LONDON — For six years, the UK has grown accustomed to seeing Samantha Cameron wearing trainers and skinny jeans (sometimes on a scooter), ferrying her children to school or wearing pointy, colorful dresses as she poses with world leaders.
Britain has seen many prime ministers (and their wives) come and go, but no one has matched the simple elegance of former first lady Cameron, who had been creative director of high-end stationer Smythson before moving to No 1.10 Downing Street with her husband, former Prime Minister David Cameron, and young family.
In the past five years since her husband’s quit, Cameron has channeled that bright, youthful aesthetic into her clothing brand Cefinn, which has seen double-digit sales growth and raised £1.2m during its latest round of funding earlier this month. .
In the 12 months to October 31, sales rose 45% to 3.8 million pounds year-on-year, while losses fell 32% to 166,000 pounds. Momentum has strengthened, with sales up 55% in the first two weeks of the new fiscal year, according to the company.
Cefinn declined to give investor details in the latest funding round, but said the money will go to growth capital to support sales and lineup expansion; customer acquisition marketing and the recruitment of expertise in merchandising, production and digital.
Cameron founded Cefinn in 2017 and remains a direct-to-consumer business with a handful of wholesale clients, including Net-a-porter, Matchesfashion and Trilogy.
Clients include the new Princess of Wales, who wore a blue Cefinn funnel neck blouse for a visit to Glasgow earlier this year (when she was Duchess of Cambridge), and Queen Consort Camilla, who donned a green print midi dress on a trip to Cornwall.
Cefinn’s bow-tie blouses featured prominently in the Netflix series “Anatomy of a Scandal,” which starred Sienna Miller as the vengeful wife of a scandal-prone congressman.
The blouse is glamorous, but also practical. More than half of the collection – from knits to silk tops – is machine washable. Clothing is also made for travelling, with most fabrics being wrinkle-free.
Online sales represent 65% of the activity and increased by 69% compared to the same period last year. The average order value has increased by 10% over the past year, while the customer base has increased by 49%.
A resilient and practical entrepreneur, Cameron weathered the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 by shaping her offering to the changing needs of her consumers. She continues to do so now that many of them have returned to hybrid work – and special events.
Right from the start, Cameron focused on dresses, which she always designed to be worn with sneakers or heels. During an interview at her west London studio, she epitomized the look, wearing a Cefinn midi style with a Victorian twist – and tall block heel boots by Mango.
Cameron said when COVID-19 hit the dress business crashed “but we were lucky because we had just bought knitwear and shirts, and we had a few styles that worked really well” .
Over the past two years, Cameron has worked on expanding the knitwear offering, which accounts for 22% of sales. True to Cameron form, it’s practical. Its sweaters are made from animal-friendly mule-free merino wool. They are also washable and do not 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. And we make them in various necklines. You can wear them with smart jeans, fitted pants or a leather skirt,” she said.
Sleeveless ones are fine too.
The Janice style, which comes with either a v-neck or a funnel neck, has been Cefinn’s top-selling product per unit for the past two years, and Cameron believes that’s because it can be layered over a dress with trendy 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.
Sales of knitwear have increased by 83% over the past year.
Once the lockdown eased, the dress business rebounded “overnight,” said Cameron, whose current bestseller is the Daphne, a fine corduroy dress that costs 290 pounds. Another popular style is the Jacquetta, a long velvet dress with a neck tie that costs 320 pounds.
Both are part of Cefinn’s largest winter and Christmas party collection to date.
Cameron tried to design in a more sustainable way, working with fabrics such as organic cotton poplin and voile, Lenzing Ecovero and recycled polyester. It has eliminated plastic from Cefinn’s packaging while clothing labels are now made from recycled yarn. She works on sourcing buttons and other sustainable trimmings.
She’s also keeping a close eye on inventory and said she’s happy to do smaller runs of styles. Cameron said her clothes “were neither fashionable nor disposable” and that she designed for the long haul. She doesn’t like discounts and keeps them to a minimum.
As well as expanding the offering, Cameron plans to expand the UK market, its largest, and further penetrate the US, where Cefinn has a localized website. Sales in the United States increased by 130% last year, and the region currently generates 6.4% of total sales.
Cefinn has no physical stores, although there have been pop-ups, and Cameron said she would like to do more. The plan is to open one or two in London to allow customers to try on the collection and get style advice.
Cameron said she wanted to keep investing, with the aim of generating profits in “the next two years”.
She said her vision for Cefinn has always been to create a full wardrobe of clothes, “and that takes time and investment.”
It’s clear she’s enjoying the trip.
Cameron is in the office five days a week and said she is involved in all aspects of the business, from finance and sales to creative and production. She designs all prints and apparel and relies on a strong studio team to bring her designs to life.
Cameron said she’s “obsessed” with the fit, and her swatches are a UK size 10 (a US size 8). This is considerably larger than the usual UK sample size of 4 to 8 (US 0 to 4).
Cameron said she would like to expand her offering even further, with clothes ranging from size 6 to 16, with the aim of dressing a variety of women – for the office, the Zoom screen or the photoshoot.