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Farah looks to its history as it gears up for 100th anniversary in 2020

Tom Bottomley
19 May 2019

Men’s casualwear brand Farah hits 100 next year, and to celebrate the brand put on a fashion presentation to buyers and press for the first time - showcasing its SS20 – at White City House in London.

It also revealed a new short video, shot by Rankin’s team, featuring both the new collection as well as pieces from the brand’s extensive archive. A capsule collaboration line with YMC and its designer Fraser Moss, giving his design take on the brand’s heritage though the eyes of his youth was also part of the showcase. We caught up with brand director Mark McCann and head of design James Pearce-Roberts at the event to talk us through it.

“It’s the first time we’ve done a retail customer facing event like this before, but the 100thanniversary seemed like the ideal time to do it,” says McCann, who’s now been with the brand for 11 years, having joined the business in 2008 as UK and European sales manager, and prior to that having worked with the brand for two years on the wholesale agency side through Brand Progression, which he co-founded.

The Farah brand was founded in Texas in 1920, originally producing workwear – chambray shirts and denim jeans in particular. It was also a big supplier of khakis to the military during WWII. “Not a lot of people realise it, but the brand was actually big with the explosion of denim in the 1950’s, and with the birth of youth culture,” offers McCann.

“There is a bit of denim in the new SS20 collection, but we’re not going after a massive denim revolution, it’s just that we’re starting to tell the story of our history and our association with youth culture. We’ve not really done that before.”


There’s certainly plenty of 50’s influences in the new SS20 offer in terms of shirting, with revere collars and boxy fits in abundance, and even a bowling shirt. There’s also pleated trousers that sit short on the ankle.

“Our tagline for the anniversary is ‘We were there,’” comments McCann.

’Texas Teens’ is our theme for the 50’s, and that’s where we’re really starting to bring in some of the American identity. And we do have some new takes on original Farah archive pieces. Given our history, we can do it with a bit of authority.”

The collaboration with YMC, for Q1’s January delivery, will spark a series of four different collaborations throughout 2020, to go with Farah’s four collections a year, the others as yet to be revealed.

“We’ve never actually collaborated with other designers before,” says McCann. “The aim is to give us some brand elevation within our distribution, but also to offer something different to our existing customers. So, it’s two-fold what we are looking to do with the different collaborations through the course of our centenary year.”

The YMC collaboration is very much about designer and YMC co-founder Fraser Moss’s memory of the brand, with a nod to Jamaican ska and rude boy style from the late 1970’s and early 80’s. Says Moss: “Farah means lots of things to lots of people, but for me it was always rude boy. The sharpness of the classic trouser with the iconic yellow tab was everywhere at blues parties and sound clashes.”


Farah’s head of design, James Pearce-Roberts, says the starting point for the SS20 centenary collection came from putting together a selection of archive pieces which were accumulated via various sources over time, including on eBay and through vintage clothing collectors. “Because this is the big centenary, the design process started much earlier than usual. We very much felt that this was an opportunity to go back to the archive, taking influences from what we’ve done over the last century – building that in to a 12-month offer with four different quarter product drops throughout 2020,” he comments.

From there, they started to dividing the product offer for 2020 in to chronological decades incorporating design ideas from the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.

“Drop one is very much about 1950’s-styling,” says Pearce-Roberts. “Within the mainline collection there’s new versions of our archive pieces too – such as the ‘50’s mechanics jacket. That’s probably the oldest true archive piece we are in possession of. We’ve also got our original hopsack trousers in the collection too. In America they date back to the 1950’s, though in the UK we associate them more with the 1980’s sports casual look.”

In terms of breaking down Farah’s offer, where as in recent past there has been the likes of Farah Vintage and Farah 1920, it’s now been simplified to the two main parts of the business; what it calls it Farah menswear collection – with the familiar gold "F" logo, targeting a younger consumer, and just Farah – the broader, more lifestyle-driven commercial offer, which has a silver "F" logo.

The Farah menswear line, and the collaborations, are designed towards the 16-25 year-old customer,” offers McCann. “That’s the core identity that we associate with and design for. There are more high-end fabrics within that collection, and there is more detailing and trims.

“What we’ve been very keen on doing in the last couple of years is making sure we continue to identify with our younger consumer, and you can see that within our marketing. Of course, we’ve got a broader consumer mix right across the brand but, when we put our message out there, our message is we are going after a young identity.” Going forward that includes working with key websites like Highsnobiety on partnerships, to connect with the brand’s young audience.

Farah’s move to a larger shop unit on Earlham Street in London’s Seven Dials in late 2018 has also meant they now have the space to use it as more of a test bed for new designs and colourways, “and be a bit more expressive within that identity,” adds McCann. The brand may soon be 100 years-old, but going forward for 2020 the focus is very much on youth.

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