“Hi! I’m Jo!” Joanna Sykes, the newly-ordained creative director of Nicole Farhi, says to me as she thrusts her hand enthusiastically into mine. Sykes’ excitement is palpable, as is my own. I had already been blown away by her initial menswear collection, and now it was the ladies’ turn. She seems genuinely delighted when I tell her that I’m a huge fan, and we take a chance whilst the room is quiet to discuss her appointment.
I tentatively mention how much I loved her work for Aquascutum, and she admits herself that the gig was a tough couple of years leading to an unsatisfactory outcome, which many people believe to be down to the mismanagement of the business rather than the direction Sykes had taken. The one good thing to come out of this role was some useful relationships formed with a number of Italian manufacturers. With the middle-market already swollen Sykes has had the nous to try and distance Nicole Farhi from its competitors, an ambition she’s achieved – and then some.
This debut collection for Autumn/Winter 2013 is filled with future classics, as well as recognisable Farhi signatures refreshed for next season, such as a stunning, inky shearling, or the tweedy textures of the knitwear.
Sykes admits that she drew inspiration from Nicole Farhi’s own, rather masculine style of dress, and whilst there is an androgynous edge to the tailoring, the jersey construction gives a softer, more feminine fluidity. Whilst Farhi’s more traditional customer might prefer the column dresses and crisp cummerbund shirts, her daughter is bound to lap up the zippy striped biker jackets teamed with slender co-ordinating trousers.
Although the nuts and bolts of this collection are quite neutral, rich reds and greens with an almost Obsidian darkness permeate.
As we lament the trend of name designers drafted in to revive flagging labels, only to be kicked out after failing to achieve immediate results, Joanna Sykes gives me the impression that both her and Nicole Farhi are in it for the long run. A marriage made in Heaven.
Review written by Lee Clatworthy (@TeamChutzpah) for Katie Chutzpah blog.