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Depeche Mode - the real origin of the band's name

It is a common mistake to assume that the name Depeche Mode is purely a translation from the French for 'fast fashion'. Where this error started is hard to establish but it is likely to have been through early (and now defunct) music sites. Through repetition, it is easy to see why this error still perpetuates across hundreds of sites. Plus the incorrect translation of Depeche Mode has a certain 80s feel about it. If MTV launched with Video Killed The Radio Star, why not have a band name that highlights the high turnover of 80s trends, ie Fast Fashion? Adding to this misconception was the existence of the band 'Fashion' (see below). As a visitor to 1980-89 pointed out, depeche means dispatch (or update, message or news), mode means fashion.

So Depeche Mode means Fashion News or Fashion Update. The confusion arises from someone remembering their high school French: the verb 'se depecher' means to hurry, which is probably where the 'fast' originates (thanks to Lawrence Koch for explaining the French translation and the source of the error). So, Depeche Mode is named after the magazine and that name roughly translates as Fashion News. To the right is a picture of the magazine.

Established in 1978, Fashion was an English band that formed in the dying days of punk. This was also a period of music history when bands frequently changed names. 'Fashion' started out with the name Fashion Music, but dropped 'Music' a few years later. Just to keep to keep the French mistranslations rolling, they released an album in 1982 called Fabrique. Beautifully chosen, this French word doesn't mean fabric, but factory.

As a footnote: Fashion toured in 1980 with bands such as Duran Duran (who opened for them), The B52s, The Police and U2. However we can't find any evidence that they ever toured with Depeche Mode. If they had also joined up with the very short-lived band 'News', the headline could have been Fashion, News, Depeche Mode.

For more information on the wider topic of fashion, see our section on fashion and the 80s look.

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