Sunday, 13 February 2011

French Connection

Let's have a break from pre-op matters - though we will joyfully turn back to them soon enough!

You may have gathered that I'm a student of shop window displays. Now the job of these is to catch the eye, and then entice you inside the shop. But sometimes something goes wrong. Your eye may be caught all right; but the display is confusing or downright offensive (as with Benetton a while back).

I've noticed that French Connection seems to be playing a clever-clever game with potential customers, with weird posters and oddly dressed dummies. Back in April last year I noticed these in their Edinburgh branch:


Huh? I don't get it. Are they suggesting that women are fashion-dyslexic and simple-minded? Or trapped in stereotypical leisure roles that deserve some mockery? Or (and this is where they may be getting too clever by half) are they saying 'We dare to portray women as victims of modern life, because we know they recognise their real position and can see the high purpose behind our somewhat unpleasant messages'. Really? Whose leg are they pulling?

And they're still at it. I saw this in the shop window of their Brighton branch:


Yes, that's right. Men without trousers on, just their Y-fronts, sporting goggles, silly moustaches, and even sillier Loch Ness Monster swimming-pool rings around their waists!

I thought the dummies were meant to be gay men when I first spied this. Then I realised that no gay man I'd ever met would go around in such a ridiculous get-up, nor could French Connection legally depict gay men like this. So these were meant to be ordinary chaps. (Yes, yes, I know that gay men are ordinary chaps, but you do see what I mean: chaps who are so straight and boring and conventional that they're painful, and need to be shocked or taken by surprise)

But what is the message? 'You are man?' I instantly recall the scene in the Fawlty Towers episode called 'The Builders' where Manuel the waiter (who is from Barcelona and no speaka English well) asks the incoming hulking Irish cowboy builders 'Are you men?' (meaning 'Are you the men from the building firm?') and nearly gets a punch in the nose. I'm thinking that this offensive little display is a similar insult to passing fellows of good and noble character. But intended to seem clever, in order to take the sting out of it.

Well, if I were a man, I would feel so pissed off about this that wild horses couldn't drag me into the shop and spend money. Which is surely what they want passing men to do - if not on themselves, then on their ditsy female partners that lead such bored and confusing lives.

I'm sick of it, all this so-called sophisticated advertising. It's just an excuse to be rude. How dare they expect people to buy from them. And the indignation is intensified when you think how much brainpower is wasted on dreaming up ways to make you and me part with our money.

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Lucy Melford