Nicole Farhi: 'I wanted to express things other than just making clothes'
- Arabella Bradley
- 15 July 2019
This article is from 2019
Ahead of her exhibition at the Edinburgh Art Festival, Farhi tells us how she has found her true calling in sculpture since leaving the fashion industry
Nicole Farhi is a household name in British fashion, having been in the business since the 1960s. She started out in Paris before moving to London, but the cutting room was not where Farhi saw herself forever; sculpting in her studio at home was where she felt happiest, and still does today. 'I was not entirely satisfied with a life dedicated to fashion,' Farhi admits. 'I wanted to express things other than just making clothes.'
The transition from full-time designer to sculptor was very gradual. 'I had waited a long time until I could say goodbye to fashion and dedicate the rest of my life to sculpture,' she says. It wasn't an easy decision to make. Farhi would take one day a week off fashion and spend the weekends in her studio, and after 35 years of juggling the two she became a full-time sculptor. She insists that sculpture was always more than just a hobby, which is evident from the way she talks about her practise: 'it's very absorbing, like meditation'.
The paths her career has taken may not seem worlds apart – both require a hands-on approach to designing and making – but she feels that they bring her entirely different kinds of fulfilment. 'I enjoyed the pace of fashion where every six months you start again. I liked that challenge.' But the solitude of the studio was a welcome change. 'I love to face my own thoughts all day long and not having anybody to talk to,' she confesses, but that's not to say Farhi has always enjoyed working alone. If it wasn't for the deep admiration she had for her team (many of whom had been with her from the very beginning of her career at French Connection in the 1970s and moved with her when she founded her own label in 1982), the shift to full-time sculptor would probably have happened sooner.
Sculpture has been a large part of Farhi's creative output, just not as widely publicised as her achievements in fashion. 'Sculpture is not really new to my life,' she explains. 'It was really what I wanted to do one day completely.' Her work has been exhibited at venues including Beaux Arts and Gainsborough House, and she's a member of the Royal Society of Sculptors. This summer she makes her debut at the Edinburgh Art Festival with a solo exhibition, Writing Heads at The Fine Art Society, which contains 25 clay busts of her favourite 20th-century literary figures, from Oscar Wilde to Joan Didion. But these are by no means the grandiose busts you might expect to see of such acclaimed individuals: they are all under 20 centimetres high.