Over the past decade Linda Farrow has re-established itself as the choice luxury eyewear brand amongst the fashionable and discerning. Andreas Soteriou talks to Tracy Sedino, one half of the power behind the brand's unwavering force.
For over 40 years, Linda Farrow has been a pioneering name in the field of luxury eyewear. Established by Farrow herself in 1970, the London-based range of sunglasses and spectacles attracted acclaim and customers from all over the world. The company was successfully relaunched nine years ago by Linda’s son, Simon, and Tracy Sedino, his business partner and now wife. A chance discovery of a vast archive of Linda Farrow designs proved to be a pivotal turning point for both of them. Serendipity gave way to hard graft and a clear business focus, as the pair worked to expand the brand’s profile and customer base.
The company archive gave them a platform to build on, and their brilliant strategy of producing new ranges in collaboration with well-established fashion designers (Raf Simons, Matthew Williamson and Dries Van Noten, to name a few) infused the brand with a new creative spirit. This directional approach complemented the Vintage line, a nod to Linda Farrow’s heritage by offering customers the chance to buy original 70s and 80s frames directly from the company. The premium Luxe line then followed, incorporating precious metals and exotic animal skins, which remains both their most expensive and bestselling line.
As in most areas of fashion, the world of luxury accessories remains in a state of constant flux. Dramatic economic developments have resulted in a more discerning customer base, while also opening up new markets, particularly in the Asia and the Middle East. Without the machinery of a corporate backer at their disposal, Simon and Tracy have had to work even harder to establish and develop Linda Farrow’s global profile on their own terms. We caught up with Tracy on her business tour of the Far East for an update on the continuing story of the brand…
What is currently happening in the world of Linda Farrow?
Well, I am in the middle of China right now. It is such a huge market for us. We have been doing training programmes with the stores that we sell to over here. Working with managers and educating them about our collection. We’ve just come back from Hong Kong, where we were doing the same. We’re near Shanghai now, in Chendu. I have never been here before. I am going to see a panda tomorrow!
Blimey, that’s worth a trip in itself.
Definitely! It’s really exciting!
Tell us about the story of your involvement with the company.
Well, Simon, who is the son of Linda Farrow, and I relaunched the brand nine-and-a-half years ago. At the time, he was my boyfriend, now husband. While we were dating, his parents had permission to turn one of their warehouses into residential properties. We opted to go and visit the site, and it was full of vintage stock. There were thousands and thousands of sunglasses, all in perfect condition. We still have quite a lot of those on sale now, actually. There were also lots of original glasses by Yves Saint Laurent, and Dior… It was amazing. So we decided that we should relaunch the brand. It was just very organic.
Without all the pre-planning and preparation that usually goes into a relaunch, did the project seem daunting at the start?
A little. When we started, I was 22 and Simon was 24. We had no idea how it was going to go, but we are both very decisive people, so we were just like, “Let’s do it”. There were other brands that had relaunched around then; there was Pucci, Gucci, Lacroix as well, so it seemed like a good time.
How did things work out in the early stages?
For the first year-and-a-half, Linda Farrow Vintage sold really successfully. We sold to all the best high-end boutiques and department stores worldwide. After that period of settling in, we decided that we didn’t want to just keep selling Vintage. We thought that we should try something else, but it didn’t seem wise to do our own brand straight away. So, because we knew quite a few people in the industry by then, we decided that we should start collaborating with other designers.
We had no idea how it was going to go, but we are both very decisive people, so we were just like, “Let’s do it”
Was it easy to choose the right designers to work with?
We just went with those that we knew well, because we wanted them to be absolute collaborations. It was actually quite unusual in the sense that the designers were involved in all the other aspects, in terms of marketing and distribution. Again, it just seemed to be a very organic process.
When it comes down to personal preference, do you find yourself drawn more towards the vintage or the designer end of your ranges?
That’s a difficult one, because for me, the most important thing is knowing that the product has reached different audiences. Our customer base is growing all the time, so both aspects have a strong appeal. The unconventional ranges are always fun to work on.
Glasses are an interesting accessory, because while fulfilling a practical, functional purpose, they don’t usually have to conform to dress codes or regulations. I suppose they offer that little bit of extra scope for expressing ones personality.
Oh definitely. I totally agree. With glasses, and with optical frames especially, it becomes a very personal thing. They have to reflect the individual, but functionality also plays a big part. It’s a combination of the two. Personal choice is important. For example, our Dries Van Noten customers seem to be drawn to a certain kind of style. They also have to work in the everyday sense, and should make you feel comfortable. Because, you know, they’re there, on your face, for everyone to see. They can’t be hidden away, and sometimes it’s good to accentuate that. I mean, we do launches that are completely not functional as well (laughs). Like the Jeremy Scott hands glasses, where it’s more about making a visual impact.
Of course, a Linda Farrow customer doesn’t necessarily have to choose between the classic and the unconventional. Some of us like a bit of both.
I think that we definitely offer something for everyone. We work with such a wide range of designers, and there’s also own range, Linda Farrow Luxe, which is actually our most popular collection. It’s based on timeless designs, using high-end materials. There’s Japanese titanium, gold-plated lines… It’s all really wearable but made very, very well.
As if a panda park wasn’t enough excitement for one year, there is also a ten-year anniversary on the horizon…
I know! I can’t believe it has really been ten years since the relaunch. We’ve done so much, but it doesn’t really feel like that long at all.
When a milestone like that comes along, do you see it as a time to reflect, or to close a chapter and look ahead?
Both, really. We’ll definitely acknowledge it, we’re working on some plans. In the meantime, though, we’re going to carry on building up the brand awareness. At the moment we’re known for our collaborations and having interesting products, but we want more people to understand the history and the lifestyle of Linda Farrow. Looking back, we’ve had our ups and downs over the past ten years, but it has been mostly good. Simon and I have always trusted our instincts, and because we aren’t part of a larger corporate company, we’ve been able to make our own decisions.
And the future?
World domination! (laughs). We are starting to think more of Linda Farrow in terms of a global company. With a British identity, of course. China is important to us, and it is also great to have the support of retailers like Liberty and Dover Street Market in London and Bon Marche and Colette in Paris. We sell to over a hundred countries, and we’re going to work hard to understand our new markets, and for them to understand us and our brand. It’s very important to us.
Sometimes a little understanding is all it takes. Well, that and a good pair of glasses.
Make up Ginni Bogado