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by APN Code

This month we shine light on a number of new Dutch brands that have a unique vision of our current fashion industry. Today we pay attention to Francon, a sustainable brand that doesn’t design according to seasons, but according to different architectural settings. We spoke with founders May and Kees Kaan about starting a clothing brand within our current society and how Francon's unique concept fits in.

You both have had impressive careers. Why start a new fashion brand?
May: I was fashion schooled and after graduating I went abroad to work for Yves Saint Laurent. When I came back to the Netherlands I worked in marketing and branding related jobs, but also in the art and real estate industry. My experience comes together in founding Francon; building a brand is something I've always wanted to do. The timing was not a focus point for me. This is something I want to keep doing for a very long time and that's why time is irrelevant to me. Kees has of course taken a completely different career path; That is precisely why I asked him to join in, so that we can complement each other.
Kees: This whole process happened completely under my eyes and I also really enjoyed participating from the start of the concept. May is the initiator and is also involved on a daily basis. I focus on my work as an architect but regularly make room to help at important moments. As an architect you do a lot of projects that sometimes take 20 years, in this respect Francon is also such a long-term project for me.

What is the story behind the name Francon?
May: Francon is a nod to literary character Dominique Francon from the book 'The Fountainhead'. In the book, she is the muse of architect Howard Roark. In addition, Francon is an image of the woman we design for; individualistic and self-conscious. 

Francon works in changing settings instead of seasons. Can you explain to me the philosophy behind this? How does this reflect on the designs?
Kees: That is something related to architectural thinking. As an architect you work in a certain context for a certain type of user within a city or larger environment. With Francon, we wanted to break out of the cycle that characterizes fashion in a similar way. We don't want to create something that will eventually go out of fashion. We find it more interesting to take the place and the occasion into account when you wear something. Just like with architectural projects, we work with many people on the collections. You often design a building with ten people or more, so there must be a clear narrative that allows you to collaborate in this way. Our settings offer that opportunity for everyone who steps in. The story that comes with each setting ensures that every party involved understands the direction we want to take. Our first collection belongs to the setting 'The Lake House'. We ask ourselves: What does it mean when you are in this setting and what happens in a day? What kind of activities do you participate in and how does this location make you feel? Are you in a private or in public space? How often do you change clothes? Is this space formal or informal? In the 'Tower' setting you are in the city, you go out in the morning and maybe you have several activities and events during the day, but also in the evening. With this setting it is therefore important that you can transform your outfit from daytime to eveningwear by means of accessories, for example.

Can you tell me about Francon's production process? Do you work with local companies? What kind of substances are used?
May: The entire development is done in the Netherlands, from the patterns to the finished samples. The production is carried out within Europe where we work with small production numbers. We mainly buy our fabrics in Italy and we also develop our own fabrics. For the Lake House edition there are two fabrics that we have developed with different parties. We were inspired by Zeeland, a place we often visit together, and we delved into costume archives there to look at knitwear, smocking, the use of certain knitting stitches. For example, we created floral prints and knitwear with typical Zeeland knitting patterns. This collection also contains our variant of Zeeland buttons that were designed with help of a Dutch jewelry designer. We are really consciously working on developing and producing as much as possible in the Netherlands.
Kees: Those small numbers are very important to us. Ideally, we want all products to be able to be sold and not end up in the sale or left over. It makes a lot of sense for us to make high quality products that last longer. We also pay attention to the packaging; we are looking for alternatives to plastic such as compostable packaging material. Our society is not yet functioning sustainably. We all need to change our habits and understand that things have to cost something to be able to develop and produce them sustainably. Sometimes I see clothes for sale for incredibly low prices, that I just don't understand how that is possible at all. The race to the minimum cost is disastrous in terms of sustainability and does not give the buyer the feeling that a piece of clothing has value.

Francon was founded in 2021 and is therefore still in the starting blocks. What's it like to start a fashion brand in the midst of a pandemic?
May: We started with Francon before the first lockdown and weren't too concerned as we see Francon as a longer project and Covid will eventually pass. In a way it has sharpened our thinking, and due to the circumstances we have taken a little more time to make the concept clearer and to think even more with a long-term vision. During the pandemic, we have noticed that consumers are consuming more in a targeted manner and attach more value to the quality and sustainability of a product. For us, the pandemic has made us more focused. We also notice that the factories we want to work with are more likely to say 'yes' to a small brand like Francon, without the lockdown they might have been too busy or less interested in a brand that wants to produce short runs.

What are your future plans for Francon?
May: We would like to create a raison d'être for the brand. That we can start with a modest clientele and gradually expand. The world has to be big enough for a small brand. This year we started with the first archetype 'The Lake House'. In addition, we are working on the first collection for the 'Tower' archetype. Ultimately, we want to put down the entire oeuvre and build on it.
Kees: The first milestone is creating a flow, the second that we have designed a collection for all settings to create a complete picture, and the third is expanding our archetypes. It is mainly about stability and the continued development of Francon based on craftsmanship and passion.

Article via Amsterdam Fashion Week (translated from Dutch)