Fashion icon Nicole Farhi is latest retail casualty

Many jobs at risk as 'critically acclaimed' label calls in the administrators

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 16:A model showcases designs on the catwalk by Nicole Farhi on day 3 of London Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2013, at RIBA on September 16, 2012 in London, England.(P
(Image credit: 2012 Getty Images)

NICOLE FARHI, the upmarket British fashion label, has become the latest victim of the squeezed retail market. The company is going into administration, putting 120 jobs at risk.

The label, founded in 1982 by French-born Nicole Farhi and her then husband, French Connection boss Stephen Marks, has five stand-alone stores and concessions in Harvey Nichols, House of Fraser and Selfridges.

The company was sold in 2010 to private equity firm OpenGate before being bought by Kelso Place Asset Management last year.

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Kelso Place hoped to elevate the label to the same bracket as luxury brands such as Smythson and Anya Hindmarch.

But restructuring experts Zolfo Cooper announced this morning they had been appointed as administrators.

The move will be all too familiar to Nicole Farhi's creative director Joanna Sykes, who left her last job at Aquascutum just as that firm went into administration.

However, the Daily Telegraph says Nicole Farhi's financial fallout "can in no way be laid at Sykes's door". Her debut collection, shown in February at London Fashion Week, received critical acclaim but hasn't hit shops yet.

Analysts say the firm has simply "run out of cash".

The chain's collapse is the latest in a long line of retail casualties that includes HMV, Jessops and Blockbuster. Only last month ModelZone and Internacionale collapsed.

Topshop owner Sir Philip Green has demanded a fundamental overhaul of the tax rates paid by Britain's businesses to help support struggling retailers. In a "strongly worded attack" on the current system he called for a rates freeze and a "rates holiday" for shop owners.

Peter Saville, a partner at Zolfo Cooper, said "the decline in high street spending coupled with rising costs" had piled financial pressure on Nicole Farhi.

But he added: "We are already in discussions with a number of interested parties."

The Times reports there is speculation that Farhi, now married to playwright Sir David Hare, may take back the reins of the business. Although she is no longer involved in the day-to-day running of the company she has said she has always maintained a good relationship with the brand's owners.

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