This Is How You Say It. . .
When I first started working as a beauty editor, I butchered the pronunciation of more than one French beauty brand. My friend and fellow beauty editor, Didi, practically collapsed on the floor when I told her I was on my way to a Guh-vin-chee press launch (I was trying to say Givenchy, which Didi, through hysterics, explained is actually Ghee-von-shee). I’ve still not lived that one down. But I know I'm not the only one who never took high school French (or Italian or Japanese), and who has struggled to sound out fancy, foreign-sounding beauty brand names.
The advantage I have over most of you, however, is that I’ve worked in the beauty industry for long enough now that I’ve heard these brands repeatedly (and correctly) pronounced by the company founders, publicists and CEOs. So, to follow, are the beauty brands I hear even highly-educated, super-savvy women stumble over often—plus the proper phonetic pronunciations.
Hermès= Air-MEZ. That’s it. Please ignore the H at the beginning—don’t even hint that it’s there—and don’t try to get cute at the end with a mees or a meez.
Shiseido=Shi-SAY-doe (like a female deer). There is only one sh in this Japanese brand name, but for some reason, everyone wants to turn the second s into an sh, as in Shi-shay-doe. Even one high-profile morning-show anchor with whom I did a TV segment years ago said it wrong, perpetuating the mispronunciation.
Christian Louboutin=Kris-CHUN Loo-boo-TON. I spent enough time in Mr. Louboutin's shoe boutique on Madison to be very certain the i in Louboutin sounds like an o.
Oribe=OR-bay. Pretend the i in the middle isn’t there—and that this word has only two syllables. I do giggle inwardly whenever I hear someone say Or-ee-bay. But I’m pretty sure Oribe himself would not be amused.
Yves Saint Laurent=Eev-(you know how to say saint)-Luh-RONT. Yves reminds me a little of Favre (as in Brett), because you forget all about the rules of phonics. And while we’re talking about YSL, the brand’s best-selling concealer/highlighter, Touche Eclat, is pronounced Toosh-Eee-CLOT.
Guerlain=Gare=LAWN. You cannot not have a French accent when you say this properly. Gare-LAWN, Gare-LAWN, Gare-LAWN. See? You're channeling Isabelle Huppert!
Clé de Peau Beauté=Clay-day-Poe (like Edgar Allen) Bow-tay. This Japanese brand has a French name, which explains why we are all so confused as to how you say it.
Ouai=Way. As in the right way to say it is not ooo-eye. Which I did hear someone say at a salon.
Are there any other brands you whisper (or mumble with your hand over your mouth) because you're not quite sure how to say them? Don't be embarrassed; remember I said Guh-vin-chee. In public. To another editor. Just let me know in the comments, below—or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll add them to this post, along with the proper pronunciation.