Shaper: Nicole Farhi
Born in Nice in 1946, Nicole Farhi is an artist, a sculptor and fashion designer. Through her work for French fashion label Pierre D’Alby she began designing for British fashion retailer Stephen Marks, founder of French Connection.
In 1982, after settling in Hampstead, the designer and Marks launched the eponymous Nicole Farhi label reportedly based on the relaxed, subtle style of dress she still favours. Together with Stephen she has a daughter, Candice. Nicole received the British Design Council award for Design Excellence for her spring/summer 1991 collection, the first time in five years the award had been given to a fashion designer.
In 2012, after more than 20 years at the helm of her label, Nicole decided to sell her interest and focus on her career as a sculptor. In 1991, Nicole met British dramatist David Hare, to whom she is now married, while designing clothes for his play, Murmuring Judges. In 2008, she was awarded an honorary CBE for her contribution to the British fashion industry and in 2010 she received a Legion d’Honneur.
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“I’m from a Turkish/Jewish family and there were maybe 25/30 of us and we were so very, very close to one another. It was a wonderful upbringing as a lot of our family were living in Nice after the war.”
“I have a great, great warmth for large families. I only had one kid, but my husband has three and we have seven grandchildren. It’s great to be able to give them what I had – that warmth and the togetherness.”
“The Turkish women in my family were very, very chic and they loved clothes. They were always fighting about who had the best outfit. I was brought up by those women – they were next to me always looking wonderful.”
“I didn’t really want to be a fashion designer – I wanted to be an artist, a painter – but I fell into fashion very quickly when I was 20. I found it easy to sell sketches and get into the fashion world: I understood how it worked.”
“I liked the idea of doing something and six months later doing something else. You never get bored because you are always on the move to something else.”
“I was doing what I felt was right. I didn’t have a pre-conceived idea about fashion, I just liked drawing and I thought it was exciting to draw different things, not only clothes but socks, belts, bags, anything.”
“I thought we had changed something and then I read the papers and see all the harassment of women again today. I find it very upsetting actually. Very, very upsetting.”
“Stephen Marks was the business man. I was the creative behind the business. I never understood the balance sheet and he had to try and explain to me what we were doing and how the business was going.”
“I was doing it because I loved doing it. It’s a complete mistake to think that I am a business woman.”
“What is wonderful if you are a designer, if you are an artist, is not to be bogged down by business.”
“My parents trusted me whatever I did. If you give that to your kids, that foundation in love, then they will do what they want to do.”
The Live Session featured music from jazz vocalist Judi Jackson. Judi was born in Roanoke, Virginia, and has performed with talents such as Mavis Staples and Snarky Puppy. Judi has been nominated twice at this year’s Jazz FM awards.
“If you are not honest with yourself then your work cannot be as honest.”
“Freedom is key to being creative, to fluidity, to honesty within your work.”