A Conversation With… Serge Cajfinger

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Paule Ka Serge Cajfinger Portrait headshot by Sonia Sieff
Photographed by Sonia Sieff for Paule Ka

Paule Ka’s Brazilian-born creator, Serge Cajfinger, approaches fashion with incredible confidence, having known from the very beginning that design was his calling. At the age of 17, Cajfinger, along with his aunt and mother, launched a multi-brand store in Northern France that carried a selection of sought-after brands like Kenzo and Thierry Mugler. By 1987, he launched his own line of clothing, which was inspired, as we find out in the interview below, by the elegance of Jackie Kennedy and the works of Yves Saint Laurent and resides at the intersection where art, fashion, Hollywood icons, and architecture collide. Read on for a closer look at Cajfinger’s influence in the fashion industry, his muses, and his appreciation for Middle Eastern fashion.

When was the first time an item of clothing or accessory caught your attention?
It was the outfit and elegance of Jackie Kennedy at JFK’s funeral. She was so chic and dignified in spite of the situation.

And when did you decide to enter the fashion industry?
When I discovered Yves Saint Laurent’s creations.

How did your career in fashion design begin? Where did you study design?
I didn’t actually study design. When I was 17 years old, I opened a multi-brand store in Lille with my aunt and my mother. We were selling all the great designers, such as Alaïa, Mugler, Montana, and Kenzo. I decided to create my own brand in 1987, and opened a first store in Paris in Le Marais.

What was the defining moment in your career, the moment when you thought, “I am definitely headed in the right direction”?
It was at the very beginning, in fact! I wanted to make women feel beautiful. I knew that I had to bring my dreams to their reality, and it worked.

What are the Paule Ka brand signatures?
To resume the brand in five words I would say: chic, Parisian, feminine, minimal, and timeless. As for the typical codes of the brand, they are the use of the bow, the opposition of black and white, graphic lines, and a 50s and 60s inspiration.

How do you incorporate your Brazilian heritage into your work, which is often classically French?
I think that my Brazilian heritage can be felt in the fact that I’m anxious to sublimate the body and in my usage of colors.

Your other passion is architecture. Do you incorporate any of its principles into your designs?
Yes, indeed. The clothes I design are always very structured; they’re built. I’m a great fan of Oscar Niemeyer and his mastery of lines and curves. This is something I always have in mind when I design a collection.

What inspires you to create now? What was the influence behind your latest collection?
My everyday life inspires me. I always try to find something beautiful around me. Art and design are also great sources of inspiration; the curves of a piece of furniture by Paulin, the solid colors of a canvas by Rothko, the kinetic sculptures of Calder… For my SS14 collection, I was very much inspired by ceramics from the Vallauris region of France, and particularly from Roger Capron. It gave birth to some colorful and graphic prints.

Your clothes have been worn by many celebrities, including Kate Middleton, Rihanna, and Sarah Jessica-Parker.
It is true that many celebrities wear Paule Ka, even more since we’ve launched our evening dresses line ‘Black Carpet’ four years ago. These celebrities are all very different, and that’s what is exciting. One of Paule Ka’s strengths is that we can dress every kind of woman.

Who would you eventually like to see in your designs?
I would love to see Carrey Mulligan and Lupita Nyong’o wearing a Paule Ka ‘Black Carpet’ dress.

What is your impression of fashion in the Middle East? And how do you see your designs appealing to the Middle Eastern woman?
Women in the Middle East love fashion. They really like to dress up and to be very feminine. I think they like our designs because of their femininity and elegance.

Where do you see yourself in five years? What’s on the horizon for Paule Ka?
I’m trying my best to live in the present. My favorite book is actually The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Regarding Paule Ka, the goal is to keep on expanding worldwide, including in the Middle East, where we’ve just opened our third store (two in Dubai and one in Kuwait City). I’d also love to create a perfume and an underwear collection.

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