequins were left languishing in the basement of San Francisco’s City of Paris department store. In 1990, the mannequins were transferred to Maryhill Museum of Art. Haute couture had always been the domain of Paris. During the war, New York had survived without the inspiration Paris provided. Paris was back in its rightful place!

Who was part of this movement to show the world the capital of the fashion industry had survived the war? Some 60 couturiers worked together. Among them, Nina Ricci, Christian Dior, and others.

What made it successful?

They worked together. 60 couturiers who normally were competitors set aside their rivalries to reestablish their national industry.

They did the unexpected. Too hard to make shoes for these dolls? Then we will! Bags? That too! The dolls, measuring one-third the size of human scale, even had specially made jewels and lingerie. All difficulties became challenges to show off their skill in a friendly and fierce competition.

They did it despite hardship. This was done while the average Parisian could only eat 1400 calories per day!

They contributed selflessly.The artists donated their services; the couture houses contributed labor and material and made a contribution for each costume provided for the exhibition. All the proceeds went to a central organization: L’Entraide Francaise, set up for the Theatre de la Mode.

They went where their market was: Barcelona, London, Vienna, then New York, and San Francisco. They made themselves known.

Their work was excellent. It was truly artistic, enough that in 1952 the Maryhill Museum of Art acquired the collection from San Francisco and set about restoring it. In 1990, the museum did an extensive restoration.

What can we learn from them as translators and interpreters?

Just as the Theatre de la Mode artists made specially sized shoes for their costumes, we can focus on the details our clients care about and no computer can replicate.

Work together. Teamwork is important, and there is enough work for all of us. We can promote our profession without being concerned about competition because each of us has different strengths and skills to contribute.

Working with the allied professions makes us better. The artists worked with sculptors, editors, and publicists. We can partner with desktop publishers, web designers, publicists, and professionals in the copy editing field.

They worked as a professional association. Today, we have several professional associations to support us. ATA, for example, stands ready to help members set up partnerships to promote the profession.

Do the unexpected. Taking a risk can be beneficial. We still know Nina Ricci today. Christian Dior was not famous at that time, but today it is a well-known brand.

Chip in. The proceeds of the artists’ cooperative effort went to a common fund. That helped set aside any rivalries. When we do volunteer work for an association, we are not promoting our own brand, but the profession.

Keep quality a priority. Will our work stand the test of time?

Today, the collection is featured in art collections around the world (see here and here). Will our translations be read and mentioned in the future?

Author: Helen Eby

Contributing Editor: Paula Irisity

For further reading: Theatre de la Mode: Fashion Dolls: The Survival of Haute Couture, by Charles-Roux, Edmonde et al, 2002, published by Maryhill Museum of Art, Palmer/Pletsch Publishing: Portland, OR, ISBN 0-935278-57-7

https://www.maryhillmuseum.org/inside/exhibitions/permanent-exhibitions/theatre-de-la-mode

Collaborating with Other Translators

Lund Translation Team by David Friedman

hand-523231_1280I wanted to find a way to collaborate closely with other translators ever since the early days of my translation career, because I thought it would open up more opportunities and would be more fun than going it alone.  This is the reason I have experimented with different forms of collaboration, strategies, methods and groups of people since 2011.

At first all we had was a group of four independent freelance translators with a joint website and monthly meetings to try to find a way to appeal to direct clients together. But we struggled to figure out where we should focus our efforts. This went on for a little while as an experiment with different people joining and leaving the team until I heard about an incubator program called LIFT at Lunds Nyföretagarcentrum (Lund Center for New Businesses) at Ideon Science Park in Lund, Sweden. The program was aimed at services companies with unique ideas aiming for rapid growth within two years. I was accepted into the program and that was the turning point when Lund Translation Team in its current form was born.

We were given access to regular business counseling, a free crash course in entrepreneurship, quarterly meetings with an advisory board consisting of hand-picked professionals volunteering their time to give us advice, and subsidized office space with affordable rent. Instead of just sharing one-time costs for our business expenses such as website and business cards as before, we set fixed monthly membership fees to cover the recurring rent of the office and leave a small surplus for our joint marketing activities. Setting this fixed fee separated the wheat from the chaff, and resulted in only those of us who were serious about investing money, time, and energy into building a successful translation business with direct clients remaining.

So what is Lund Translation Team today? Lund Translation Team is not a separate legal entity, but a joint brand shared by multiple freelance translators, each with their own sole proprietorships and accounting. We share joint marketing costs, spread the brand name by using it in our marketing  and market each other’s services together as a whole. Everyone still invoices separately and charges clients for the work they do individually. We have one office in Lund and one in Ängelholm, about an hour apart in the same region of southern Sweden. The whole team meets in person twice a month, once in each location, and is in daily electronic contact. The monthly fees are paid to the treasurer who then pays for all the team’s joint expenses.

Within the team we cover about six major European languages into Swedish, as well as English and Swedish to Chinese and Swedish and German to English. We work with a few select external partners as well, mainly to cover more European languages. We decided to put a clearer focus on the specialization of each of our members recently to show what makes each of us unique (e.g. I now call myself the team’s financial communications translation expert).

We still have a lot of work to do, but I feel we are really going in the right direction now and our networking is slowly paying off and bringing in more direct clients. I have found an amazing group of people to collaborate with and I find it very rewarding. From sharing tips on quoting, pitching and other business practices to helping each other with terms, sentences, CAT tools and all kinds of work-related issues. It is very rewarding socially too, with a steady stream of laughter coming from our office on meeting days.

I don’t think there is a single right or wrong form of collaboration between translators, but I am convinced that there is a lot to gain by working together in some way. Here are some ways translators can collaborate:

–          A pair of translators revising each other’s work on a regular basis

–          Translators referring jobs they don’t have time for or languages and fields they don’t do

–          Translators in different countries partnering up to reach each other’s markets

–          Local translators partnering up to share office space and/or to target local clients together

And here are some of the benefits of working together:

–          Make office space and marketing materials more affordable through cost-sharing

–          Expand your networking reach

–          Attract direct clients who need more than one language

–          Get advice and feedback on all kinds of translation and business challenges

–          Forge strong professional and social relationships

–          Have someone to cover for you when you are sick, on vacation or underestimated a job

How would you like to collaborate with other translators? Or what experiences do you already have? Don’t forget that the ATA and the other national translator associations are very valuable resources for getting to know potential collaborators. The more involved you get, the more people you meet and the better you get to know them. So what are you waiting for? Reach out to a fellow translator today!