Chinese handset vendor TCL Communications staged the UK launch of the Mandarina Duck handset in London today.

Operating under its European brand name Alcatel – the French telecoms giant has a five per cent stake in the firm – the firm said the new handsets will be available, exclusively in the UK at the Carphone Warehouse, and in certain luxury luggage Mandarina Duck stores across the continent.

The deal, which sees the handset firm team up with a fashionable brand name, is not the first of its kind. In 2005 Alcatel released the first of a series of three Elle-branded terminals.

With LG and Samsung launching Prada and Armani-branded devices this year, the current fashion for fashion is a trend that Alcatel brand manager Vittorio Dimalro sees continuing. “Until not long ago, it was all feature, feature, feature. But many times the consumers aren’t interested,” he said, adding: “You need to find a way to differentiate yourself.”

With this launch Alcatel is targeting what it feels is an underserved market: women. Fifty per cent of the population are not interested in having the latest features and are more concerned with the way the device looks said Dimalro. “I believe there is a big opportunity. They’re not interested in the features. Here is an opportunity to offer this market something with a lifestyle brand,” he said.

Of course, there are plenty of feature rich phones that also look great, so Alcatel faces some stiff competition. That said, Alcatel must be doing something right, back in the second quarter of 2005 the firm made of loss of ?45m, now it’s profitable – and has been for six consecutive quarters. The firm shifted 12 million units last year. The turn around is largely thanks to the cost savings enjoyed through moving the manufacturing process to China.