One trend I’ve noticed gaining momentum recently is a return to separates. A designer who perfectly encapsulated this mood for autumn/winter was Joanna Sykes. Her debut collection for Nicole Farhi delicately balanced traditional tailoring with feminine softness.
Sykes was appointed Creative Director of the house last September and her first collection has been highly anticipated. With a background at Giorgio Armani, Alberta Ferretti and latterly as Creative Director at Aquascutum, I was keen to see what she would bring to the brand. On the Sunday of London Fashion Week I had the privilege of viewing her first offerings for Nicole Farhi up close at the brand’s Mayfair HQ.
Inspired by the label’s roots, Sykes presented a collection of separates that was strongly influenced by a menswear but most definitely cut for real women. ‘All of a sudden it’s about separates and flats, not dresses and heels,’ said Sykes. This was a starting point for the collection, focusing on outerwear and knitwear, especially what Sykes described as ‘great coats’. This was a real highlight for me. Tailoring was traditional and often quite mannish (even slightly oversized in places), which lent the collection an androgynous vibe. However, fabric and finish gave each piece a feminine edge: soft jersey (more on that later), leather and fur detailing.
According to Sykes, another key focus of the collection was texture. Knitwear displayed rich textures (just look at the close-ups below): graphic patchwork, contrasting burgundy and cream chevron stitches, oversized Mouliné and giant tweed jacquard. Chunky knitwear balanced silky separates and soft layers.
Sykes was keen to highlight the use of jersey throughout the collection; this was a nod to the houses’s heritage, synonymous with Nicole Farhi’s designs and with menswear more generally. The fabric enabled the designer to create soft, tonal tailoring, which she described as ‘sexy and flowing, not stiff’. The designs are elegant, with the added bonus of the comfortable qualities of a stretch fabric.
The designer also enjoyed playing with proportion, such as the longer sleeves seen on several looks, which further contributed to the mannish aesthetic. Shirts were crisp and oversized with crisp double cuffs, and the traditional cummerbund was deconstructed to create an exaggerated peplum silhouette.
Dresses were cut as straight columns, and layered with almost architectural-style panelling and texture. Exaggerated leather cuffs added toughness. Skirts were also slouchy – shift-like and relaxed, and cut to the ankle. Shirts introduced an element of softness, hand-painted on silk crepe. Tuxedo stripe panels were inspired by traditional tailored waistbands – I just loved the silver style suit trousers with contrasting braid.
The tonal colour palette complemented the subdued mood of the collection with nude, charcoal, winter whites with highlights of deep burgundy, spruce green and soft lilac.
As Sykes talked me through the collection, I was struck by the sheer craftsmanship on display. This is luxury that doesn’t shout from the roof-tops – in fact, that word, with all its ostentatious connotations really doesn’t do this collection justice. You just have to look at the details and textures in the below shots to see that.
It’s an exciting time for the house and for Sykes to deliver such a strong collection at this initial ‘transitional’ stage, and staying true to the house’s signature style while making her own mark, is incredibly promising.