In 2019, Serafina Sama, the creative force behind Isa Arfen, decided to hit pause on her fashion brand, feeling the weight of an industry known for consuming independent labels. “I needed a complete detox,” said the London-based designer, who founded the brand in 2012, drawing inspiration from strong, fun-loving women who appreciate functional fashion. Sama’s return was marked by a deliberate and measured relaunch, challenging the fast-paced nature of the fashion world.
During her hiatus, Sama took time to reflect, patiently waiting out the challenges posed by the pandemic. Last month, she unveiled the first of several releases, beginning with Edition 01 – a concise collection featuring caped cardigans and collared scarves meticulously crafted from Scottish-spun lambswool yarn in East London. Sama’s approach was centered around the belief that no new clothes are truly needed, but the allure of a finely made knitted cape might captivate someone’s desire. The collection, offering hues like pagoda green, russet red, Derby grey, and palate-cleansing cream, aims to be simultaneously comforting and stylish, embodying a blend of classic and quirky elements. Sama envisions her capsule as an addition to existing wardrobes, something dependable and versatile for repeated wear.
Edition 01, captured in a lookbook by Rory DCS, features only 100 pieces – the smallest production run for Isa Arfen. Sama’s decision to use Scottish yarn was a response to Brexit-induced supply chain challenges, and working with a local manufacturer allowed her to be hands-on throughout the production process. Despite the odds stacked against micro-businesses, Sama remains committed to her craft, driven by a passion for collaboration and a desire to connect with her creations on a personal level.
Social media played a pivotal role in shaping Sama’s perspective on wholesale production, leading her to prioritize a direct-to-consumer relationship. Disenchanted with the dilution of her craft for the sake of Instagram aesthetics, she decided to stay true to her values. Isa Arfen loyalists welcomed the brand’s return, expressing excitement for Sama’s impeccably-cut trousers and wearable dresses. While the designer remains focused on her caped proposal, more fabrications and colorways are on the horizon.
Sama plans to address sustainability concerns by exploring the use of materials leftover on factory floors, acknowledging the environmental impact of sample accumulation and unsold stock. In an industry often fixated on newness, Sama’s loyalty to her brand’s aesthetic led her to continue where she left off, collaborating with Rory DCS once again for continuity. Isa Arfen’s revival is not just a return; it’s a deliberate and thoughtful evolution that reflects the brand’s commitment to individuality, humor, and staying power.