Five minutes with… Frances Card, MD of FCC, a Founding Member of The Industry and Vice Chair of The Sorority

Five minutes with… Frances Card, MD of FCC, a Founding Member of The Industry and Vice Chair of The Sorority
Published: 24 January 2020

Frances Card is a fashion business expert and runs the highly successful Frances Card Consultancy. She has an extensive knowledge of the fashion industry spanning over two and a half decades.  The many high-profile clients that she has worked with include Matches Fashion, where she worked as strategy consultant and COO; Bauer Media Group working with the founders to create the highly successful Cocosa, three years working across the Harvey Nichols business to achieve a seamless Multi Channel offering and periodic projects with Farfetch.

Frances is an experienced presenter, hosting numerous fashion events and forums, and is a sought-after expert speaker on the fashion industry. In addition to her consultancy business, Frances is founding member of The Industry and Vice Chair of The Sorority, one of the world's most prestigious private clubs for professional women.

In this instalment of ‘Five minutes with’, Berwick Partners’ Claire Stewart speaks to Frances about her career, from her proudest moments to her biggest challenges, as well as the challenges that brands are facing.

Why did you get into fashion?

My mother was fascinated by fashion and every season we would review our wardrobes and come to London from the country with a budget for the new season’s collections. This sounds very expensive, but it was more House of Fraser than Versace! She would help me choose and then on the train home we would review our purchases. What fun – she was determined I would be in fashion at some point! How clever was she!

What are you most proud of in your career?

It’s hard to say as small triumphs and building some fabulous contributors to the industry have been hugely rewarding! However, I think my involvement with Matches and helping develop the business to a platform where investors were interested and, eventually, supporting (through distanced advice) a bidding war to achieve a £800 million sale made me very proud. It was a small business with the best connections and brands and finally realised its potential for the brave and innovative owners.

What is the funniest thing that has happened in your career?

When I was young, I got into an elevator in a Parisian store (we all know where) and Karl Lagerfeld entered after me. I stood behind him and was thrilled he was there. He kept turning around to look at me, dark glasses hiding his eyes – I thought I had arrived (!) and was of interest to him! When he exited, I realised I had a parasol in my handbag directly facing him (Dior unfortunately) and I had been poking him almost continually as the elevator moved! Years later I was at an event where he was, and he ignored me – I would too!

What do you believe to be the biggest challenge(s) brands are facing today?

Market share through relevance. There is SO much ‘noise’ in the industry and so many different agendas including authenticity, sustainability and of course embracing diversity.

The desire for immediacy in both delivery to consumer and from manufacturer has driven new sources of production and technology. The commitment to environmental issues has led to the growth of new initiatives including rental, resale and refurbishment, which in turn builds a world of new partners and supply chains.

Finally, aspirations to be fully inclusive to all aspects of the current social and environmental themes.

Can you see a way through these?

I think an open and honest policy that offers the consumer a chance to understand the workings of a commercial enterprise, balanced against a clear understanding of the world today. I think innovation in design and price architecture is paramount but policed by clear work/customer ethics. Social media is key to developing a global relevance and to create the ability to build a growing audience.

How did your involvement in The Sorority come about?

Lisa Tse asked to meet me before the launch of her vision of a woman’s networking and support network. We agreed I would be a spearhead for her and have been for many years.

What can companies do to promote women in leadership roles?

I think it’s cultural – level playing fields and appreciate that all of us have a role in life, male or female, and neither should be considered to be less than equal. I have run a project with a company where women directors mentored male directors and vice-versa, with interesting findings.

Claire Stewart is a Consultant in the Consumer Practice at Berwick Partners, specialising in recruiting senior management and leadership roles within the Consumer Lifestyle sector.

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