Based on an acronym of Samantha’s surname, Cameron, and her children’s initials – Elwen, Florence, Ivan, and Nancy – Cefinn was formed. Founded in 2017, from the off, the brand presented shoppers with a collection of discerning staples that place form and function on equal footing. An urban uniform for busy women, “it’s fashion you don’t have to overthink”.
Taking the wearer from day to night, the brand offers tailored, transitional pieces that work as hard as you do: “As a working mother, getting dressed for the office was one of the most challenging parts of my day, so I really wanted to start a brand that would make that easier for women in similar situations.”
Talking us through her 9 to 5, here, Cameron shares her daily practices as Founder and Creative Director of Cefinn. From The Desk Of… Samantha Cameron we get the lowdown on business lessons learned, discover the person who first sparked her entrepreneurial spirit, and explore why a dress (preferably a Cefinn one) is as practical a work uniform as any other.
How do you start your days?
I am an early riser and get up at around 6AM. I have a bath, make myself a cup of tea, and try to get in some form of exercise before my children get up. The morning is when I get my quiet time before the day starts.
What’s your go-to uniform?
I am always trying on Cefinn samples, so I try to wear something that is easy to get in and out of. For that reason, I love wearing a dress as it’s so quick to put on or take off. Otherwise, a pair of tailored trousers, a good knit, and trainers seems to be my go-to.
Describe your workspace/ workplace…
Out of lockdown I am in the studio every day, I am very much an office person! I am not often at my desk though, as there is always something for me to be doing, such as looking at fabrics and trying on samples. There is a lot of natural light in our studio which is great, particularly for looking at colour and print. When I have something going on which requires a lot of concentration, I will work at home on my dining room table as I am able to spread everything out and really focus.
Identify something in your workspace that’s special to you (and why)
The people I work with. The buzz and inspiration I get from working with my team is so special. I really miss this at the moment!
What are your workplace essentials?
I would say my Smythson diary and my MacBook, which has a big screen as I am working with lots of imagery and print design.
What’s your go to lunch order?
We have always had a kitchenette in the office, so I am able to make my own lunch. I tend to bring in a salad to pair with something like a feta omelette or garlic/chilli chicken bits.
What time of day are you at your most creative?
My job requires me to be creative all day, but I would say I am definitely more efficient and inspired in the morning. I don’t like to work or look at my phone in the evening – I prefer to wind down, relax, and switch off.
What is the most rewarding part of the job?
Seeing my designs on real people and getting great customer feedback! I love the feeling of making women feel special and confident in how they look.
And the most challenging?
Fashion production can be tough. I am so pedantic about quality and fit. We fit all our designs much more rigorously than high-street brands but there is an element of losing some control through the production process and that can be really stressful.
Work takes you most frequently to…
When I was Creative Director of Smythson, I was always travelling to Florence and New York. I travel much less now, but it is really important to me to have face-to-face relationship with our factories which has taken me to Portugal, Lithuania, and China. After lockdown I am looking forward to visiting one of our new factories in India.
What did you study in school/ university?
I studied Fine Art – Painting at UWE Bristol.
Where are you from originally?
London, and then Oxfordshire.
What was your first job?
Working in my mother’s jewellery shop, Annabelle Jones. I was in charge of the Christmas wrapping and packaging!
What sparked your interest in fashion?
As a child I was obsessed by the September issue of Vogue. I just loved all the textures and colours – I have always loved fabric. As a working mother, getting dressed for the office was one of the most challenging parts of my day so I really wanted to start a brand that would make that easier for women in similar situations.
Your favourite clothing brands/designers include…
Obviously, my own brand Cefinn, which I wear a lot! I have always tended to get my trousers from Joseph and go to Uniqlo for knitwear staples. When I was at Downing Street, Roksanda was a personal favourite of mine – I just love her graphic but feminine styling.
Do you have a mentor or inspirational figure that has guided or influenced you?
My mum, who is a serial entrepreneur and has been running her own businesses since she was 17. She worked extremely hard with such ambition, while also being a mother to five children! We have all gone on to start our own businesses, so I think she definitely inspired us with her strong work ethic and gave us the confidence to be entrepreneurs ourselves.
What were some hurdles you had to overcome in the very early days of Cefinn (circa 2017)?
Everything! Before starting a business, I had no idea. It was a baptism of fire! There were many days in the year before we launched when I’d be answering emails at 4am, juggling fundraising and legal issues at the same time as working on the website and sorting out the IT. Not to mention designing and producing the collection! There have been many ups and downs and it’s been a huge learning curve. It can be very tough juggling so many different areas and you feel very responsible for your team. At the same time that’s what makes it fun, never boring, and definitely mentally inspiring.
What continues to your greatest challenge in growing a brand/ running a start-up?
Time. I am the only designer at Cefinn, so it is challenging to carve out time to design the fabrics and collection while also overseeing the business and the marketing.
What’s the most important business lesson you’ve learned?
It’s all about your team and the people you work with. You can’t do everything yourself and you need to rely on others expertise. I try to not let “perfect be the enemy of the good” and it’s also important to take things one step at a time, and not to think too far ahead as it can feel so overwhelming.
The best advice you’ve ever received.
‘Always be polite and kind, don’t be scared to fail and constantly challenge yourself.’ It is something I have tried to instil in my children. I also think get out of the office and ask for advice as people are always generous with their time and help.
What are you working on right now?
We have just presented our Winter 2021 collection to our wholesale partners such as Net A Porter and Matches which is really exciting. We are also beginning work on Spring 2022, so I will be starting to look at all the fabrics and work on print designs.
What’s next for Cefinn?
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 soon.