Samantha Cameron speaks exclusively to Louisa Castle about fashion, family and a fondness for minimalism.
During her six years at No 10 Downing Street, Samantha Cameron was admired for her sense of style. Indeed, together with her fellow first lady Michelle Obama, they were regularly referred to as the First Ladies of Fashion.
Today, I am interviewing the lady herself as she visits Selfridges Exchange Square to introduce the AW17 collection of her fashion brand Cefinn. Before it is time to settle down for a cup of tea and chat, I steal away to view the clothing first hand on floor three. An emerald green shift dress catches my eye and as I tear myself to browse further, I discover the rest of the collection of elegant shapes and styles. They feel well made and practical and, and I can see how, once youve found your Cefinn style it could become a much-loved wardrobe staple.
Heading downstairs, I settle myself in personal shopping. Samantha is just finishing up team training but soon whisks into the room effortlessly making everyone feel welcome. Wearing one of her own creations she is a depiction of the very style that is at the heart of the brand.
"My muse, if you wish, is any confident strong woman who can be who they are and do what they do without compromise. Its for women who love fashion but also want to be taken seriously. Like Amal Clooney and Michelle Obama. They want to feminine and powerful but definitely not boring."
Perched on the sofa across from me, Samantha leans forward to speak, engaging and happy to chat and share her journey so far. Speaking of journeys, the sleeveless wool midi dress she is wearing has been on since this morning, survived a train journey, meetings and training and looks like it has only just been put on. Samantha is proud that I note this. The working woman wants great quality and versatility, dressing from up to down and from day to evening with ease.
"When my husband was Prime Minister I understood firsthand the importance of dressing appropriately but also not losing your style and individuality. And this is what I am hoping to capture with Cefinn. To prove that corporate, creative and comfortable is possible. Its also very important to me to embrace different body shapes and flatter them with the styles we create." Always with a fashion edge. We enthuse over our love of green and the emerald dress I have my eye on upstairs. Melania Trump has recently chosen to wear it with some Louboutins.
Whilst Cefinn is relatively new, Samanthas connection to the world of fashion and design is most definitely not. "Art was always my thing and I did my degree in fine art. But I have always been around style." Samantha quotes her mum and aunt as huge influences and inspiration. Viscountess Astor, Annabel, her mum, founded a jewellery brand, Annabel Jones, in the seventies and, most recently the multi-million pound furniture retailer OKA alongside her aunt, Sue Jones who worked for Jasper Conran. Her first cousin is also Cath Kidston so you could be forgiven for thinking it may also be in the genes. Not to mention her involvement as ambassador for the British Fashion Council and judging on the panel for the Vogue Fashion Fund alongside fellow designer and businesswoman Victoria Beckham.
"I have a big, close family with seven siblings, and Ive been endlessly making my sister try things on and give me feedback. I think they only believe that I invite them over now because I want them to try something for me! I am always trying things myself too, putting outfits through daily life. I think one of the hardest parts of Cefinn was finding the fabrics. Im very particular. Most of our clothing is washable so finding the materials that were practical but also draped well and were great quality was one of the biggest challenges. That and deciding upon the name. I wanted something personal and that wasnt trademarked already, obviously. Cefinn is the C and N of Cameron with a loose acronymn of my childrens initials in between. I would consider myself a fully-fledged entrepreneur now, definitely. Everything everyone says about setting up your own business is true. Its so stressful but equally rewarding. We have a small but great team which works closely on every element. Theres never a boring moment."
It was the same at Smythson [where Samantha was responsible from transforming it into the luxury accessories brand it is today]. Involved in every aspect of the company, Samantha is responsible for the designs and confesses to constantly sketching. Were looking at some party dresses, maybe some metallic and were also working on some prints for the coming seasons. Most of all though, we want to listen to our customer and concentrate on making them feel fantastic. As our tea cups are drained and my time is almost up we speak of Christmas. Samantha confesses to being rubbish at Christmas shopping. "I get so stressed when Im present shopping. I agonise over it. You see, I am very practical so I want to buy things for others which will be practical. Im quite particular and dont like clutter. But seeing the excitement of the children always re-engages you. Yes, well be having a big family Christmas in Yorkshire, I feel there will be a lot of camp beds involved!"
Without any airs and graces I am charmed by Samantha Cameron, especially as we reminisce for a few moments further over my Smythson (of course!) business card holder and she tells me the exact season it came from. And it is without any further airs that I request a photograph, upon threat from our new social media manager. Perching next to me on my chair, she laughs about not being a natural in front of the camera and that her sister would have been much more suited to the public life.