Maria Chen, who was at Gap for two years as Vice President of Global Design, has been appointed French Connection’s new Womenswear Director. Her leaving date and start date are not yet known. She also brings luxury, international experience from Calvin Klein Jeans, where she was Vice President of Global Design and Armani Exchange, where she was Vice President of Women’s Product, both US-based positions. She has European experience from Gap, All Saints, Oki-Ni and Topshop.
Her appointment follows a number of changes to the retailer’s senior team. Karen Bonser, Design Creative Director, left the brand after three years, whilst Adam Castleton, Group Finance Director, left after only two. French Connection’s trading update in September revealed a “disappointing” spring 15 range widened their losses to £7.9m. In the same period last year, the company made a £3.9m loss. Group revenue for this first half of 2015 fell 9.8% to £75.8m and they closed six stores. They are in the process of making operational and personnel changes to increase their performance, particularly in design and merchandising. However, second-half trading so far had been stronger, especially of its winter 2015 collection. Full-price sales for the past six weeks, on a like-for-like basis, are up 6 per cent on 2014. The brand has a well-established retail and wholesale network, successfully selling in over 50 countries and four continents and has four brands, which each have value. Chen’s hire is another step to improving their range and drive to break-even.