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The Forefront of Fashion’s Frontier

March 2011

By Kateri O’Neil, Los Angeles

Maison Martin Margiela (MMM) and French Connection have been especially progressive when it comes to adopting innovative strategies and technologies to market their products and engage with shoppers.

MMM’s strategy has relied upon creating mystique through anonymity and invisibility. Their “Cult of Impersonality” packaging promotes this understatement via logo-free plain white labels, devoid of all text, sewn simply into the garments with four white stitches pared down by a monochromatic color palette that is almost entirely binary.

The MMM retail environment model is similarly identity-less. Rather than entering a store and feeling immediately targeted as a consumer and bombarded with vulgar commercialism, MMM shoppers feel like they’ve set foot in a laboratory of fashion experimentation. Stores remain unlisted and sans signage, staff members are clad in clinical lab-coats, and unconventional elements like “trompe l’œil” cans of paint, worktables, and rugs stacked high enough to suggest seating contribute to an atmosphere that feels anything but commercial.

Furthermore, not only are all MMM communications done via fax, but the brand also communicates exclusively in the first-person plural (“we”), emphasizing the clan-like nature of the brand’s collaborative collective and its repudiation of hierarchy. The beloved Belgian brand has certainly won itself a loyal following of fashion disciples thanks not only to its avant-garde styles and pioneering ideas.

French Connection has been experimenting with social media/e-commerce initiatives: the brand can proudly claim itself to be the first to have mounted aboard Chatroulette, a web tool that allows people to meet at random via webcam and mic. The controversial social media platform had never been exploited for advertising in such a capacity until FCUK kickstarted an online seduction challenge via its Manifesto blog. French Connection was also one of the first brands to launch its own YouTube boutique—the FCUK “YouTique”—in addition to its branded Facebook store.

Looking into the future, with the development of motion-capture augmented reality platforms like Zugara's Webcam Social Shopper, I foresee imminent advances in the way shoppers interact with and purchase merchandise.

Fashion & Style
Los Angeles

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