There’s a handful of brands in the fashion stratosphere that command their very own micro climate of cool, and Isa Arfen is one of them. It’s a house that is refreshingly linear about its style signature and sticks to its own course. And it’s that type of self-assured confidence that makes a brand flourish in today’s temperamental, economic climate.
Central Saint Martins grad (of the class of 2006) Serafina Sama first founded her label in 2011 after demand grew for her small collections of retro-fabulous dresses. With experience in the ateliers at Marc Jacobs, Chloé (for two years), Lanvin, and Marni, the Italian-born designer has cultivated an innate understanding of how to empower women with feminine threads that are tongue-in-chic. Over six years into its journey as a global brand, and many ruffled hems later, Isa Arfen commands a cult status with the front row and powers many of the street style photos revered by sartorial aficionados east and west. Cue A-list clientele such as Alexa Chung, Margherita Missoni, and Yasmin Sewell.
Isa Arfen Resort 2018 has trickled into stores throughout January and February and sees the Japan-inspired collection bounce from the punk aesthetic look book, photographed by Watanabe Katsumi, to the e-comms rails (a tempting few clicks away). The collection is a play on contrasts and has a jovial edge to it (after all, the T-shirts are emblazoned with ‘Isa ArFun’). Expect to see PVC trousers and cotton poplin merrily styled together. Asymmetric cuts, exaggerated ruching, and exposed stitches will please the brand loyalists that return to Isa Arfen for the familiar.
Now the brand sees its major expansion into the Middle Eastern market via launching on Ounass on January 8th. On the advent of this big move, Vogue.me speaks exclusively to Sama about her success formula, what’s cool now, and girl-power mantras.
Describe your brand in three words: Feminine, eccentric, and relaxed.
Have you been challenged by the modest movement that has swept through fashion when it comes to designing new collections? I don’t think you need to show too much of your body to feel feminine, glamorous and confident. Ultra revealing or body conscious clothes have never really been part of my aesthetic so I don’t find the modest movement challenging. On the contrary, I see it as positively inclusive.
Why do you think your designs resonate so well with the Middle East? I think Middle Eastern women have a great sense of colour and texture and appreciate attention to detail. They love to feel feminine and sophisticated but also enjoy having some fun with their clothes.
Name a few A-listers that represent the spirit of your brand. It has been so exciting and inspiring to see many different kinds of women wearing Isa Arfen – from Rihanna and Alexa Chung to Emma Watson and Lena Dunham – and looking fantastic in it! I think what they have in common is that they are all confident women with strong personalities, each with her own individual sense of style, who dress for themselves, and are not afraid of having some fun with what they wear.
In your personal wardrobe, list three things that you wear on repeat no matter what. I live in high-waisted trousers and jeans – I have been wearing our Isa Arfen paper bag trousers for days in a row. Except for the really cold months you will find me in a slouchy, relaxed trench coat every day. And a good white t-shirt.
What is on your playlist right now? Lucio Battisti, The Lijadu Sisters, The Raincoats, and William Onyeabor.
Favorite app for business? Instagram.
What advice would you give yourself three years ago? Be patient and hang in there. And have fun with it – it’s only clothes after all.
What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made? Probably to launch a fashion label!
What’s the biggest thing you’ve achieved that you never thought you would? Knowing that women around the world are choosing to wear my clothes and are feeling good in them feels like an incredible achievement.
And finally, what mantra would you like womankind to live by? “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality,” Yoko Ono.
Isa Arfen Resort 2018 collection is available on Ounass now and ships across the Middle East.