Hers is a name synonymous with luxurious fashion and timeless wardrobe staples _ knitwear and statement jackets. She has hardly achieved a cult status, nevertheless, Nicole Farhi has had her finger on the pulse since the 1960s.
"It had to do with what I wanted to wear," she reasoned her successful career in the fast-changing business. "Nicole Farhi [the line] always stayed what I wanted to wear. It has had that kind of eternal feeling of a good pair of trousers, a good shirt, and some nice dresses."
As the 30th anniversary of the Nicole Farhi line draws nearer, the designer stopped in Bangkok to visit customers and buyers at Central Chidlom and staged a mini showcase at her store. Comprising of looks from her autumn/winter 2012 collection inspired by "the secession movement in Vienna" and French art nouveau, Farhi uses fabrics such as felt and laminated jacquards mixed with rich chartreuse, copper, and stark white colouring to create a canvas true to her legend.
Today the Nicole Farhi line covers womenswear, menswear, accessories, diffusion lines, fragrances, and even homeware, although the original main line started as a way to create clothing for her own closet.
Farhi was born in Nice in the south of France to Turkish parents. She quickly found her love of design, structure and exoticism and followed her passion to fashion school in Paris, bringing inspiration from the strong French women she looked up to, such as Francoise Sagan and Jeanne Moreau.
"It was the beginning of 'ready to wear' and it was, at the time very easy for a young designer to find a job," Farhi explained.
She worked for different companies throughout France and Italy, which took her to fabric markets around the world. Inspiration from the markets in China and India came in handy when she started a professional and personal relationship with Stephen Marks, creating the fashion retail chain French Connection.
"It was the hippy period, the 70s. I was dressed like that with long skirts, embroidery, and tunics," Farhi said.
As the times changed, so did Farhi. French Connection continued to be very successful, but she said that with age and experience, she was maturing and so was her style. The style evolution brought her to London and in 1982 the Nicole Farhi line was established to directly reflect her own taste.
"I wanted beautiful jackets and coats to wear.
"I wanted to use wool or cashmere, more expensive fabrics," she said. "It was a different woman I was dressing with Nicole Farhi."
That "different woman" was a reflection of how Farhi's life had developed. She had a child, moved to London, and was a well-respected designer by the time her own line was created.
She knew the requirements of a busy working mother and her wardrobe needed to reflect it. The Nicole Farhi line became well known for its functional menswear- inspired designs.
"Women are busy. They want their fashion to be chic, practical, and comfortable," she said.
The label quickly became known for its tailoring and beautiful knits. Five years later she started to delve into menswear and over the next decades delved into everything else.
"Now the collection is complete," she said.
By being true to herself and her style sense, Farhi has been able to not only have her finger on fashion's pulse, but her designs have become wardrobe staples for a number of those not-so-overtly fashion-conscious who look for pieces that are worth their investment _ women who know pieces they buy are eternal.
"I think women remember from the past until today that I am very strong in knitwear, so they come when they want a good knit that is different. They know that I do very good wrap coats, I have done one every season forever, so they will buy a coat from me," she said.
"When I meet someone who has been wearing my clothes, they will always go back and say, 'That coat that you did many years ago, I wear still', because you can wear them forever."
And art has emulated life _ during her career as a fashion designer, Farhi also became known as a sculptor.
Working with her hands to create her pieces has developed how she is able to perceive fashion and design.
"I think I became a better designer the day I began sculpting," she said.
"You don't look straight ahead when you look at a garment, you go round and round and look at it from every angle.
"You are able to look in-depth, not just at a flat surface, and if you embellish your garment, you go deep down and see the full idea."
As Farhi has developed her art, raised a child, and married playwright Sir David Hare, one thing about her designs remain the same _ they still reflect what she wants in her own closet and home.
Art and architecture have become essential to her design process, but it is that difference that has made her line timeless.
"Unlike most people, I look at the colours I like, I choose my colours," she said.
"Then I see art or buildings and am able to see the whole picture of the structure and designs."
About the author
Writer: Kelly Malone