Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct and Matalan’s founding family the Hargreaves are among 50 interested parties eyeing collapsed fashion brand Nicole Farhi.

First round bids for Nicole Farhi were due on Wednesday, and sources close to the situation said the brand had attracted interest from trade and private equity from both overseas and the UK.

Sports Direct was understood to have thrown its hat into the ring to add to its growing stable of premium brands, which include Cruise and Flannels. Ashley is on a spending spree at present, having snapped up outdoor retailers Gelert and Yeomans in recent weeks.

It is understood that if the Hargreaves family acquired the brand, the daughter of Matalan founder John Hargreaves - Maxine Hargreaves-Adams - would lead the acquisition and run it herself. She acquired fashion brand Fenn Wright Manson last year while John Hargreaves bought a 50% stake in Damsel in a Dress as the group looks to diversify away from discount fashion. Matalan is in the midst of launching a sportswear fascia and is thought to have been vying for HMV’s store on Oxford Street to launch the format.

JD Sports Fashion and House of Fraser, both likely suitors, have ruled themselves out.

Nicole Farhi, which was founded in 1982 by French Connection boss Stephen Marks and his former partner Nicole Farhi, appointed Zolfo Cooper as administrator last week, as revealed by Retail-week.com.