The components problem plays a role too. While there is good stuff like Mavic and Stronglisht, many people's first experience of retro French bits is
the dreaded Simplex Prestige, or maybe some steel Huret house-brick. That probably contributes to a negative impression of French stuff. Campagnolo was simply better at maintaining an image of quality.
I had my fair share of Huret Eco and cheapo Simplex rear mechs on bikes as a kid, then again I also recall drooling over a Stronglight road chainset in the bike shop near my Nan's house....never did get round to buying it though. Lemond-era Mavic stuff looked cool, although actually riding it in later years showed up its Achilles heels (chiefly Ergal dropout mounting bolts for rear mechs - I've trashed 2 840s that way) and it cost an absolute bomb brand new. The real eye-opener for me was in the mid 90s when the final incarnations of Sachs New Success came out; it didn't just look good, it acted the part too, especially the hubset. Currently have NS parts (plus some from the Quarz gruppo, its MTB-themed cousin) of both of my 'best' bikes, pleased as punch with them.
On a not-so-retro note, the Stronglight Speedlight chainset of more recent vintage is an equally brilliant triumph of form & function, let down a wee bit by the accompanying BB unit being not so reliable.
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