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Stephen Marks, who started out in business in 1969 as the Stephen Marks brand, established French Connection in 1972 – a year after the film of the same name was released. Initially designed as a mid-market women's brand, he has said the name came about because he managed to acquire a large shipment of Indian cheesecloth shirts – via a French contact – that could be resold in the UK at a large profit. The business expanded into menswear in 1976. In 1978, Nicole Farhi joined French Connection as a designer. In 1983, her eponymous higher-end label was launched by the French Connection parent group and this was not sold until 2010. After Marks floated the French Connection brand on the London Stock Exchange in 1984, he was listed as the 15th richest man in Britain, but by the late 1980s the company was in trouble. He took control of the direction of French Connection again in 1991.

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