Fiona Hodges of Seraphina

Founder of the clothing and homeware brand, Seraphina, Fiona Hodges talks to us about setting up the business, the joy of collaborations and the secrets of her success.

A Little Bird Seraphina

What was the light bulb moment that led to you setting up the business?

I had been working for Roger Saul, who had then just left Mulberry and he had set up something called Sharpham Park in Somerset.  But it wasn’t working as I couldn’t fit it in around the children.  Then my husband took me back to India where  we had had our honeymoon.  One night I was in one of the markets and discovered this wonderful European girl making the most beautiful dresses.  I was so inspired by her I gave up my job, got on the next plane I could to Delhi and started sourcing fabrics and factories.  I started off with a one man band literally – he had two sewing machines.

A Little Bird Seraphina
A Little Bird Seraphina

What was the secret to your success?

Our factory.  Early on, we got a massive order from TKMaxx.  They wanted to produce under our label and I found the factory I’ve been working with ever since.  Everything is done underneath one roof, apart from the printing of the fabric.  The owner of the factory has really invested into the machinery and I’ve gone into partnership with him.   We now produce clothes for other brands such as OKA and Cefinn.  The high quality of the workmanship has enabled me to do, for example, the detailing on this dress, the scallop front maxi dress – we did this dress in collaboration with Jess Diner (left) and it has been a huge success.  It’s all panel printed which means every size is specifically printed so each dress takes 3 days to make.

Where did the name Seraphina come from?

We were originally called Bathsheba!  Then we had an issue with somebody who was going to invest in us, who then went and trademarked the name Bathsheba behind our back.  We had just had the collection made with all the new names and he then demanded we pay a huge amount of money to him to get the name.  So that’s the first mistake I made, not trademarking the name before I started.  I didn’t have the money and I wouldn’t have given it to him even if I had.  So we came to an agreement that I could sell the collection for the next 6 months and then change the name to something similar.  The funny thing is that nobody even noticed when we changed the name!

Are you going to do more homeware?

We’ve started doing tablecloths and napkins.  I very much want to get in cushions, quilts, lampshades and more. I want us to become a lifestyle brand.  People come in and ask if they can buy the lampshades in the pop-up shop when they are actually my own!  The Nina Campbell homeware collaboration we did before Christmas did hugely well.  We will build further on what we’ve done but because of financing, we have to do it fairly slowly.

A Little Bird Seraphina
A Little Bird Seraphina

Is it a sustainable company?

As much as a small company can be.  For example, for the homeware, we used some of the left over dress fabric to make the napkins.  It’s a way of consuming the fabric without anything going to waste. The childrens’ line came out of realising that the Americans were asking for it and we had some overstock of material.  Also in the factory in India, everything is done in one place.  Some people will get the material cut in one place and then shipped to another to sew it together.  I don’t do any of that.  All the packaging is cardboard and the tissue paper is made from coffee cups. Wherever we can we try but we could, as always, do more.

Can you tell us about the winter collections coming up?

We’ve got some really delicious, jumbo velvet cords as well as the pin tuck cords we use every year (right, from last season).  Two fantastic velvet party dresses too.  We are having a little trunk show at Bonne Idea in Pimlico in November.  We’ve also got the pop-up again on the King’s Road for 3 weeks in November.

A Little Bird Seraphina

Is it difficult balancing the creative and the financial side of the business?

I never thought I would be running my own business.  It’s been a steep learning curve. My favourite part is working on the creative side and working with my team.  I do love working in fashion though.  I travelled to Sydney in my 20s and worked as a PA to the editor, June McCallum and that got me really interested in clothes.  I would spend my entire month’s salary on something designer!

Who would you like see wearing Seraphina?

The Duchess of Cambridge.  I think she has great style.

A Little Bird Seraphina

Who do you like to follow on Instagram?

Golly, I follow so many people!

I love Jessica Diner, Carole Bamford – I think she is hugely inspirational.  She is a great supporter of small businesses and we were stocked at her shop in Gloucestershire last Christmas. I love the DailyDressEdit for inspiration and Willow Crossley (left).

What do you want to be doing in 5 years time?

I would love to hand Seraphina down to my daughter.  Or if she isn’t interested, then sell the company.  Although I’d love to be involved still in some way.  Just maybe not doing the tax returns!

To receive a 15% discount at Seraphina London, please use the code SS22.

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