In Conversation With… Samantha Cameron
This month, Samantha Cameron, award-winning founder of the London-based fashion label Cefinn, is another example of how inspirational, empowering and successful female-led brands can be. Previously Creative Director for accessories brand Smythson of Bond Street, Samantha founded Cefinn in 2017 after she struggled to find a versatile, sustainable and modern wardrobe for working women that would go from day to evening and work to weekend, all without a luxury price tag. Read my latest interview to find out exactly what makes Cefinn different to other luxury clothing brands.
Can you tell us a little about Cefinn and your inspiration behind the brand?
As a working mother in the creative industries, I was struggling to find a modern wardrobe for work that was appropriate but not too formal or corporate. I became passionate about creating a brand of beautifully finished, high quality hero pieces that had the styling and versatility to see you from day to evening and work to weekend – all without a luxury price tag. I spent a few years while working part-time at Smythson planning and researching before we launched. I learnt basic pattern cutting and visited lots of fabric fairs and potential factories. The name ‘Cefinn’ is based on my children’s initials; I love having a little part of them embedded in the brand.
What is it that makes Cefinn different to other luxury clothing brands?
The team and I design, cut and develop the collection from concept to sampling (including the prints) in our atelier studio in London. We are completely design led, with a real focus on fabric, fit and finish, as well as exceptional quality for the price. I am passionate about cut and drape, and we invest a huge amount of time making sure that our styles flatter as many different body shapes as possible and our fit is consistent. Practical and thoughtful detailing is essential to our DNA – much of the collection is machine washable and crease resistant, making it effortless for busy modern women to look and feel amazing 24/7.
What influences your designs and fabrics?
Inspiration comes from lots of different places! I’ve always been creative and had a love for fashion, so it could be a vintage piece, or something I see one of my friends or family wearing, a swatch of fabric that I’ve collected, current trends and even a piece of art or architecture I’m drawn to. And of course, our customers – we love to hear their feedback on what they love or would like us to include in the collection.
Sustainability is key. We all have a way to go in the fashion industry, and whilst Cefinn is not about fast fashion but about pieces that will be heroes in your wardrobe long term, we are also working closely with our high quality mills and factories in Europe, India and China on the environmental impact of our fabrics, components and packaging. It’s far from perfect yet, but we are passionate about keeping up the progress.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My Mum. She set up her first business when she was 17 and has always worked extremely hard with huge ambition, while also having five children! My siblings and I have all gone on to have our own businesses, and I think this has definitely been inspired by our Mum’s strong work ethic and the confidence she gave us all to be entrepreneurial in our own right.
Best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Always be polite and kind, don’t be scared to fail and constantly challenge yourself – this is something I have also tried to instil in my children. Also, get out of the office and ask for advice; people are always very generous!
The main factors to consider when it comes to choosing an outfit?
I choose outfits that fit beautifully, are timelessly chic and that make me feel confident whatever the day holds. As a busy working woman, I want clothes that are easy to look after and will look as good at the end of the day as when you left the house in the morning. I think it’s important to choose versatile investment pieces that can be effortlessly styled in a multitude of ways for lots of different occasions. These are all key things I consider for our customers when designing the Cefinn collections.
One wardrobe staple no woman should be without?
If it has to be one thing it would be a versatile, effortless dress that can take you from desk to dinner or work to weekend just by changing your shoes and accessories (ideally machine washable). Alternatively, pair a beautiful blouse or elevated knit with a smart tailored trouser and style with either a trainer or heel for an on-trend, fail-safe work uniform. All of these are staples in the Cefinn collection.
What advice would you give to women who begin to feel invisible and less confident with age?
I think it’s important to find ways to keep your sense of purpose and stay really engaged and interested in the changing world – to keep learning, doing new things and connecting with people outside your personal sphere of friends and family. The late Vivienne Westwood was such an inspiration; she never stopped creating and passionately campaigning until the day she died.
Do you think that age and the notion of “age appropriate” still influences the fashion choices of today’s midlife and beyond women?
I think age is a mindset more than a number now – you’re as old as you feel and should wear what you love and makes you feel confident. The fashion world used to be very male dominated but there are many more women designers now who are designing for women of all ages and understand what works for them as their life and their bodies change.
Do we have a better representation of older women in fashion today, or is there still have a long way to go?
It’s definitely better. There is much more representation of older women across the board in terms of designers, models, creative directors, stylists and influencers – there’s still a way to go but we’re going in the right direction.
Professionally, it’s been creating Cefinn. Running a business in what is a very competitive industry is tough and can be challenging, but I love it and am very proud of what my team (who I adore!) and I have achieved over the last five years.
Hardest challenge you face?
Time. I am the only designer at Cefinn, so it can be hard juggling and carving out enough time for all of the various aspects of running the brand.
Top beauty must-have in your makeup bag?
I almost always wear the same colour Clinique lipstick – Blushing Nude. I buy it in bulk and dread them discontinuing it!
And finally, your favourite quote to live by?
“Don’t let the best be the enemy of the good.”
It’s important to get on and try things, to test and learn through both success and failure, because if you wait until something is perfect it may never happen.
Discover and shop Cefinn's new arrivals at www.cefinn.com