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French Connection (FCUK or fcuk) is a global retailer as well as a wholesaler of homeware, accessories and clothing, including womenswear and menswear. It's based in London and distributes its accessories and clothing through its store in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom and through wholesale and franchise arrangements worldwide. Other brands that are currently within the group are YMC, Toast and Great Plains. Previous brands include Nicole Farhi.
Since it was launched, the company has expressed an eager interest in design and continues delivering timeless affordable quality. French Connection promotes a dynamic company culture. All employees proudly represent the brand and work collaboratively. The bold personality of the brand continues to push boundaries all over the world, through impactful advertising campaigns plus by supporting emerging talent.
In 1969, Stephen Marks started out in business as the Stephen Marks brand. In 1972, he established French Connection, which is one year after the release of the movie of the same name. Originally designed as a mid-market brand for women, Marks said that the name of the brand came about as he managed to get a large Indian cheesecloth shirts shipment – through a French contact, that he could resale in the United Kingdom at a large profit.
Nicole Farhi joined the company as a designer in 1978. In 1983, the company's parent group launched her eponymous higher-end label and this wasn't sold until 2010. Marks was listed as the fifteenth richest man in Britain after floating the company's brand on the London-based stock exchange (London Stock Exchange) in the year 1984. By the late eighties, French Connection was in trouble. Marks took control of the company's direction again in 1991.
The brand started using the “fcuk” branding in advertising after 1991 when Stephen Marks regained control. The use of this initialism was on faxes that were sent from Hong Kong to London offices, which led to “FCHK to FCUK”. In an interview, Mark stated that these faxes were not meant to be offensively impolite.
The advertising campaign happened after Mark was impressed by a bra advertisement that featured Eva Herzigová (Czech supermodel and actress). He contacted Trevor Beattie, the advertising executive who was behind it, even though the company didn't have the budget for an advert campaign at the time. Beattie is the one who spotted the initialism marketing potential and then a campaign was started around it.
Being similar to the “fuck”, the company's use of “fcuk” ended up causing widespread controversy. In the spring of 1997, a controversial advertising campaign that featured ‘fcuk fashion’ simple line hit the headlines, and it became a universally known great fashion moment. After establishing a strong core clothing company through unique design plus a true sense of style, they expanded their portfolio into new, exciting areas including women’s and men's toiletries, footwear, watches, sunglasses and opticals plus a growing range of home accessories and furniture.
In 2005, the company stopped using this initialism in advertising, and it reduced its profile in all its shops. However, it's still used in several menswear products plus in-store branding. Despite the lowering of the profile, the company remains known as “fcuk”, especially by the United Kingdom press. It was reported in 2016 that the company was going to bring back the FCUK slogan campaign.
The company represents the majority of the revenue of French Connection Group (about 88% in 2014), but it owns several other homeware/clothing brands, including TOAST, Great Plains and YMC. Toast now has 12 UK stores.
The stores of French Connection are an extension of the clothing brand aesthetic. Clean and minimalist design that's sensitive to each unique location and enhancing as well as complementing the product offering.
Also, all elements, including store design and staff, work collectively in creating a shopping experience that best reflects the brand of the company. Visual merchandising is essential to all store layouts, which creates a display that draws the attention of the customers without overpowering the product the company is selling.
A neutral palette that has large graphics forms an excellent background for the clear, white furniture that displays the product. Additionally, the unique hanging accessories are a definite nod to the classic industrial style of the company's homeware.
The windows of the company are crucial to the branding of their product because they reflect their pioneering imaginative design plus irreverent attitude. They reflect all that is best about this brand, its style and attitude while acting as an exhibition for the collection the company has.
Throughout the seasons, these windows work together with their ever-evolving fashion collections plus their advertising campaign and interpret the themes into amazing, award-winning window displays. The themes are implemented all over the world across the brand and showcase the same brand message from the City of London to Sydney to New York.