Maxine Hargreaves-Adams needs to get to grips with the brand’s positioning in its fight to stay alive.
It was welcome news to learn this morning that Maxine Hargreaves-Adams, heiress to the Matalan dynasty and owner of Fenn Wright Manson, had rescued British brand Nicole Farhi from administration. I have fond memories of the brand from my formative years, wandering around Harvey Nichols with weeks of saved up pocket money burning a hole in my ill-fitting, over-treated jeans, desperately trying to find something I could afford.
If my memory serves – bear in mind this was a long time ago now – Nicole Farhi was always one of the brands I could just about afford should I forgo my fizzy cola bottle addiction for a month or so. And as such, I’ve always had a little bit of a soft spot for the brand. In those days I never remember the collections being particularly directional: the general themes were quality and simplicity and you could almost always pick up a nice jumper or pair of trousers if you wanted something smart to wear to go “up town” as we called it.
But since then, and definitely in more recent times, the prices Nicole Farhi started charging crept up and up. Not necessarily a bad thing in itself as perhaps the strategy was that customers it gained in the 90s would grow up with the brand and spend more money as they earned more money, but in going quite so high to the point prices are nipping at the heels of the likes of Gucci and Lanvin I fear it lost its reason for being.
Reiss always provided that segue between high street homogeny and designer dressing and in a way moved into the area vacated by Nicole Farhi as it moved upmarket. Now that area is even more densely populated, making competition fierce. But in knocking on the luxury door, you have to either offer something genuinely innovative, or be the owner of a sexy brand image. Nicole Farhi has suffered for having neither of these.
Hargreaves-Adams has a job on her hands – here’s hoping she figures out where Farhi should sit, and fast.