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Ads signal French Connection brand overhaul

French Connection has kicked off a major brand repositioning with the launch of a dramatic new-look spring ad campaign, which is said to be its biggest since the launch of its infamous FCUK branding in 1997.

The campaign, which uses older models and the strap “For Man. For Woman”, has been spearheaded by incoming French Connection marketing and PR director William Woodhams, who joined the brand a month ago from luxury goods group LVMH, where he worked on sales and marketing projects for upmarket drinks brands including Dom Pérignon and Belvedere.

In addition to the high-profile hiring of Woodhams, French Connection is believed to have already put more than a £1m behind the campaign, which aims to lift French Connection out of standard high street territory and put it shoulder to shoulder with the likes of premium high street chains such as Reiss, while referencing designer brands such as Marc Jacobs.

One source said: “No one on the high street does a campaign like the luxury fashion houses. French Connection wanted to bring that sort of seasonality and point of difference.”

The ads have no reference to the brand’s FCUK heritage branding, which rocketed French Connection to fame in the late 1990s and early 2000s, before the joke wore thinand shoppers deserted its so-called “tacky” slogans in 2005.

The ads, which include TV and print interpretations, are also a big statement of intent around French Connection’s menswear offer.

Menswear sales have plummeted in recent seasons with the brand flitting between sophisticated, premium menswear collections and its FCUK-branded T-shirts in an effort to find a positioning that matches the profile of its womenswear but is also commercially viable.

French Connection has made several attempts to recapture shoppers with its controversial advertising, including launching a “Fashion versus Style” campaign, which featured female models fighting provocatively, in 2006. However, no campaign has achieved anywhere near the success of FCUK.

A source close to French Connection said: “It was important to define where French Connection sits and push its key values. Love it or hate it, FCUK spoke to a generation and people are discussing this campaign.”

French Connection chief executive Stephen Marks said: “The campaign creative enables us to speak to our male and female customers in a clever and effective way, while reaffirming our premium status on the high street. This is set to be a very important season for French Connection.”

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