Isa Arfen RTW Fall 2018

LONDON — Designer Serafina Sama has decided to hit the pause button on her Isa Arfen brand for fall 2019 in order to rethink its direction. Sama, who founded the brand seven years ago, will not be presenting a fall 2019 collection, either to buyers or to press.

“I am not shuttering the business, but rather taking a hiatus to refocus and review what the next phase should be for the brand that I have nurtured and grown over the past seven years,” Sama said in an interview, adding that the shifting landscape of the industry and its increasingly rapid pace were main reasons behind her decision.

“As a brand, we are always under pressure to produce more collections for an audience with a very short attention span,” said Arfen, adding that she wants to take time to “review, refocus and reenergize,” in order to ensure the brand is less wasteful. “I want to look at ways of producing more responsibly. At the end of each season, there are so many samples, canceled styles, leftover fabrics — all this stuff that nobody needs.”

Exploring the direct-to-consumer route further or producing more focused collections with smaller drops or limited runs are among the strategies that Sama is mulling.

“Maybe the answer is in communicating more closely with the consumer to better understand the demand. But I can’t do that without a break,” added the designer. “We started very small, growth was organic and every decision has been impulsive so far. At this stage, we would either have to take a big investment to continue, or pause to rethink.”

Isa Arfen is wholly owned by Sama, and the designer said that she is not actively looking for investment at the moment.

Her focus will remain on shifting the brand’s strategy to keep up with the demanding retail landscape. “Buyers are more cautious with prices and less willing to take risks, so the risk is more and more on the shoulders of young brands to produce more collections,” added the designer, whose brand has 50 global stockists, including Matchesfashion.com and Mytheresa.com.

The brand was already in the process of shifting gears, having chosen not to show as part of London Fashion Week last September. Instead, Sama presented her spring 2019 range via showroom appointments in Paris and hosted an intimate dinner in London in November nearer to the time of the collection’s launch on the new Isa Arfen e-commerce platform.

“I wanted to do something a bit more intimate so I could have the chance to chat with people and for everyone to see and enjoy the collection in a more relaxed environment — with a drink and some Italian food. I love doing a show, but for a very small brand it’s very hard when there’s so much going on in the fashion calendar,” the designer said at the time.

“The attention span of people is very short these days with social media and it’s easy for something to be forgotten by the time it’s in store. So it’s nice for us to celebrate something that is already available for preorder.”

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