The Grace Tales Interview With Founder Fiona Hodges
Tell us a little about Seraphina.
Seraphina’s journey started with one kaftan in the heat of Delhi when I was in my 30’s buying some extraordinarly beautiful fabric in the marketplace and finding a one man band to make a sample! We are now producing two resort and loungewear collections a year, with a particular emphasis on “mummy and me”, all of which are designed in house at our factory in Delhi. I still pinch myself at how far we have come since those early days!
We adore your wearable, relaxed pieces. How do you go about the design process?
Thank you! The design process will start with mood boards in the office and anything that I love – be it a colour of a plate to the shape of shell - is immediately pinned. We then decide on colour themes, fabrics and prints which is a challenge as there is always far too much choice! Once we have worked on the styles, our factory get to work on the toiles which go to and from the factory to perfect the fit. Our in-house design team in the meantime work on fabric strike offs and colour lab dips. The whole process can take up to 8 months. Always at the front of my mind is that it has got to be easy to wear with a bit of fun thrown in too!
What inspires you when designing a collection?
Inspiration comes in many forms but India offers so much and it is where I feel at my most relaxed and able to take in the beauty around me. I love trawling the many markets in Delhi, visiting ancient palaces in Rajasthan, to rambling on the remote beaches of Goa. The patterns, colours, shapes and textures are breathtaking. Nature has a funny way of providing the necessary inspiration. I always return to the office buzzing with ideas.
Your children’s pieces are equally as gorgeous. What prompted you to create a collection for both women and children?
It is quite often our clients who come up with the best ideas! I had repeated requests for matching outfits, particularly from the States, to design matching outfits for mummy and me. They were an immediate sell out and since then we have increased the size of the mother and daughter collection. It is always brings a huge smile to my face receiving the happy holiday photos sent to us.
Do you subscribe to a particular personal style?
Easy and relaxed most of the time. At home in Somerset it is a well cut pair of jeans and chunky cashmere in the winter, replaced by a lighter cashmere or shirt in the summer. On my weekly work trips to London during the colder months, it’s a blazer, silk shirt and jeans. In India light cotton voiles, seersucker and silks are the order of the day with a comfortable pair of slides or sandals – I am loving Carrie Forbes and Le Monde Beryl at the moment.
Who and where do you look for style inspiration?
I love the Italian jewellery designer, Carolina Bucci’s style – chic but laid back with a bit of fun thrown in. Her fabulous forte bead necklace is a great addition to any of our summer pieces. I love the fact you can change the colours of the beads to match your mood. I have my eye on the florentine finish cuore pendant to add to the necklace! Style inspiration comes from images, colours and textures, especially when travelling and seeing different cultures.
What did your career involve prior to Seraphina?
I started my working life at Conde Nast in Hanover Square and after a couple years posted to Sydney to work with the infamous June Mccallum, the then Editor-In-Chief of Vogue and Vogue Living in Sydney. I loved my time there, it was such an exciting time working on the other side of the world. After returning to the UK, I worked for Anouska Hempel at her couture shop in Pond Place before marrying and having my two children. Having made the move to Somerset from London, I felt very isolated not knowing anyone and not working for the first time in a very long time.
Tell us about moving back to the country and how this has influenced not only your lifestyle but your career?
Moving back to the country was pretty nerve-racking as I naively thought London was the only place to be to work. How wrong was I? Moving to the country has helped me achieve a much better work/life balance and I find I am far more productive. Having said that, I still spend 2-3 days in London most weeks.
What does a typical day look like for you?
When I am working from my office here in Somerset, I try and begin the day with an early morning swim at Babington House which we are lucky enough to have on our doorstep. If not, it's yoga. I try and be at my desk by 8.30am/9.00am when I speak to my partner in Delhi to catch up with production for Seraphina, as well as our clients who we manufacture for. I always try and tackle the toughest priorities first thing as it is definitely when I am at my best! The rest of the day will be spent in meetings, catching up on emails and calls. I try to spend at least one day a week in London visiting our clients.
You also manage production for established and start up fashion and homeware brands. How did this come about?
This side of the business happened when we started to wholesale and were asked by a large high street retailer to produce a collection for them under their own label. The quantities ran into the thousands so it was absolutely terrifying and exciting at the same time. I don’t think I slept much from the time of the order to delivery but it all went surprisingly smoothly! Soon after this, the factory and I formed a partnership and we together manage production for high street retailers, established designers and fashion and homeware start ups in the UK, USA, India and New Zealand. All our clients have come to us by recommendation.
What have been some of your greatest career highlights thus far?
Without doubt winning a mentorship award from The Brand Me Collective (a supportive network for female founders building their brands). I am lucky enough to have Georgie Coleridge Cole, founder of Sheerluxe as my mentor. She is one seriously inspirational women and always there to offer advice or run ideas by. I think any woman running their own business will say how lonely it can be and having Georgie at the other end of the phone has made all the difference.
What’s next for you and for Seraphina?
We have lots of exciting plans for the year ahead. A few collaborations with some great partners are in the pipeline – as they say, collaboration over competition. We are planning on expanding our range to include accessories, tableware and bedding so watch this space!
Photographer: Jade Nott
Stylist: Emily Fitch Miller/EFM
Hair & Make Up: Dani Guinsberg