Talks to FRANK about her fashion label Cefinn
Founded by Samantha Cameron in 2017, Cefinn is a London-based label creating chic, grown-up fashion for the multitasking urban woman. Every piece is designed to be smart, modern and feminine. Easy to wear and elegantly understated, it’s fashion you
don’t have to overthink – step into it in the morning and you’re good to go 24/7, from a day in the office to a dinner date with friends.
How are you, where are you, what have you been up to today?
I am good thank you, it is the Easter Holidays, we are heading down to Cornwall next week which is exciting. With the blossom out and lockdown easing, everyone’s feeling like there’s more of a spring in our step.
Tell us about Cefinn and how it all started?
As a working mother in the creative industries I was struggling to find a wardrobe for the office that was appropriate but not too formal or corporate. I wanted to create a designer brand that was modern, feminine and beautifully finished without the luxury price tag. I saw a gap in the market for quality, versatile hero pieces that could see you through a busy day and out for dinner after work with friends, without the need to change. I spent a few years while working part-time at Smythson doing lots of planning and research before we launched, I learnt basic pattern cutting and visited lots of fabric fairs and potential factories. The name Cefinn itself is based on my children’s initials; I love having a little part of them embedded in the brand.
What inspires the designs? What is the most important element of what you create?
In creating Cefinn the most important element is that is looks beautiful with really well thought through detailing. I am also passionate about the cut and fit, we spend a huge amount of time in our studio working on this as there is nothing more flattering than a garment that that is cut really well to fit and flatter as many different body shapes as possible. Fabric is the other essential element as I wanted to create chic, hard-working fashion that looks as good at the end of the day as it did at the start, with little to no creasing or bagging and that can be put in the washing machine!
What type of woman is your customer, who are you aiming at?
I would say our typical customer is a busy woman, who is constantly multitasking, she doesn’t want to over think her outfits yet still wants to look great. The Cefinn woman wants effortless, elegant, chic pieces in her wardrobe that will stand the test of time and are easy to style up and down for a variety of different occasions.
Who is in your team and/or you hands on with design etc? Cefinn is a very small team and over time I have definitely learnt you can’t do everything yourself and you need to rely on others invaluable expertise and skill. Saying that, I am the only designer at Cefinn, so it is challenging to carve out time to work to on the collection, seasonal colours and in-house prints while also overseeing the business and the marketing. I couldn’t do it without the support and talent of my amazing tea !
“As a working mother in the creative industries I was struggling to find a wardrobe for the office that was appropriate but not too formal or corporate. I wanted to create a designer brand that was modern, feminine and beautifully finished without the luxury price tag.”
Slowly slowly as we go back to work and the office etc , do you think people will focus more on what is comfortable for a day at the desk and have you factored that into to your current designs?
Yes definitely, people will be so used to working from home that when we all eventually go back into the office, they may well want to look smarter, but won’t want to sacrifice all aspects of ‘comfort’ we have got so used too. I have factored all this into my current designs, with some of our dresses having pretty shirred elastic panels in back and our best-selling trouser silhouettes developed with a discrete ‘sports lux’ elasticated element to the waist whilst still maintaining a very tailored cut. Our more recent knitwear collections have been amazingly successful during lockdown so we are building on that for AU21.
“I would say my style icons are the likes of Katherine Hepburn, Juliane Moore, Charlotte Rampling, Kate Blanchett and Debby Harry – they all switch quite effortlessly between looking feminine and more masculine, they are all chic, intelligent and talented women.”
One of the greatest trends of the last few years is that the heel has been over taken by trainers and boots being totally acceptable with lovely dresses. Is that a look you have embraced or you still partial to a heel?
I have always loved a stacked sole white trainer, Converse Chuck or Common Projects are my go-to favourites, they are so simple but also look smart, and they go brilliantly with our dresses, jumpsuits and skirts. Saying that, I can’t wait to finally wear a pair of heels out, I have really missed having the opportunity to wear them for anything more than our kitchen dress up disco nights, heels elevate any look!
What we love about the clothes is their versatility. That day to night quality, which has not been at our disposal during the pandemic. How much has the past year or so effected business?
It’s obviously been a real struggle to sell dresses since the beginning of lockdown last year, instead we were selling lots of knitwear, shirting, and skirts. We have had to be really flexible and think about what our customer wants given the current circumstances. It’s really exciting to see in the last month that dresses have been top of our sales figures again. There was a point last year when I wondered if this would ever happen again!
“It was a huge honour to be able to wear so many of our incredibly talented young British designers during my time at Downing Street. You’re dressing for the cameras and I often needed to look celebratory but also appropriate and approachable. You try to make it look effortless but in reality it took a lot of time and I had some inevitable outfit disasters
forgetting essential shoes or underwear while away, a dress that split when I sat down during a party conference speech!”
Your personal style has been discussed at length, firstly how does that feel and how would you describe your style ?
It was a huge honour to be able to wear so many of our incredibly talented young British designers during my time at Downing Street. Many became good friends and are the most lovely, hard-working, supportive group of people I have had the pleasure to get to know. I definitely became more confident about wearing colour and print,(having previously been a devotee of black, navy and grey) as you’re dressing for the cameras and often needed to look celebratory but also appropriate and approachable. You try to make it look effortless but in reality it took a lot of time and I had some inevitable outfit disasters – forgetting essential shoes or underwear while away, a dress that split when I sat down during a party conference speech! These days I am always wear testing Cefinn samples, and my style is quite varied, fashion is all about dressing up and some days I want to look tailored and androgynous and others very feminine in bright colours and prints.
Who are your style icons?
I would say my style icons are the likes of Katherine Hepburn, Juliane Moore, Charlotte Rampling, Kate Blanchett and Debby Harry – they all switch quite effortlessly between looking feminine and more masculine, they are all chic, intelligent and talented women. I am also a big fan of Gillian Anderson and her approach to effortless tailoring, it has been such a pleasure seeing her wearing some CEFINN pieces over the last couple of years.
What aspirations do you have for Cefinn?
Most important is growing the business post lockdown to be financially secure with a strong sustainability ethos. Working with new fabrics is always exciting as each has such distinct properties that take a while to develop around – georgette and corduroy and the ones we are introducing in the autumn. In the short term I am particularly excited to reopen the pop-up shop on King’s Road in Chelsea. Spending time talking to our customers is so valuable and inspiring and I really hope people will feel confident about coming to see us again when we hopefully open again on the 12th April!