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FCU

FRENCH CONNECTION: UNGENDERED

Francesca Hannah Storm Gibson

CRITICAL JOURNAL


FCU Drapers, 2016

Francesca Hannah Storm Gibson

French Connection: Ungendered Francesca Hannah Storm Gibson

CHAPTER ONE

Stephen Marks founded French Connection in 1972 (French Connection, 2018) to supply fashion conscious, well-made clothing to the masses. Their current brand values are still based around relevant fashion design and high-quality construction. Globally, the design of their stores emulates their chic minimalism and showcases their products in a clean and professional manner. Their branding attitude is extended in their window displays, advertising campaigns and social media presence.


Francesca Hannah Storm Gibson

Next, 2018 Francesca Hannah Storm Gibson

Next, 2018 FCU

French Connection: Ungendered


The Telepgraph, 2017 Francesca Hannah Storm Gibson

Francesca Hannah Storm Gibson

FCU

French Connection: Ungendered

Although minimal in design, French Connection’s advertising has been quirky, dramatic and innovative over the years. A lull in sales post-fcuk era resulted in French Connection recruiting Trevor Beattie in order to inject some life into their advertising.


FCU Anthropologie, 2009. Image: BWD, 2018.

Francesca Hannah Storm Gibson

Although described as ‘head turning windows’ on the French Connection website, their window displays are often chic and pretty, but not ‘head turning’. Brands such as Anthropologie and &OtherStories have put a huge emphasis on the whole customer in-store experience and ensured that it is a captivating process. French Connection have relied on their product as apposed to marketing in order to generate sales, however their products have proved less than inspiring over the last few years.

French Connection: Ungendered Francesca Hannah Storm Gibson

Trevoe Beattie, 2000 He generated a series of campaigns using shock tactics such including their Kinkybugger television ad (French Connection UK, 2011) which was pulled after 132 complaints (Mediatel Newsline, 2001). However, this controversy was positive for sales. Despite this, the last few years have seen a drop in sales and brand awareness. The brand has lost market share to its competitors who are more relevant and recognisable. They lack a successful social media presence and their branding has been surpassed by high street companies which have prioritised trend analysis and the customer experience.


FCU

French Connection: Ungendered

However, high-end designers have tapped into a lucrative gender nerutral market in which demand is based around quality as well as creative design. Gender Neutral London based clothing line ‘Toogood’ are architects of stunning outerwear, with the average coat costing around two thousand pounds (Toogood, 2018). Other high-end retailers who have permeated the gender neutral fashion market include One DNA and Rad Hourani. One DNA (One DNA, 2018) is the ultimate inclusive brand, designing its pieces to be worn by “all genders, all ages, all shapes, all races” (Moran, J, 2017). Rad Hourani’s unisex designs are classic and chic (Rad Hourani, 2018), and possibly the closest competitor for French Connection’s Gender Neutral collection. However, prices are extreme with a simple whit t-shirt costing nearly five hundred dollars. Using the trickle down theory (Veblen, 1899) it would suggest that the success designer labels will then create a demand for gender neutral clothing in the masses and at more affordable pricing.

Dazed Digital, 2016

Francesca Hannah Storm Gibson

High-Street brands have been attempting to integrate gender neutral collections into mainstream fashion for the last couple of years, but to much avail. Zara’s gender neutral collection was unsuccessful with it’s eight-piece collection of basic hoodies, jeans and t-shirts being described as “bland” (Harris, S, 2016) and “hardly revolutionary” (Jones, M, 2017).

Francesca Hannah Storm Gibson

Rad Hourani, 2018


FCU Francesca Hannah Storm Gibson

CHAPTER TWO

French Connection: Ungendered Francesca Hannah Storm Gibson

A gender neutral collection for French Connection would appeal to a young professional market, which would be lucrative for French Connection as a whole as this is a sector in which they are loosing market share. There is a gap in the market for well constructed, high-fashion gender neutral clothing at a premium high street price. By combining this concept with beautiful visual communication, packaging and modern graphics the French Connection Gender Neutral marketing concept will create a successful sub-brand for French Connection and modernise the company.

The marketing concept has been constructed in order to make French Connection a more youthful, current and innovative brand. After looking at the gender neutral fashion market, there is a gap in the market for a premium high-street retailer providing trend-lead fashion not aligned to a particular gender. My online launch would include a mysterious build up of images on French Connection’s social media pages and online blog in order to generate intrigue and exclusivity. I would launch the collection globally on 22nd April, as this is World Earth Day and would incorporate the environmental and social messages this collection could convey. On the day the collection was launched, I would also launch FCU’s own social media pages by promoting them on the main French Connection accounts. These new accounts would be solely French Connection Ungendered’s products and promotion and would give more detail into the products and the collection. I would focus a lot of the content on Twitter as I feel the target demographic of young, working professionals with an interest in global and economical affairs would best accessed using this platform.


FCU In order to ensure continuity and flow within the business the signature print and single leaf logo will be constant in the collection and the classic pieces and advertising, with other motifs and prints featuring seasonally. This striking print and logo will also help make the brand easily recognizable and accessible.

Francesca Hannah Storm Gibson

French Connection: Ungendered Francesca Hannah Storm Gibson

Although French Connection is now sold in numerous outlets including House of Fraser and Next, I would keep this collection exclusive to French Connection stores and French Connection’s own website. This will increase exclusivity and individuality. The in store launch would include incentives such as a ‘goodie-bag’ for the first 500 purchasing customers. The whole week of the launch all French Connection’s store windows will be covered in the stickers of FCU’s signature leaf print in order to promote the new collection and cause excitement as to what is coming next.


FCU Greenpeace, 2018 A key element of this collection is the economic and social aspect concept which I hope it portrays. Wherever possible this collection will source natural and fair trade fabric and products and a 10% stake of all profits will be given to Greenpeace. This cause related marketing will create a fresh, modern, topical brand identity for French Connection Ungendered which will resonate with consumers when they recognize the brand. Globally, we are undergoing huge shifts economically in regards to social concern as to the well-being of the environment in which we live (such as the recent abolishment of plastic straws). This will make this collection really relevant and at the forefront of this social movement, setting a trend for other retailers to follow.

Francesca Hannah Storm Gibson

French Connection: Ungendered Francesca Hannah Storm Gibson

A portion of the collection will be made up of gender neutral accessories using FCU’s signature prints and colourways. Items such as phone cases tote bags and notebooks will be recognizable as the FCU brand. As the sector of gender neutral clothing grows, some consumers can test the water with accessories or show their love for the brand or concept without being confident enough to wear the clothing themselves.


FCU

French Connection: Ungendered

I am very happy with the overall themes and work in this marketing concept and have used new and existing skills in order to create it. I enjoyed combining handmade elements of work with a more digital concept in order to generate something sleek and professional, as well as commercial. If I was to do this project again, I would have tried to manage my workflow better as I found working on different elements quite overwhelming to start with and I panicked. I could have managed my time and work more effectively by using more project management and a methodical working practice. I would also have made my prints earlier in the design process as once I had created these it made other elements such as mock ups much easier. I was also very pleased with how my mock up store came out, however if I had managed my time better I would have allowed more time for a photo shoot with it which would have made my images slicker and more professional. I also would have allowed more time for detail as some of the glue work was a little messy and unprofessional. Looking to the future, to expand on this marketing concept I would suggest that French Connection could look at choosing a different seasonal charity to work with such as working with WWF to create a winter campaign in which 10% of profits went to the conservation of polar bears (as an example). This cause related marketing will set them apart as a company who is continually giving back to society and the environment, not just a single charity t-shirt.

Francesca Hannah Storm Gibson

FCU

Francesca Hannah Storm Gibson

CHA PTER THREE

Overall I feel that the aesthetic I have created in this marketing concept is industry-leading and innovative; it paves the way for more sensitive and cause related collections to come. There is a gap in the market for a gender neutral premium high street retailer and appealing to a young, professional target market would also contribute to making French Connection globally more youthful and innovative. This collection and marketing concept would have global appeal due to the widespread nature of the economic and social matters it aims to tackle, without being pushy and overbearing. I especially think that this collection would be successful in Australia as as a society they are very environmentally aware and conscious.


French Connection: Ungendered

• BWD, 2018. [image] Anthropologie Window Display 2009. Available at: http://thebwd.com/anthropologie-yellow-to-teal-wisteria-flowers-summer-window-display-2009/ [Accessed 15/5/2018] • Dazed Digital, 2016. [image] Zara’s New Ungendered Clothing. Available at: http://www.dazeddigital.com/fashion/article/30256/1/ just-how-progressive-is-zara-s-new-ungendered-range [Accessed 15/5/2018] • Drapers, 2016. [image] Stephen Marks. Available at: https://www.drapersonline.com/people/drapers-top-100-2016-100-stephenmarks-chief-executive-french-connection/7016622.article [Accessed 6/3/2018] • French Connection UK, 2001. Kinky Bugger. [video] Coloribus. Available at: https://www.coloribus.com/adsarchive/tv-commercials/ fcuk-french-connection-uk-kinky-bugger-3135505/ [Accessed 6/3/2018] • French Connection, 2018. About Us. [online] Available at: https://www.frenchconnection.com/content/marketing/fashion-is-ourbusiness.htm [Accessed 6/3/2018] • Greenpeace, 2018. [online] Available at: https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/ [Accessed 15/5/2018] • M, Jones, 2017. The pros and cons of the rise of Gender Neutral clothing with this ultimate Gender Neutral clothing guide. [online] Pink News. Available at: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2017/11/24/the-pros-and-cons-of-the-rise-of-gender-neutral-clothing/ [Accessed 6/3/2018] • Mediatel Newsline, 2001. Retailer’s Kinky Bugger Ad Provokes Complaints to ASA. [online] Available at: https://mediatel.co.uk/ newsline/2001/04/04/retailers-kinky-bugger-ad-provokes-complaints-to-asa [Accessed 6/3/2018] • Moran, J, 2018. One DNA Creates Clothing Without Boundaries. [online] OUT Magazine. [Accessed 6/3/2018] • Next, 2018. [image] French Connection Black Gizo Leather Dress. Available at: http://www.next.co.uk/style/st263118#567589 [Accessed 7/3/2018] • Next, 2018. [image] French Connection Navy Multi Dress. Available at: http://www.next.co.uk/style/st264380#574164 [Accessed 7/3/2018] • One DNA, 2018. [online] Available at: https://www.onedna.us/ [Accessed 6/3/2018] • Rad Hourani, 2018. [online] Available at: https://www.radhourani.com/ [Accessed 6/3/2018] • S, Harris, 2016. ZARA gender-neutral clothing – bland or addressing demand? [online] Cardiff Student Media. Available at: http:// cardiffstudentmedia.co.uk/gairrhydd/zara-gender-neutral-clothing-bland-or-addressing-demand/ [Accessed 6/3/2018] • Telegraph, 2017. Too busy to FCUK. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/01/28/french-connection-fell-fashion/ [Accessed 7/3/2018] • Toogood, 2018. [online] Available at: http://t-o-o-g-o-o-d.com/ [Accessed 6/3/2018] • Trevor Beattie, 2000. Think my pants off. [image] Coloribus. Available at: https://www.coloribus.com/adsarchive/prints/french-connection-uk-clothing-think-my-pants-off-2258605/ [Accessed 7/3/2018]

Francesca Hannah Storm Gibson

REFERENCES

Critical Journal French Connection Ungendered  
Critical Journal French Connection Ungendered  
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