LONDON — For six years, the U.K. got used to seeing Samantha CameronShe wore sneakers and skinny jeans, sometimes on a scooter, to ferry her children to school, or she wore sharp, colorful dresses while she photographed world leaders.
Britain has seen many prime ministers (and their spouses) come and go, yet no one has matched the easy elegance of the former first lady Cameron, who’d served as creative director of the high-end stationer Smythson before she moved into No. 10 Downing Street together with her husband, former Prime Minster David Cameron, and young families.
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Cameron has channeled her bright, youthful outlook into Cefinn clothing label Cefinn for the past five year since her husband’s death. It has experienced double-digit growth in sales and has raised 1.2 million pounds during its latest funding round.
Sales increased 45 percent to 3.8million pounds in the 12 months to Oct. 31 while losses dropped 32 percent to 166,000 pounds. According to the company’s figures, the momentum is building with sales increasing by 55% in the first 2 weeks of the fiscal year.
Cefinn refused to provide details about the investors, but stated that the money would go towards growth capital to support sales and expansion; customer acquisition marketing and the recruitment and training of experts in merchandising and production.
The Princess of Wales, a blue Cefinn funnel neck blouse, was seen on a visit to Glasgow this year. Also, Queen Consort Camilla, a green printed dress, was seen during a Cornwall trip.
Cefinn’s pussy bow blouses featured big in the Netflix series “Anatomy of a Scandal,” which starred Sienna Miller As the vindictive wife of a scandal-prone MP.
The blouse is both glamorous and practical. More than half of the collection — from the knitwear to the silk tops — is machine washable. Many of the fabrics are wrinkle free and designed to be worn on the move.
Online sales represent 65 percent of the business’s revenue and are up 69 per cent compared to the same period last fiscal year. The average order value has increased by 10% in the last year while the customer base is up 49%.
Cameron, a resilient and pragmatic entrepreneur, pushed through the lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 by tailoring her offering around changing consumer needs. She continues to do so now that many of them have returned to hybrid working — and special events.
Cameron has always placed the emphasis on dresses. She designed them to be worn with heels or sneakers from the beginning. During an interview at her west London studio she embodied the look, wearing a Cefinn midi style with Victorian flair — and tall boots with a block heel from Mango.
Cameron said that when COVID-19 came along, the dress business collapsed “but we were lucky because we had just bought in knitwear and shirting, and we had a couple of styles that did really well.”
Cameron has been working to expand the knitwear range over the past two year, accounting for 22 percent of all sales. True to Cameron form, it’s practical. Her sweaters are made with non-mulesed, animal friendly merino Wool. They’re also washable and don’t pill.
“Post-COVID-19, whether you’re in the office or on Zoom, they’re an alternative to a jacket. The shapes are very sculptural — one of our bestsellers has a blouson sleeve. We offer them in a variety of necklines. You can wear them with smart denim, tailored trousers or a leather skirt,” she said.
It’s also good for the sleeves-less.
The Janice style, which comes with a V-neck or a funnel neck, has been Cefinn’s top-selling product by units in the last two years, and Cameron believes it’s because it can be layered over a dress with statement sleeves without killing the look.
It’s also heavy enough “to keep you warm if you’re working from home during the day,” she said.
Knitwear sales have increased by 83 per cent in the past year.
Once lockdown eased, the dress business bounced back “overnight,” said Cameron, whose current bestseller is the Daphne, a dress made from fine corduroy that costs 290 pounds. The Jacquetta is another popular style, a velvet maxidress that has ties at the neck and costs 320 pounds.
Both are part of Cefinn’s largest winter and Christmas party collection to date.
Cameron has been working to design more sustainably. She uses organic cotton poplin, voile, Lenzing Ecovero, recycled polyester, and voile. She’s eliminated plastic from Cefinn’s packaging while garment labels are now made from recycled yarns. She’s working on sourcing sustainable buttons and other trims.
She also keeps a close eye on inventory and said she’s happy to do smaller runs of styles. Cameron said her clothing “isn’t fast fashion or disposable,” and that she’s designing for the long term. She doesn’t like discounting, and keeps it to a minimum.
Cameron plans to expand the offer and build the U.K. Market, which is her largest market. She also plans to penetrate the U.S. where Cefinn already has a localized website. The U.S. saw a 130 percent increase in sales last year and currently accounts for 6.4 percent of all total sales.
Cefinn does not have any physical stores, although it has had pop-ups, and Cameron said she’d like to do more. It is hoped to open at least one store in the near future. London Customers can try the collection and receive styling advice.
Cameron said she’s keen to continue investing, with the aim of it turning a profit in “the next couple of years.”
She said her vision for Cefinn has always been to create a full wardrobe of clothing, “and that needs time, and investment.”
It’s clear she’s enjoying the journey.
Cameron is in the office five days a week and said she’s involved with every aspect of the business, from financial to sales, creative and production. Cameron designs the clothes and prints the clothing. She relies on her studio team to bring her creations life.
Cameron said she’s “obsessive” about fit, and her samples are a U.K. size 10 (a U.S. size 8). That’s considerably larger than the usual U.K. sample size of 4 to 8 (U.S. 0 to 4).
Cameron said she’d like to broaden out her offer even further, with clothing that ranges from a size 6 to 16, with an eye to dressing a variety of women — for the office, the Zoom screen or the photo op.