With boutiques throughout Australia and a successful online business Camilla Franks is a force to be reckoned with, but the Aussie Kaftan Queen hasn’t finished her ‘to do’ list yet.
In this interview with our Publisher Robyn Foyster, she reveals what’s still on her bucket list!
She also talks candidly about the sudden illness that landed her in hospital overseas – and how it made her rethink her entire lifestyle.
Hit ‘play’ to discover how the interview evolved, or read through below.
Here’s how the conversation developed:
ROBYN: So I’m here with fashion designer extraordinaire Camilla Franks. Camilla – what’s on your ‘bucket list’?
CAMILLA: What’s not on my bucket list is more what my General Manager is saying to me right now. So I sent an email through to Paul the other day and it was about rolling out more retail stores in Australia and then New York Fashion Week next year along with opening up some more bricks and mortar in New York so he’s off to look at that, and really expanding it as a lifestyle brand – we’ve started that in Australia but to actually put that on an international platform – so my international manager is over there now solidifying that and creating Camilla World in America. So really tapping into all the different categories and expanding that, so we have the women’s wear, the men’s wear, the kids’ wear, the jewellery, the bags… but I really want to take it to another level and have my own hotel! (Laughs)
ROBYN: Why not (laughing)? And so how much of your fashion inspiration comes from travel?
CAMILLA: All of it. So I’ll come up with a place that stimulates me at that time through watching a documentary or going through books or recommendations and then I’ll start researching that place. Like I’ve been to Vietnam, I’ve trekked the mountains in Peru, I’ve had the most
incredible trips, but for me it’s about getting off the beaten track and connecting with a tribe or meeting a community and learning about their textiles, their colour pallets, learning about their jewellery. Then I take my design assistant with me and we take photographs – and on our last trip I think we took 15,000 photographs – so it took weeks and weeks to library those and catalogue those and then those photographs end up dictating my prints, so it’s all about my travels and what I see and what I take photographs of.
ROBYN: Tell me what you want women to feel when they wear Camilla clothes?
CAMILLA: I want them to feel like they’re a teenager again (laughs)… no, I want them to feel alive, playful, liberated, free. Yes, just free.
ROBYN: When you talk about the Camilla Tribe – who are they? Who are the women?
CAMILLA: All women. The mother, the daughter, the grandmother, the granddaughter – even the dogs now. We’ve got the hashtag #ImACamillaRingleader now! We’ve got dogs coming through! So it’s really about celebrating all women no matter what age, shape or size. And I think, for me, what I’ve noticed now is that when I connect to a lot of my tribe – the women that wear the label – they tend to be women that have this sense of adventure, this sense of travel and uniqueness and they walk to the beat of their own drum.
ROBYN: It obviously works because the sales are up 88% in a climate where fashion designers are doing it tough. Why do you think that your designs have been so successful?
CAMILLA: I think it has a lot to do with that philosophy, and sticking true to that philosophy of celebrating all women. Many labels stick to the 18s to the 35s, and I have a lot of friends who are designers and I have that argument with them. I say ‘why would you pigeon hole yourself into that?’. You know it doesn’t make sense to me. So I think staying true to that philosophy, the fact that we are unique – all my prints are designed from my personal experiences and the fact that consumers are smart, they want a story and we tell a story through our prints. And another reason for our success, we’ve been very blessed to have a big celebrity following and people love to see what the celebrities are wearing.
So those are the three key reasons – and the fact that I’m a complete workaholic!
ROBYN: Which also has its downsides.
CAMILLA: Totally! Well I learned that last year.
ROBYN: yeah, you had a bit of a wakeup call last year. Tell us what happened.
CAMILLA: Yes, I had a huge wakeup call last year. I was in the factory working on the next collection. The team was upstairs. When all of a sudden I had these shooting headaches and I don’t usually get headaches… I don’t do sick… and suddenly my face just dropped and I didn’t know what was happening because I didn’t know about Bell’s Palsy, and I was raced to emergency and before I knew it I was in the MRI scanner and they were talking about tumours and they were talking about a stroke and it was frightening being in India and not being at home, even though India is my second home, it was terrifying and I think when something like that happens, you know, you’re forced to wake up. For years I had glandular fever and I never really listened to my body. It took this for me to listen and it wasn’t the physical thing that impacted me so much, I think it hit me on an emotional level and so I re-evaluated work-life balance completely.
ROBYN: And so what do you do to get that work/life balance together?
CAMILLA: I commit to self-care now. I have this wonderful assistant Mel, and we commit to two hours blocked out that is my time and she won’t let anyone mess with that, so it’s my time in the morning for meditation, yoga, energy healing, acupuncture – I do it all and I believe in it all. It’s rehabilitated me and it’s something that’s part of my life now. It’s part of my routine.
Robyn interviewed Camilla in August 2015. To watch part 2 click here
To find out about Camilla’s special bond with her mother click here