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Friday 10 February 2017

Selfridges Meets: Samantha Cameron

SELFRIDGES MEETS:
SAMANTHA CAMERON

As the former Prime Minister's wife launches her own fashion brand, Cefinn, at Selfridges, she discusses her new fashion focus, life after Downing Street, and exactly why she hates patterned tights.

We talk to the former Prime Minister's wife as she launches her own fashion brand, Cefinn.

Samantha Cameron wears Cefinn ponte-jersey dress
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/Q/
Wasn't being PM's wife enough pressure! Why launch your own fashion label?

/A/
I've wanted to have my own fashion brand since I was my twenties, but I never really got the opportunity. I felt there was a gap for a slightly fashion-forward, hardworking daywear brand for women at a good price point. I wasn't interested in creating a luxury or high-street brand: it was all about a British brand that filled the gap in the middle.

/Q/
So tell us about Cefinn…

/A/
I wanted to create an urban uniform that takes you from day to evening (including breakfast with the kids). It had to be clean, minimal, with a bit of edge, but also quite practical - a lot of the collection is washable; it doesn't crease too much; it's quite easy to style together and it works in different situations. It's all about classic shapes with a twist.

I also wanted some modern, sporty elements. I did a lot of clubbing in the late 80s and early 90s, and I was keen to get some of that sportswear look into the collection.

/Q/
Has being a Prime Minister's wife given you a different insight into fashion?

/A/
When you're on TV or you're being photographed, you have to consider things like: what's going to happen when you sit down? Is your outfit going to crease? What is it going to do when you walk? These are the things I had in mind when I was designing my collection.

/Q/
How long has Cefinn been in the pipeline?

/A/
I've been working on it full-time for the past year to 18 months. I could sew (although not formally), but I learned how to pattern cut, which was invaluable. It gives you an understanding of how you can draw something but you can't necessarily then create that in 3D to suit a body, because you need a seam or a dart in a particular place to make it work.

I spent a lot of time trying samples on different friends and family and sisters. I wanted the brand to speak to all sorts of people, to answer a need, to be relevant to different women with different shapes.

Samantha Cameron wears Cefinn ponte-jersey dress
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/Q/
You chose Selfridges as your first stockist (excellent choice by the way!).
What's your connection to the store?

/A/
My spiritual connection with Selfridges is easy - I've worked on Bond Street since my early twenties until now, so it's kind of a home from home. It was my go-to destination for everything from make-up to tights and clothes. It's a great British brand, a great British institution and it's very London. I think there's a real gap for a British fashion brand at this price point and with this styling.

/Q/
You have three words to sum up Selfridges - go!

/A/
Exciting, creative and relevant.

/Q/
Looking at the Cefinn collection, you're definitely a fan of navy, khaki and red - why these colours?

/A/
I've got a fixed colour palette. Khaki, navy and black will always be my core colours. I've spent a lot of time getting the right khaki, the right navy, and making sure our colours are the same on different materials. It took us a while to get the red that I wanted (it had to be flattering, whether you're dark or blonde), so it was a case of working with the mill to get it just right. From season to season, we'll keep the colours consistent so it will be easy to build the collection and style it together.

I would love to see Amal Clooney in the collection - she'd be pretty good.

/Q/
We've seen you sport many a British designer on the steps on Number 10, but who do you really love to wear?

/A/
Preen and Alexander McQueen. I'm quite tall so I always found it hard to find things that were long enough - Roksanda's brilliant because she designs for a taller lady. A Joseph trouser suit was pretty much a staple.

/Q/
How did it feel to be constantly under the fashion spotlight as the PM's wife?

/A/
I think you always felt you had to put your best foot forward, that you were representing the country. In my case, I felt it wasn't necessarily where I felt most comfortable, in terms of the scrutiny and the attention; it is not my natural comfort zone. But at the same time, you're determined to do it well, plus you want to represent the designers you're wearing and help promote them as best you can. It did feel like it was a role, or a job, so you had to be quite professional in the way you approached it.

/Q/
Do you have any sympathy for world leaders' wives and the fashion role they to have to play?

/A/
Definitely. There's a huge amount of scrutiny, comment and opinion about your hair, clothes, style, make-up, which women have to deal with to a much higher extent than men. In Theresa May's case, you're not only having to do the job (which is massively pressured, with a huge amount of publicity and responsibility), but you're also having to worry about this other stuff, because however much it may not be relevant, if you're a woman, it does form part of the conversation about you and your performance. It's much easier for men: they just put on a suit, get a haircut, you know. They're not having to do the blow-dry and the endless outfits. They can just put on the same suit. I think it is challenging - or an added challenge to an already challenging role!

Samantha Cameron wears Cefinn sleeveless top and culottes
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/Q/
Politics aside, who would you be most tickled to see in Cefinn?

/A/
Amal Clooney - she would be pretty good. I love Sofia Coppola and Julianne Moore, too. I'd like to help women achieve an easy style and elegance that doesn't look like they're trying too hard.

/Q/
And finally, if you had to put a soundtrack to this collection, what would it be?

/A/
'Black Light' by Groove Armada. The cultural inspiration behind the collection comes from a combination of watching the glamorous women in 50s and 60s movies and the late 80s club scene - 'Black Light' charts all those moments. There's a Bryan Ferry track, 'Shameless', which is great for getting ready to go out. It's strong and powerful. And then for other inspiration like colour, I love Morcheeba's 'Big Calm' because it's easy but quite confident at the same time.

Alt

The Selfridges quick-fire round

/Q/
1. Favourite thing in your studio?

/A/
The view. I love watching the Tube go past in the morning, as the sun rises and sets. On sunny days, the light is just brilliant.

/Q/
2. Least favourite trend?

/A/
Patterned tights. I like a pair of fishnet tights, but that is as patterned as I'd go.

/Q/
3. Favourite season?

/A/
Autumn. It's the richness of the smells and the colours.

/Q/
4. Most hated fashion word?

/A/
Fashion acronyms - usually because I never have any idea what they stand for! OOTD? I don't sound very modern, do I?

Samantha Cameron wears Cefinn twill jacket and cotton-blend blouse
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/Q/
5. Item of clothing you've had the longest?

/A/
I loved Clare Waight Keller when she was at Pringle. I've still got a couple of Pringle coats that are probably 12 years old. One of them is a heavy-wool A-line design with big pockets and when it comes out, it's like: 'Oh, it's still great!'

/Q/
6. Most uncomfortable outfit you've ever worn?

/A/
I'm quite good at wearing clothes that fit me well, but shoes… I've had some shoe disasters, when your heels don't function and you're passing out in pain. If I could, I'd wear flats with everything, but you've got to have great legs to carry it off.

/Q/
7. What would you never wear?

/A/
I really hate wearing a hat. I'm very jealous of those women who can wear hats, but I have a fringe and they just don't suit me.

/Q/
8. Heels or flats?

/A/
Heels and trainers! When I was designing the collection, I would think about whether the piece would look good with a nice trainer.

/Q/
9. Favourite film?

/A/
'The Sheltering Sky' by Bernardo Bertolucci - it's quite sexy, and it's got beautiful landscapes.

/Q/
10. Pub lunch or Michelin-star restaurant?

/A/
Pub lunch. I like a cold glass of beer in the summer - it's very soothing!

Photographer - Darren Gerrish