Last September was an odd season for the house of Nicole Farhi – Joanna Sykes had not yet started in her role as creative director and so what we saw on the catwalk was essentially the end of the “then” line. But now Sykes is all installed and been busy for the last six months getting everything shipshape. She’s the first to admit it’s just the beginning, but then you have to start somewhere.
“It’s really about getting the foundations in place, the manufacturing. When the label started, there weren’t the likes of Cos or Zara around, so now to stand apart you need to get that quality and fabrication right first,” explained Sykes matter-of-factly, adding that she’s barely had time to consider being daunted at heading up such a renowned label over the past six months. Instead, she’s been busy going back to the brand’s roots and making sure it does stand apart from what else is in the market.
“The idea of the collection isn’t particularly thematic, but we’ve been unpicking the DNA. It’s a personality. I remember having lunch with Nicole and asking her why she started the brand. She creates things that aren’t fashion first, the consumer needs a level of individualism,” recalled Sykes. “It’s quite a niche brand really.”
The idea this season is very much along the lines of: You know all of those items you want to steal from your boyfriend’s wardrobe? Well why when you can have your own? Courtesy of Nicole Farhi – for this is the menswear aesthetic just for women: androgynous, tailored, layered and tonal in greys and cream, biscuit, navy and black collaged together through thick cosy knits, fur-panelled coats, cummerbunds reinvented as peplums and skirts very neatly patched together.
These are the sorts of clothes appreciated best close up – and so today’s presentation format over a show worked best.
“It’s not fashion fashion. It’s smart in a relaxed way. Let’s loosen up,” summed up Sykes. “It’ll take a few seasons to get the handwriting.” But then that’s the just the right train of thought for a brand like Nicole Farhi: pragmatism. It suits the clothes and it suits the customer. And it looks like the right team leader is currently in place.