Stephen Anthony Solomon Marks
23 May 1946
|Occupation||Fashion retailer and wholesaler|
|Known for||Founder, chairman and chief executive of French Connection|
Early life and career
Stephen Anthony Solomon Marks was born in Harrow, north London, the son of Jewish hairdressers and went to the local secondary modern school. He was a promising tennis player as a teenager, playing at Fred Perry's old club Herga and winning a junior prize at Wimbledon.
Marks began working as a salesman for the coat-maker Andre Peters and French fashion designer Louis Féraud, before setting up Stephen Marks London in the late 1960s to produce his own suit and coat designs. Marks had already ventured into wholesaling, earning the nickname 'the hotpants king' after spotting the trend for short shorts in Paris and importing stock to sell in Miss Selfridge.
Marks established the French Connection women's label in 1972 – a year after the film of the same name was released. The name reportedly came about because, via a business contact in France, he managed to acquire 3,000 Indian cheesecloth shirts that could be resold in the UK at a large profit.
By 1975, Nicole Farhi was working for Marks, designing a mid-price label known as Stephen Marks and a French Connection by Stephen Marks label at the budget end of the market. Marks' brands were singled out that year by The Guardian's Angela Neustatter – along with Christopher McDonnell, Jeff Banks and Stirling Cooper – as labels likely to survive the growing plethora of mass-market anonymous brands in the UK fashion industry. Heading up the company's design studio in Bow, East London, Farhi helped launch a men's label in 1976. She subsequently became Marks' partner and the couple had a child together. Marks assisted Farhi in launching an eponymous higher-end label within the French Connection group in 1983, remaining involved with the Nicole Farhi label until it was sold in 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. In a subsequent interview with the London Evening Standard, Marks described himself as naïve, saying: “I got too wrapped up with the City and merchant bankers." Marks regained directorial control of French Connection in 1991, changing its image with the 'fcuk' advertising campaign. Today the brand operates in 30 countries and Marks' other business interests via French Connection include the clothing and clothing/homewear brands Great Plains and Toast. Toast now has eleven UK stores.
Marks is a member of the All-England Club and has helped to establish tennis academies in the UK and Israel to develop young players. At one time he had a substantial share in Hard Rock Café. He has also been involved with films, helping to finance Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, Layer Cake and Kick-Ass.
- Chris Blackhurst, 'The Big Interview: Stephen Marks', London Evening Standard, 26 May 2009. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
- "French Connection Group plc: CEO and Executives – Businessweek". Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
- Doward, Jamie (26 September 1999). "Tailor's hand who fashioned a fortune with few connections". The Observer. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
- "French Connection Limited". Companies House. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
- Doward, Jamie (3 July 2004). "Rags, riches and regrets". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 December 2014.
- Simon Mills, 'The man from FCUK', MailOnline, undated. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
- https://web.archive.org/web/20120619090017/http://www.thejc.com/business/business-features/64342/mr-french-connection-means-business. Archived from the original on 19 June 2012. Retrieved 11 January 2014. Missing or empty
- Beverley D'Silva. "Stephen Marks: No Marks for subtlety | Lifestyle". The Independent. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
- Julia Finch. "Interview: Stephen Marks, French Connection | Business". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
- "French Connection – Fashion Designer Encyclopedia – clothing, women, men, style, new, body, history, footwear, collection". Fashionencyclopedia.com. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
- Neustatter, Angela (14 January 1975). "Four Score". The Guardian.
- Zoe Wood. "French Connection sells Nicole Farhi as losses mount | Business". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 November 2015.
- Armistead, Louise (20 October 2013). "zigzag pattern that is French Connection". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
- Geoghegan, Jill (1 October 2014). "Lifestyle brand Toast opened its fourth store in Chelsea this week". Drapers. Retrieved 1 October 2014.