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Nicole Farhi saviour vows to reassure stockists

Nicole Farhi’s new owner has pledged to meet with both current and former stockists as she looks to win back business for the beleaguered brand.

Maxine Hargreaves-Adams bought Nicole Farhi out of administration for an undisclosed sum on Monday, following a weekend of negotiations with administrator Zolfo Cooper.

The label entered administration earlier this month, just 18 months after its acquisition from French Connection by Kelso Place. The asset management company had committed to invest £15m in the business over five years.

It is the third fashion investment in just over a year for Hargreaves-Adams, daughter of Matalan founder John Hargreaves, after she snapped up womenswear brand Fenn Wright Manson in April 2012 and took a 50% stake in the Damsel in a Dress brand last month.

Hargreaves-Adams told Drapers she had “always been a fan” of Nicole Farhi, and “recognised the opportunity to return it back to its iconic status”.

Acknowledging disgruntlement from former stockists – many of whom had dropped the brand in recent seasons – Hargreaves-Adams said she was keen “to provide reassurance of our commitment and belief”.

Retailers have previously complained that Nicole Farhi’s prices are out of kilter with its quality, with one retailer identifying a failure to innovate and its “pedestrian” collections as reasons for dropping the brand.

Hargreaves-Adams said: “We clearly need to address this perception as a high level of design and quality is integral to all our brands.”

Creative director Joanna Sykes, who joined from Aquascutum, unveiled her first menswear collection in February. However, it failed to reignite enthusiasm, with one buyer at the time saying her designs “needed a bit more testosterone”.

Steve Cochrane, owner of Middlesbrough department store Psyche, dropped the womenswear range following autumn 12. He said: “The brand just seemed to get overtaken by other, more exciting brands. It felt stuck in its ways, and a bit staid. We felt there were better, less pricey alternatives.”

But Cochrane said he would “always keep an open mind” and urged the new owner to inject excitement into the designs.

The business is now under review, with decisions made by the previous team – including dropping the menswear arm of diffusion line Farhi by Nicole Farhi – set to be evaluated over the coming weeks.

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