Sometimes, all a brand needs is a good shake. Newly appointed creative director Joanna Sykes has certainly given Nicole Farhi that: In her first season at its helm, she's cleared away all that was digressive and superfluous, and instituted a regime of rigorous focus. As Sykes explained at the by-appointment Farhi presentation today, her first moves at the house were to shift production back to Italy, as part of a general recommitment to quality and to restore Farhi's original vision of her brand as an adaptable, man's-style wardrobe for women. So far, so good. And though this collection did feel rather formative—and justly so—it boasted so many fantastic pieces and such a well-defined point of view that you just had to look forward to the development to come.
Sykes' emphasis here was on menswear-inspired looks; indeed, "emphasis" may be too weak a word, as the influence was evident in virtually every piece. The most interesting looks took traditional menswear elements and exaggerated them: to wit, a button-down shirt that incorporated a kind of cummerbund, or a magnified pinstripe print, or a dense, hand-loomed knit that blew up both the pattern and texture of tweed. Meanwhile, even the more mundane looks benefited from Sykes' razor-sharp cuts. This is a designer who knows her way around an angle; the collection as a whole had a cool sense of geometry. Farhi herself, of course, was pursuing a softer course in her final collections, and it was hard not to miss some of her sculptural fluidity; that said, in Sykes' previous gig heading up Aquascutum she always managed to infuse elements of femininity and sensuousness into erstwhile mannish clothes. You have to assume that Sykes will return to that form now that she's got her Nicole Farhi principles set down. All in all, this collection was a modest success on its own terms, and augured really well for Nicole Farhi's future.