Serafina Sama, the founder of Isa Arfen, is one of the most exciting young designers working in London right now. An Italian who trained at Central Saint Martins and Chloé, she branched out on her own in 2011 with a small collection of cotton elastic-waist dresses that quickly caught on via word of mouth. In recent seasons, her clothes — colorful, voluminous, and typically devoid of pattern and embellishment — have been picked up by Opening Ceremony, Net-a-Porter and Avenue32, and will be carried by Nordstrom for the first time this fall.
The designer landed in New York on Tuesday to walk editors through her very first resort collection, which arrived by plane from London just the day before. Sama fully embraced the idea of resort, imagining clothes for glamorous, slightly eccentric Italian women on holiday in the Caribbean, who have taken their dressing inspiration from French magazines in the '70s and '80s and "gotten it just a bit wrong." Thus the presence of garishly colored dresses, tops and skirts with exaggerated peplums and even more exaggerated sleeves, color-blocked in festive shades of red, yellow, pink, green and black.
Those were shown alongside what are becoming the label's signatures: crisp culottes in silk faille, high-waisted trousers, relaxed trench coats in several of those aforementioned colors (namely bright red, hot pink and emerald green). New were the oversized jeweled buttons on white oxfords and a trench; the use of denim on a dress, jumpsuit and handful of separates; and a selection of mix-and-match monochrome pieces that combined black silk, textured gray wool and two sizes of black-and-white gingham. Because she focuses on separates, Sana says most of her customers tend to mix her pieces with those already in their wardrobes — including older Isa Arfen pieces. Sana says she's careful to make sure her new designs can be easily paired with those she's designed in the past.
With a design team of just four, Sana has her hands full, though she says she would one day like to explore bags and jewelry. Footwear, however, is not on the docket — Charlotte Olympia has designed the shoes for her last several collections and, Sana modestly asserted, those are better than anything she could do.