Following the launch of her clothing brand, Cefinn, at Selfridges Birmingham, we sat down with Samantha Cameron to talk about her fashion icons, the impact of British designers and being first cousins with Cath Kidston.
Tell us a little bit about your creative background.
I studied fine art as my degree and I’d always planned on studying fashion, but then I got really into fine art at the school whilst I was doing A-Levels and ended up studying painting as my degree.
By the age of 26, I was Creative Director of Smythson, which is a leather goods company. I stood down as Creative Director when I was pregnant with my fourth child in 2010. So, for most of my career I’ve been a Leather Goods and Accessories Designer.
I still carried on working with Smythson as a Creative Consultant for two or three days a week and in my spare time I’d always wanted to start a fashion brand. It’s what I’d planned when I was a teenager, so it was always something in the back of my mind.
What inspired you to start your own brand?
My mum is an entrepreneur, she had a very successful jewellery company and now has a furniture design company called Oka. My first cousin is Cath Kidston, so clearly design and retail is in the family gene!
Working part-time for Smythson gave me time to research; whether this be the type of fabrics used, what customers want or different body shapes. I also worked with a lot of friends until I had something that I felt I was ready to go public with.
What makes Cefinn different from other luxury designers?
Cefinn is very much driven by where I felt there was a gap in the market. From my experience working as a creative at quite a senior level, I didn’t feel that formal workwear was something that suited my personality.
I personally found it quite difficult to find things that were fashion forward, creative and feminine whilst also being professional. It’s usually one way or the other. I also felt very strongly that there was a gap for a contemporary price point, especially for a British brand. I wanted to offer professional women something more exclusive, without having to pay designer prices or compromising on quality.
For those who are unfamiliar with the brand, how would you sum it up?
It’s high quality, hard-working clothes for the busy woman. It’s core day to evening pieces that are really versatile, they can be dressed up or down.
What’s your favourite piece from the collection, and why?
The Zip Collar Midi Dress, which is our best-selling dress. It’s a collared zip dress which is very nipped in at the waist and fitted through the body. It’s got a lovely feminine, full midi skirt so it’s flattering and comfortable.
I wear it day in, day out. I can wear it with heels and a great pair of earrings in the evening for a black tie event or run around in it at the weekend in trainers.
For a lot of women now, you simply don’t have the time to go home and change between work and evening. If you’re heading out, you don’t necessarily want something really masculine that’s a crumpled wreck by the end of the day. You want your outfit to still feel as good as you did when it started out, so you need a piece that can do both and that was the problem I set myself as a designer.
Do you have any fashion icons yourself?
Any women who are in a senior position and have the confidence to wear clothes that show off their love of fashion, like Amal Clooney, Michelle Obama, Julianne Moore and Martha Lane Fox. I like women that give other women the confidence to be feminine, while at the same time proving that they can have a career, be professional and work in a ‘man’s world’.
What is it like to be considered a fashion icon, as a female in the public eye?
Whether it was Roksanda, Erdem, Preen or Emilia Wickstead, it’s been a huge honour to be able to wear all the fantastic British designers and I got to know them really well, some of which I’d worked with at Smythson because we’d done collaborations.
I normally wear a lot of black, navy and grey but through being on a world stage I learnt to wear print and colour. Being slightly forced into wearing bold, bright clothing definitely gave me confidence and we’re actually bringing print into the collection for next autumn/winter.