As Samantha Cameron launches her first fashion line, Stephanie Smith has advice on investment style to take you from desk to dinner.
There can be few women in the UK who know more about day-to-night dressing than Samantha Cameron.
As wife of former prime minister David Cameron, she was more than familiar with the concept of plate-spinning, dashing from meetings to the school playground to (in her case) state banquets – an elevated version of every busy mum’s life.
Far more high profile than the average mum too, constantly scrutinised and snapped. As PMW, she quickly became a fashion icon, with all the attendant responsibility. She had to look good, 24/7, or we all knew about it immediately.
So perhaps it is no surprise that Mrs Cameron has decided to put all that expertise and experience to use, now that she no longer has to attend quite so many banquets. This week, she launched her fashion label, Cefinn (the first and last letters as in Cameron, while the middle letters correspond with the initials of the couple’s four children, Elwen, Florence, Ivan and Nancy).
The debut collection consists of 36 pieces, designed in London, and, a spokesman said, made mostly in eastern Europe. It is aimed at women who are short on time but need and want to look effortlessly polished.
“I wanted to design a collection that had a very modern fashion edge but was easy to wear, style and look after,” she says on the Cefinn website, adding that most pieces are washable.
“I want to make it simple for women to feel fashionable, feminine and confident. As a busy working mother, partner and professional creative, I was frustrated by not being able to find contemporary priced, high quality, go-to fashion staples to take me through breakfast with the family and a day in the office, followed by an evening out with my friends.” Mrs Cameron, of course, has design credentials. She studied Fine Art and was creative director at British luxury leather goods brand Smythson from 1997 to 2010, becoming a part time consultant when her husband became PM. Now she is an ambassador for the British Fashion Council and, what’s more, was voted International Best Dressed in Vanity Fair 2015.
Cefinn has been long in the planning. She told the Sunday Times Style Magazine that she gave the label serious thought in 2010, and learned sewing and pattern cutting in the evenings at Downing Street, after the children had done to bed.
The range “encapsulates an elegant, easy sense of style with a real focus on functionality and quality”, she says. Prices range from £110 for a black satin panel T-shirt, while a belted cocoon coat is £390. Anna Wintour was one of the first to cast her eye over the collection and apparently gave sound advice. “She was very much ‘Don’t be scared to make it your own, put your stamp of individuality on it’,” says Mrs Cameron. “She really liked the fact it was about real women, and she was very much ‘Stick with that’.”
In creating clothes that are multi-function and can be styled down and up for day to evening, Cefinn is keying into the modern mood that underpins contemporary fashion.
In fact, she follows in the path of several UK online clothing brands, including The Fold, Baukjen and Winser London, all founded by stylish women to meet their professional and lifestyle needs.
On the High Street, too, stores including Marks & Spencer and Hobbs increasingly focus on versatile, even seasonless, pieces to dress up with heels and clutch, down with flats and tote. The pencil skirt and white blouse (Hobbs, featured here) and khaki frill wrap dress from M&S are good examples.
Even handbags are now dress/up down pieces (see the multi-function Debenhams bag). It goes to show that the modern woman is now so busy, she never has time to get changed.