Serafina Sama's

Chloé Girls
Lexie Smith & Georgia Hilmer
Lola Kirke
Praline Le Moult
Edie Campbell & Christabel MacGreevy

Isa Arfen, an anagram of designer Serafina Sama’s name and a homage to her grandmother Isa, positions femininity front and centre. “Every woman has many different facets and through my clothes, I try to express a variety of them,” she said. “Strong, vulnerable, gentle, ironic, humorous, relaxed, eccentric, intelligent, and sexy.”

The Italian designer cites her upbringing as a constant source of inspiration. Known for its colourful Byzantine mosaics, mouthwatering Squacquerone cheese, and UNESCO World Heritage sites, Serafina’s hometown of Ravenna was an ideal incubator for her blooming creativity. The young, would-be designer painted a dreamy picture of her childhood, describing days filled with dancing, scaling her grandmother’s cherry tree, flipping through her mother’s copies of Italian Vogue, and drawing girls wearing their fantasy wardrobes. Her aunts, in particular, became a profound influence on her aesthetic sensibilities. Surrounded by a clan of strong women, each with their own distinct and personal sense of style, she cultivated an appreciation for the art of dressing.

“Their love for eccentric vintage pieces, folkloric costumes, ethnic textiles, and antique handbags was inspiring for me to witness,” Serafina said. “[It] seemed almost irreverent in a town where everyone tended to dress homogeneously.”

It’s certainly no surprise that a strong Italian influence runs through her collections—from beautiful fabrics sourced from the best Italian mills to a confident design aesthetic. “I am proud of my Italian heritage but I can laugh about it too,” Serafina said. “I am particularly fascinated by that period in Italian fashion between the late Eighties and early Nineties when maximalism and excess were giving way to minimalism and grunge. The intersection between these two opposites is very ‘me’ I think!”

Looking at her collections, it’s clear that this unique combination gives Isa Arfen its edge. Serafina’s clothes feel delightfully unpredictable with A-Line skirts in sculptural Jacquard, high-waisted trousers, and taffeta-ruffled party dresses exist side by side. Asked to define her ideal customer, she describes “a woman who feels comfortable in her own skin, has a sense of humour, dresses for herself, and is not afraid of having some fun with her clothes.” Designing with this independent woman in mind, it’s no wonder the brand’s cult following includes the likes of Alexa Chung, Margot Robbie, and Sienna Miller.

Isa Arfen’s clothes seem to say ‘You’re wearing me, I’m not wearing you’ despite their playful proportions. But who is behind the brand’s signature styling? Valentine Fillol-Cordier is not only Serafina’s close friend but also acts as Isa Arfen’s stylist and collaborator. Serafina, who began designing Isa Arfen in 2012, initially brought on Valentine in to style her AW13 lookbook. “I instantly loved working together because she immediately understood the aesthetic I was going for, but also gently pushed me outside of my comfort zone,” Serafina said. Soon too was Valentine consulting on developing the collections, presentation concepts, and runway soundtracks and set design. “She was the mastermind of the SS18 presentation....filming the models with a hand-held camera while wearing a huge Yoko Ono wig. [We projected the footage] live on two screens on set. Throughout all this, we of course also became very close friends, and every day spent working with Valentine feels more like a treat than a work day to me.”

Arguably, it’s this ‘work as play’ sensibility that gives Isa Arfen its nuance, setting it apart from emerging brands. “[Growing up], I loved to draw clothes. It was my favourite past time and a form of escapism, but it didn’t occur to me that this could one day become a job,” she said. Even a quick glance at her range affirms the power of harnessing this personal passion into a career. Serafina maintains an intimate connection to her clothes, fitting toiles to her own body. “It is very important for me to know that each piece feels good on and isn’t uncomfortable or too restrictive to wear,” she said. “If I try something on and start dancing it’s usually a good sign!”

By Lauren Sarazen for Semaine.

Photography by Bonny Peter.

Read more...

SHOP PROFILE

View more products

Get The Look

Get The Look

Get Isa ArFUN

Try Serafina’s look on for size. Valentine’s fresh and whimsical styling transforms comfy tees into statement pieces. Every piece from Serafina's latest collection screams Isa ArfUN - perfect for the party dressing season. Add a little spritz of Le Labo’s Labdanum 18 perfume and you’re ready to go.

F8328741 b84a 4b8e a970 177f4101a7df
E2bdf7cf 5da2 4319 b535 9e665f70bb0f

SHOP LOOK

Cc813b72 af11 4831 98b8 d25d82dc4e38

SHOP LOOK

7fac0d4c 5c0e 41a4 bd53 2b3dcd7a3422
588f8936 eab9 4e66 a0ce c69b31542c2a

SHOP LOOK

0e463e53 92b9 4bfa 81bc 00841df0687c

SHOP LOOK

57d78f1a 136f 4b9d 88fe cd559ff8a356
E492f7bb 3695 4b60 8e13 f8df787b8705

SHOP LOOK

Questionnaire

Questionnaire

Questionnaire

After we halted filming (because Serafina's DJ from Formentera kept calling) we thought we really must gain a little more wisdom from Serafina and Valentine about holiday party etiquette. From using Brexit as a solid conversation starter to whether a FRexit (French exit) is ever acceptable, this Q & A will at least leave you laughing as you umm and aww about whether or not you should attend tonight's event.

Arrivals. Are you an early bird, fashionably late or never do you never quite make it?

Valentine: Never quite make it

Serafina: Unfashionably late

Elixir of choice to get the night going?

Valentine: British fizz

Serafina: Cynar Spritz

What would you say is the perfect gift for the host of the party?

Valentine: Bringing the good vibes

Serafina: Fizz and flowers

Underdressed or overdressed?

Valentine: Not dressed at all

Serafina: Both - jeans and an over the top top

Your favourite conversation starter if it's not flowing?

Valentine: Brexit

Serafina: Giving someone a compliment

Do you have a party trick?

Valentine: A pink dress

Serafina: My Italo Disco playlist

What song you can't you help but dance to?

Valentine: Fantasy by Earth Wind and Fire

Serafina: Anything by Raffaella Carra'

The appropriate time to go home?

Valentine: Never

Serafina: When I am already asleep

French (Swedish) exit or elongated goodbye?

Valentine: French exit

Serafina: Elongated goodbye

Semaine: Most memorable party moment of each other?

Valentine: Us duetting Unbreak my Heart by Tony Braxton at karaoke

Serafina: Valentine dancing on the table at Lucky in Formentera with a giant croissant foam hat on her head

SHOP QUESTIONNAIRE

Interior

Interior

At Home with Serafina

Make yourself right at home with Serafina's choice accents. Opt for Astier de Villatte details for a hint of Parisian elegance, and combine vintage furniture and Murano glass to parlay rooms into spaces bursting with personality.plac

Fac40f39 c9a3 49b9 b7e5 8235416f554e
Ed2c0813 e2be 4f25 9553 aef0d4abe3c7

SHOP INTERIOR

D47a2c42 31ac 49fb 895a c68f340dc82f

SHOP INTERIOR

C0989fa3 8b00 4496 b6f7 a79cb876e53b
E5848765 cef4 4aaf 9eab 6ca65d1fa785

SHOP INTERIOR

E1e65ad9 a9c9 4453 be55 c0fb0d900046

SHOP INTERIOR

Playlist

Playlist

Get the Party Started

Borrow Serafina's signature party playlist to drive your friends away from the snack spread and onto the dance floor. These eclectic tunes will breathe new life into tired Spotify queues—just don't forget to wear comfortable shoes!

SHOP PLAYLIST

Travel

Travel

Sightseeing Serafina Style

Roam around the world to experience some of Serafina's favourite haunts. From Ravenna's breathtaking Basilica San Vitale to the vintage treasure trove of Gil Antiquedades in Buenos Aires to Mykonos' Agios Sostis beach, we're ready to book plane tickets pronto.

SHOP TRAVEL

Tips

Tips

5 Go-To Tips for Party Dressing

The festive season is upon us, bringing extra occasions to show off your playful style. Staring into your closet and bemoaning that you have nothing to wear? Serafina's here for the save. Praised for her effortless expertise in party dressing, it's high time we asked for her list of Dos and Don'ts.

103762ee d708 443e b31f b8f5123fe340

FEAR NOT

1

“DON’T BE AFRAID TO HAVE FUN WITH YOUR CLOTHES, BUT DON’T WEAR ANYTHING YOU DON’T FEEL COMFORTABLE IN, NO MATTER HOW TRENDY IT IS. IF YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE YOURSELF IN AN OUTFIT, DON’T WEAR IT.”
E90bfe2c c308 498c af61 072f4dba6631

ALWAYS LAYER

2

“IF YOU ARE PLANNING TO WEAR A BIG DRAMATIC PARTY DRESS BUT DON’T WANT TO LOOK TOO GIRLY OR PROM-LIKE, TRY LAYERING A PAIR OF CROPPED, SLIM TROUSERS OR JEANS UNDERNEATH.”
E3bdf3b1 adc1 4aee 8186 51a074640380

BE SELECTIVE

3

“WHEN IT COMES TO JEWELLERY, CHOOSE ONE BOLD PIECE AND TAKE EVERYTHING ELSE OFF.”
08cae964 6a49 46f9 964a ddb0a231656d

STAY FRESH

4

“IF YOU ARE GOING FOR A FULL-ON STATEMENT FROCK (I AM TALKING TAFFETA, VELVET, SCULPTURAL VOLUMES, RUFFLES) KEEP YOUR MAKE-UP NATURAL AND LEAVE YOUR HAIR UNDONE. IT’S FRESHER AND SEXIER.”
9a29331a 7acd 4787 b8ba b1e9835b3fc1

GET IN THE MOOD

5

“HAVE A LITTLE DANCE IN FRONT OF THE MIRROR AFTER GETTING DRESSED TO MAKE SURE THAT WHAT YOU ARE WEARING IS COMFORTABLE AND NOT TOO RESTRICTIVE (AND TO GET IN THE MOOD!)”

SHOP TIPS

Ciao!

8bbe14a7 0ca1 463b 9af1 ad09d0785943