The launch of Cefinn, a new fashion brand by Samantha Cameron, confirms that first lady chic is the defining look of our era. They say that the mood of a decade crystallises halfway through and, as this one comes into focus, the preeminent style icons are variations on the theme of soft power. From the Duchess of Cambridge’s globally documented royal wardrobe to Michelle Obama’s three Vogue covers, the consort in the corridors of power is the supermodel of our time.
That our focus has drifted away from policy and toward the more glamorous, ephemeral elements of public life is so 2016. That Samantha Cameron is the first first lady to embark on the spousal equivalent of the after-dinner speech circuit by monetising the modern obsession with her wardrobe is a mark of Cameron’s instinctive grasp of fashion, business and the modern world. (Those who quibble that Samantha Cameron was never, technically, a first lady might want to consider whether they are guilty of the kind of pedantic establishment mindset that the global electorate has summarily rejected this year.)
In her pre-Downing-Street life, Cameron was creative director of Smythson, where she was credited with being instrumental in turning a highly traditional stationery brand into a fashion force to be reckoned with. Smythson’s most successful luxury piece was the 2007 Nancy bag, which Cameron named after her daughter; after she reduced her involvement following the 2010 election, the brand struggled to remain in the limelight.
During her tenure in Downing Street, Cameron strengthened her links to the fashion industry as a dedicated ambassador for British designers, working closely with the British Fashion Council. She has made no secret of her intention to remain in the industry, attending Theresa May’s first London Fashion Week reception earlier this autumn. Her fashionable connections – her sister Emily Sheffield is deputy editor of Vogue – made her a natural fit for the front row. Cameron also proved herself adept at using fashion as a messaging tool. When she wore Zara’s bright orange trousers and £29.99 grey suede heels to the Conservative Party conference in 2011, the image of a Prime Minister’s wife who – despite being the daugher of a baronet – was both modern and “normal” was highly impactful.
Cefinn will go on sale on Net-a-Porter and Selfridges early in 2017, around the same time that Jackie – a biopic of the most iconic of first ladies, starring Natalie Portman – arrives in cinemas. Few details have as yet been released, but prices are likely to sit in the low-three-figure middle ground between high street and luxury. It is thought that the name is drawn from the first and last letters of the Cameron name, bookending the initials of couple’s four children Elwen, Florence, Ivan and Nancy.
The images so far released by the Cefinn brand feature the same outfit, in two colourways. A mid-calf length skirt is worn with a matching sleeveless shell top; the “coord”, in fashion parlance, comes in grey with a windowpane cream check, or fashion’s favourite, solid black. Both versions have an orange stripe at the shoulder. The hemline is key here, because a long skirt is on trend, demure enough for professional life and wearable by an older demographic – but the sleeveless top is equally important, representing a generation of women over-40 who remain fitness-conscious and youthful in outlook, and who are not ready to be fobbed off with dresses designed to hide bingo wings. The pop of orange, and the subtle dip of the skirt’s asymmetric hemline are the kind of details that make clothes special and give the modern consumer that all-important reason to buy. Influences from some of the many London fashion week shows that Cameron has attended – from Roksanda to Whistles – can be felt here.
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