Samantha Cameron’s clothing brand Cefinn suffers losses of £2.6m | Fashion industry

Samantha Cameron’s clothing brand, Cefinn, has just released figures that show cumulative losses amounting to nearly £2.6m as of last October.

The brand, which makes floral dresses regularly worn by the Duchess of Cornwall and midi-skirts favoured by TV royalty Holly Willoughby, is for many inextricably linked to Cameron’s political ties – it is unlikely to be an accident that Sienna Miller wore Cefinn for her role as a disgraced politician’s wife in Anatomy of a Scandal.

For some, Cameron’s political ties will have been off-putting enough to make the clothes undesirable from the get-go. For others, the designs were good enough to overcome that association. When the brand launched in 2017, the Guardian’s Jess Cartner-Morley summed it up in her verdict on the first collection: “I will still never forgive Samantha Cameron’s husband for calling that referendum, but I would definitely wear some of these clothes.”

Support for the Tory party has taken several more batterings since. In addition, shoppers have increasingly begun to wield wallets in line with their values ​​– a 2017 survey found that 57% of global consumers bought, or boycotted, products because of a brand’s stance on political or social issues.

But Cameron’s connections have also been a help, both in concrete terms – in 2018 Cefinn received a £2.5m cash injection from the investment firm of the Tory donor David Brownlow – and in soft power terms. It can’t hurt that her sister is a former deputy editor of Vogue.

Perhaps the brand’s biggest challenge, however, has been the changing dress habits brought about by changing work habits. “The pandemic – having disrupted how everyone works and changed office dress codes forever – has all but killed the need for this conference-call-to -cocktails work uniform,” says Graeme Moran, associate editor of industry publication Drapers.

According to a report by Kayla Marci, a market analyst at the fashion research and advisory group Edited, “workwear trends are yet to return to traditional office attire. Products have evolved to mirror hybrid working born from the pandemic.”

This is a shift that Cameron is mindful of. Speaking to the Telegraph in June, she said: “There isn’t a separation for most people now of work clothes and home clothes, because the two blur.” Many smart/casual brands have pivoted to the lucrative loungewear market. Cefinn’s answer has been more separates – and some hidden elastication around waistlines.

Another pitfall is price – about £300-£400 for dresses and £200 for tops. For this kind of attire, consumers can find what they need for less from the likes of Cos, Whistles and Jigsaw. Or for a similar price there are more fashion-forward brands, such as Ganni. “The pretty printed dress market is highly competitive – brands like Rixo and Kitri come to mind – and is already oversaturated,” says Moran.

With increasingly ethical ethics important for consumers, brands such as Baukjen offer casual daywear that is more sustainably minded. Consumers would be unlikely to associate Cefinn, which is rated “not good enough” on the ethical fashion app Good On You, with sustainability.

While Cameron set out on a mission to make clothes for the modern woman that wouldn’t leave them “looking too corporate or feeling like a freak if they went out for a drink after work”, it seems that in the post-pandemic world, the clothes don’t veer far enough away from the photocopier. Perhaps more loungewear – and more meaningful steps towards sustainability – may help to paper over political ties.

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