Samantha Cameron: Will the PM's wife launch her own clothing label when her husband bows out?

Fashion Editor Alexander Fury reports on the woman who could the next Miu Miu

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Fashion loves rumour-mongering. It implies (often fallaciously) that the teller somehow has an inside track on an about-to-break scenario, that they got there first, which is all important. It also gives us all something to talk about while the shows are running behind schedule, which they are doing right now in always-tardy Milan, where it is the penultimate day of spring/summer 2016 shows.

Politics adores gossip too. It’s rare the two can genuinely coalesce. But the latest subject of persistent rumour, in the front rows and Westminster tea rooms alike, is that Samantha Cameron is quite deep in talks to launch her own clothing label of some description.

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Samantha Cameron's role in promoting the fashion industry is easily comparable to that of Michelle Obama in America (Rex)

Potentially, this is geared to various comments regarding David Cameron’s political future. The Prime Minister himself stated back in March that political terms “are like Shredded Wheat: two are wonderful but three might just be too many”. This has since been firmed up, and we know he is to stand down some time before 2020. The big uncertainty is when, but that raises further questions, such as: what would Cameron – or rather, the Camerons – do after life in Downing Street? Found a fashion dynasty? Sounds like something out of a Jackie Collins novel, but it’s feasible.

Samantha Cameron, who co-hosted the closing party of London Fashion Week last Tuesday evening, with Caroline Rush and Natalie Massenet of the British Fashion Council, herself has deep roots in fashion. She worked her way up from window dresser to creative director of Smythson, the luxury leather label that grew out of the Royal Warrant stationers founded in 1887. She stepped down from the post, which netted her close to half a million annually, in 2010, although she remains as a creative consultant, working two days a week. During her time, she designed a duo of best-selling bags, the “Maze” and the “Nancy”, the latter named after her daughter, which both retailed for about £1,000. They also netted Cameron an award for Accessories Designer of the Year from Glamour magazine in 2009. Smythson’s turnover shot up during Cameron’s 14-year tenure, soaring by 25 per cent between 2006 and 2008 alone, and now sits at about £30m. 

That sounds, unintentionally, like SamCam’s CV. But it’s asserting that she has a place in the fashion world with real authority. She also has valuable friendships, such as Conservative Party chairman Andrew Feldman, chief executive of his family company Jayroma – of which you will probably have never heard, but which is a player in the old-school rag trade of high-street, high-volume garment manufacture. Her sister is Emily Sheffield, the deputy editor of British Vogue

Even the PM has said he goes to Mrs Cameron for fashion tips – well he might, considering she was named the best dressed woman in the world by Vanity Fair this year. That has always struck me as hyperbole, especially when laid out cold like that – but she’s well dressed for the role she fulfils. Her slip-ups are rare. She was officially appointed an ambassador for fashion by the British Fashion Council in 2010, and her role in promoting the industry by wearing its wares prominently is easily comparable to that of Michelle Obama in America.

Promotion is possibly the reason no official announcement has yet come from SamCam & Co. That, by the way, is not her so-far-unknown label’s name – although it could be: it would look nice embossed on a handbag, and Miuccia Prada named the brand Miu Miu after her own nickname. Cameron doubtless has the spectre of the gaffe-able Cherie Blair haunting her, a woman understandably accused constantly of cashing in on her husband’s position via everything from lecture tours to alleged eBay sales of his autograph. Cameron may well be waiting for her husband to bow out before officially launching anything. 

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SamCam might fancy a role in the fashion market as the new Kate Moss, in a role as fashion entrepreneur (Getty)

Or maybe she hasn’t quite figured out what she’s going to do. The fashion industry is a rich ground for getting rich, and there are multiple avenues SamCam could take. The big decision, I’d wager, is deciding on how she wants to pitch herself. Is Cameron aiming to be the new Victoria Beckham, or the new Kate Moss – Moss in her role as fashion entrepreneur I mean, following her multiple collaborations with Sir Phillip Green’s Topshop (originated in 2007, and revived last year). The Kate Moss for Topshop collections, while pitched at a slightly higher price point than most of Arcadia Group’s wares, were nonetheless resolutely high street, just like Feldman’s background.

 Beckham is a different story: her turnover rivals Smythson’s, standing at £30m for 2014; she has a store on jzushy Dover Street that just celebrated a year of operation; and she presents her catwalk collection as part of New York Fashion Week, showing coats that cost about £3,000, in a morning time slot conveniently positioned to enable reports of her show to be printed in London papers the next morning.

SamCam’s own wardrobe doesn’t really surrender clues as to which approach she may take. She dresses like a normal woman, or at least a normal woman of the west London/Chipping Norton set who rakes in six figures a year (which she does, even on two days a week) and can afford to indulge an interest in fashion. While she wears the high street (Asos, Zara and M&S), she also sports dresses by high fashion labels such as Roksanda Ilincic, Osman Yousefzada and Erdem (all based in Britain). Many of their clothes are referred to, colloquially, by young London designers as “Downing Street dresses”, meaning conservative (with a small C) cocktail attire. You could easily imagine Cameron running them up herself. 

The former, high-street stuff, would probably net Cameron more cash. But it’s fair to say that money isn’t a massive issue: she has an established career and savings in the bank. However, is there something about the egalitarian appeal of the high street, rather than the received notion of high fashion as an excluding, elitist playground of the rich and snipey, which may prove to be more important in its PR value than the turnover it will raise? The style will, I suspect, be classic. Easy, wearable, appropriate, conservative. Smythson’s signature colour, fittingly enough, was blue. I could see SamCam & Co pulling that off, whether her dresses will cost a grand or a tenner.

This is all conjecture: nothing has been confirmed. A No10 source said they were not aware of Mrs Cameron’s fashion plans and that she was “busy with Smythson and her charity commitments”. But just imagine what a distraction it would have been from pig-gate …

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