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French Twist

Rags to riches

Fashion often gets a bad rap for its toothpick-sized, waify models and its way-too-small sizes. French Rags, a business opportunity company based in Los Angeles, attempts to banish these negative vibes by showing women they can be both comfortable and fashionable in clothing designed for real women. Just ask Hillary Clinton, who's been seen sporting French Rags attire.

For Alexis Holt, 27, French Rags was exactly what she wanted in a career. With previous experience in management for two high-powered retail clothing stores in San Francisco, she became a French Rags consultant in May 1999. The company has about 110 consultants nationwide; collections are sent to consultants' homes four times a year. Consultants then organize appointments, or "trunk shows," where clients view the clothes. Though the average outfit costs around $800, Holt says the line appeals to businesswomen who like French Rags' variety of flattering styles.

Although French Rags' clientele is predominantly women in their late 30s, the company is actively seeking younger customers and consultants. One of the biggest challenges, Holt says, is recruiting new customers; she finds hers in women's groups and via word-of-mouth.

Word-of-mouth is key, since French Rags isn't sold in retail stores. "Once people see the clothes, they become junkies; after that, the clothes sell themselves," says Holt, adding that at a recent trunk show she hosted, every customer spent at least $1,000. "Not one person said 'Thanks very much, but I'm not interested.' That says a lot about the clothes." There is no initial cost to become a French Rags consultant.

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