A letter from our Editor and CEO on our partnership with Bank of Ireland
15th March 2018
On the 16th of April 2014 Lauren Henshaw sent me a message on Facebook asking if I would be interested in co-founding/running “a decent fashion orientated publication in college”. We were studying History and Politics in Trinity College Dublin. Lauren’s Mum was a fashion wholesaler and I was just back from walking for Simone Rocha, but neither of us could find a fashion magazine we felt connected to.
Lauren and I didn’t know each other before, we’d sat in the same Weimar history class so all I knew was she had great hair and she knew I liked a good jumper. We met for tea in Wall & Keogh on Dublin’s South Richmond Street. She spoke of frustration at fashion’s perceived frivolity in college. I spoke of a lack of fashion magazines that engaged my mind. Over the coming year we produced the first issue of FRANC magazine. This meant building a voice, finding advertisers such as American Apparel, finding shops where it could sit next to brands like Comme des Garçons, but it also meant building a friendship.
In 2014, to borrow a phrase from This American Life’s Zoe Chase, “my thoughts felt like molasses”. I was in the throws of immense and complicated grief following a span of four months during which my granddad passed away, I went through a necessary but high stakes breakup and my dad died. Creating FRANC didn’t offer refuge from this. It was the only place that offered connection capable of cutting through the grief.
This connection wasn’t just through my relationship with Lauren, where we could trust each other with dark secrets and hard conversations, but from the people who supported us, shared their talent with us and opened FRANC’s pages. We are all familiar with the
warm wash that comes over you when you feel that who you are doesn’t fit, and fashion arouses it all too frequently. But I believe everything that’s wrong with fashion can be fixed by everything that’s right with fashion. Its ability to celebrate difference and change have proven to me that creativity has the power to transcend that noise and connect us to each other. The ultimate evidence of this rests in the messages we have received telling us we have remedied a sense of isolation, bestowed a sense of belonging and eased depressive episodes. Our readers are not “fashion people”, they are everyone who wants to feel more connected; fashion is the tool we use.
Last summer I finished college, Lauren now lives in London and is working on Hunter’s social media, and with the support of our deputy editor Eva Morrissey and our designer Paul Guinan, I took FRANC through Trinity College’s accelerator programme, LaunchBox. FRANC had been produced over lunch breaks from work, backstage at fashion shows and at times when we should have been writing essays but I knew it was more than what I could do in my apartment on my laptop. LaunchBox gave us a nice chuck of change and hooked us up with some amazing mentors including Deirdre Tracey, the associate director of the Trinity Foundation (where she raises millions for cool things like setting up the Science Gallery and the university’s new business school) and Rhona Murphy, former CEO of the Daily Beast and Managing Director of Newsweek.
In August the programme’s sponsor, Bank of Ireland, held a pitch event. I always found pitching FRANC tricky because it’s as much about how we do things as what we do and there are no sexy robots (yet). But I spoke about appearance being the number one shame trigger for women and how solving this meant opening up fashion to a whole world of people.
Through this I was introduced to Lesley Tully, the bank’s head of design thinking. Lesley’s background is in the art world and she’s arranged art fairs in Basel and New York, she’s on the board of the National Gallery of Ireland and her job is defining new market opportunities for Bank of Ireland where her work has propelled numerous organisations and start ups. She’s pretty much a badass who wants creativity to make lots of money.
In September we met for super hot coffee and talked about female led companies, lifestyle brands and global expansion. Over the next few months there were email intros, emergency phone calls and check in texts. This January, over bone broth, we decided to make it formal and set out plans for a partnership between FRANC and Bank of Ireland.
Technology has allowed us to produce a print publication, establish an e- commerce destination and communicate with readers across Europe and the States with an incredibly small team and limited resources. Partnering with Bank of Ireland puts economic power behind us and means we can reach further and faster than we’d have been able to on our own because FRANC lives in each person who reads the pages of our publication, views our Instagram posts and shares an idea with a friend. We can’t wait.
I’ll write you again soon,
CEO and Editor in Chief, FRANC