Menswear brand Farah is turning 100 in 2020. The celebrations kicked off earlier in the month at London’s White City House with a multifaceted presentation, during which the brand’s archive-inspired SS20 collection and its collaboration with YMC were unveiled to press and buyers. Last week, we got to take a closer look at the wares in the brand’s London HQ, while picking the brains of brand director Mark McCann on Farah’s past, present and future.
Farah is celebrating a big birthday. What’s your take on paying homage to its 100-year history?
For us, the birth of youth culture surfaced in the 1950s with the emergence of post war workwear themes and icons such as James Dean and Elvis… so at 100, we’re starting to communicate our story, beginning with Texas Teens from the 1950s and with more to follow as we continue to highlight different chapters of Farah’s journey through the decades via our quarterly collections. As a brand, we identify strongly with youth culture, and we see it as an ever-changing energy that we constantly draw from. As much as we’re a century-old heritage brand, we continue to identify with the youth audience of today through our product without being too dominated by our heritage. We’ve also developed our first archive collection for SS20, bringing together Farah’s past and present.
Please tell us about the thinking behind the archive collection and some of the pieces within it.
In some cases, you’ll find direct drop-downs from the archive – the coach jacket with back embroidery is one such example – and elsewhere we might have revisited a certain material or reinterpreted a shirt cut to suit modern tastes. The short denim jacket with a slightly oversized sleeve is a highlight, and as modern as it looks, it’s in fact very close to it archival predecessor.
You’ve also struck up your first ever collaboration, letting British brand YMC design a 12-piece collection for SS20 based on the Farah archive. How did the collab come about?
Our 100th anniversary felt like the right moment to introduce our first collaboration, and we’ve found an ideal partner in YMC as they really understand the brand and its affinity with subcultures. Having grown up in the 1970s, founder Fraser Moss was able to look at our archive and interpret it in a way that resonated with him personally – resulting in a contemporary collection infused with Rude boy vibes and a touch of Notting Hill from back in the day.
How did YMC go about reinterpreting the Farah archive?
Some elements were translated directly from the archive, such as the star patches that appear on a denim shirt. Moss also designed a great pair of jeans influenced by a hopsack trouser style, with a cropped, loose fit, and a high waist. He’s taken what is a clear Farah icon and pushed it by using 12oz true blue denim.
Where’s Farah at retail-wise and what’s your approach?
We recently opened a shop-in-shop in Paris on Rue Tiquetonne in the Montorgueil quarter, within indie multibrand retailer Royalcheese and we’re intrigued to see how this develops as it’s a fairly new project for us. On UK home turf, we currently operate standalone stores in London, Brighton and Leeds – busy city locations where we have a strong youth audience, allowing us to test product across design, identity, color and anything in between. We like to be a bit creative with our offer, and our own retail gives us a good visual platform to do so. As for our .com business, we can get product out even quicker – it’s a good tool with which to communicate the Farah lifestyle and identity, and it gives us immediate reactions that yield important learnings. Another very useful test-bed is our space within Topman’s flagship on Oxford Street, which opened about a year ago. In this buzzing, iconic location we’re able to trial trends and new product, and the huge footfall really gives us an idea of what works.
And what in particular does work, within the Topman space and more generally?
We have a strong Core business that is the backbone of all Farah collections across chino, 5-pocket and wovens that have become staples for the Farah consumer, but we also offer progressive fashion pieces that always do really well, and most definitely within the Topman space – currently the wider fits on legs, revere collar shirts and designs featuring interesting color and print, which we’re constantly innovating as this is something our consumer has come to expect.