Combining her native Italian style with the creative freedom of her London base the Central Saint Martin’s alumni has defined the aesthetic of fashion’s youth, socks and sandals included.
Text by ALICE CUFFE
Photography by MORGAN HILL-MURPHY
Styling by JAKOB BRONDUM
Hair/Makeup by Brigitta Smart – Using Nars/Sebastian
Assistant – Tom Griffiths
A special thanks to Toasted for location
Portraits by HAYDN VOOGHT
When Isa Arfen founder Serafina Sama designs she does it for the coolest girl in the room. Whether it is the billowing ruffles, slouched off the shoulder details or the incredible bold colour palettes, her unreserved attitude to style has made her a favourite with the likes of Alexa Chung and Charlotte Dellal as well as stockists worldwide from her first buyer Opening Ceremony to sell out lines at Matchesfashion, Lane Crawford and Net a Porter.
Combining her native Italian style with the creative freedom of her London base the Central Saint Martin’s alumni has defined the aesthetic of fashion’s youth, socks and sandals included. Her AW15 stand out collection truly cemented her style with a playful combination of seventies Italy and 1990’s lethargy.
Fashion Fanzine met up with Sama in her London studio to talk about her design process and the importance of eccentricity as she works on her ninth collection.
Fashion Fanzine: Where you start when you begin pulling your ideas together?
Serafina Sama: Every season it could start with anything, something random like a documentary I watched or from a photograph that I see or a book, I try to save everything. I collect and collect lots and lots of images and then I start editing and editing and then something comes together. My own style is very much 90’s very vogue Italia, because it is something that has always appealed to me.
The pace of the fashion world seems to be becoming too much to keep up with, how do you manage to fit it all in?
I don’t know, I suppose I just take it one day at a time, I still only do 3 collections a year, I don’t do 4, because I think pre-fall would be physically impossible with such a small team. The permanent team is four people so I do a lot of mutli tasking and a lot of trial and error and just take it one day at a time I guess.
I think that is feels sometimes like you have less and less time to research, to clear your head and start fresh.
Every season I have a moment when everything feels so overwhelming and I’m like oh my god what am I doing and then you start thinking of the next one and see new images and new colours and the creative part starts again and that’s what makes it exciting I guess.
You always manage to achieve a look that is both eccentric and feminine, how you keep the balance?
After the first few seasons I got lots of comments from buyers especially that the collections was maybe not sexy.
For me personally, I feel sexy when I’m feeling comfortable in what I’m wearing. If you put me in a super short skirt with my boobs out, I don’t think I’m going to look sexy because I’m going to feel so awkward.
I was trying to find a way to feel feminine that would be sophisticated that would have some sort of relaxed attitude as well.
I guess this kind of off the shoulder, asymmetrical, knotted silhouette or the exposed shoulder and the balloon sleeve, I’m trying to find parts of the body that are sexy but still make you feel comfortable I guess and confident and feminine but also a bit playful.
How does being an Italian in London influence your style?
The eccentricity of my clothes is more of an Italian [thing] and the decadence is more of an Italian decadence. But living in London you’re constantly bombarded by inspiration everywhere and its so stimulating so definitely a lot of my inspiration comes from living here.
Do you test your designs out on anyone?
I always do the fittings on me, I want to know how something feels on and whether you can move in it and whether it feels comfortable.
I don’t care if something looks good if you’re just standing still.
Do you have people in mind though who influence your collections?
I think of people I know, of my friends, my collaborators, everybody in the studio picks their favourites. I think of my mum because she wears my designs, I like to think that lots of different types of women will wear these. Not everybody is a 25 year old Alexa Chung lookalike, of course I love when she wears the clothes but its important to me that all sorts of women kind find something in the collection.
How do you think you’ll be able to retain the element of eccentricity as the brand continues to grow?
Its really important to me and part of who I am so I definitely want to keep it. I want to keep renewing and add something extra, whether the element of eccentricity is a beautiful decadent fabric or a sculptural ruffle.
knit cape sweater by Isa Arfen, jumper by Balenciaga
scarf by Hans Christian Madsen
coat by Isa Arfen
vintage negligee and boots from Blitz socks from Adidas
coat and shirt by Isa Arfen vintage negligee from Blitz
gold top and coat by Isa Arfen
skirt vintage Vivienne Westwood from Rellik vintage boots from Blitz
sock from Adidas
Dress by Isa Arfen
Isa Arfen is presenting her AW16 during London Fashion Week on Saturday 20 February, 14:30 – 16:30 GMT
Isa Arfen, Serafina, Fashion, Designer, Julia, Models1, Jakob Brondum, Morgan Hill-Murphy, Haydn Vooght, Brigitta Smart. Nars, Sebastian, Tom Griffiths, Toasted, Balenciaga, Blitz, adidas, Hans Christian Madsen, Church, Relik, Vivienne Westwood,