Kaftan Queen Camilla Franks tells how she overcame a serious illness and through ’self love’ has gone from strength to strength both personally and professionally. With local shows at VAMFF and a new flagship Sydney store, along with global plans to expand into New York and show at New York Fashion Week next year, Camilla continues to take the fashion world by storm.
I’m perched with Camilla Franks on an Indian wedding swing slung from the ceiling of her new Sydney flagship store.
“I wanted entering the store to feel like a sensory journey, so I’ve filled it with stuff picked up on my travels like temple doors from India, a Gypsy wagon from Romania and this beautiful wedding swing from India, says Franks.”
The swing sways gently as we chat, but the designer has herself stepped off a long haul flight from a work trip to India just hours earlier, and frankly – no pun intended – I can’t understand how she’s even standing, let alone swinging, given her punishing schedule.
After our interview Franks is rushing off to look at a pirate ship – “it’s for a shoot and it’s a pirate ship, that’s all I know” – then she’ll board a plane to Melbourne where she was to take part in the opening show of the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival on March 14, and the InStyle show later, as part of the same event on March 20. After that it’s on to Turkey, for in store appearances and a fashion shoot, then over to Africa and India for more design inspiration before heading back to Sydney again. “Life is never normal and every day is different,” laughs Franks.
Welcome to Camilla World, where life is an endless caravan of exotic destinations, pirate ships, wedding swings and the colourful kaftans Franks began creating in 2003 that have since grown into something more commercial and celebratory than anyone could have imagined.
The Camilla business is now a phenomenally successful concern selling everything from candles, jewellery, childrenswear to shoes, cushions, homewares and handbags. The brand has 11 standalone boutiques around Australia and is stocked in 22 David Jones stores across the country. Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges are among the international heavy hitters selling the designer’s creations, with Oprah Winfrey, Kate Hudson, Beyoncé Knowles and Jennifer Lopez among the fans of the label that also boasts a thriving online boutique.
Beyonce is one of Camilla’s many celebrity fans.
The designer attributes the growth to her unique aesthetic and all-inclusive approach that almost constitutes an act of defiance in the notoriously elitist fashion industry. ”All women have the right to look and feel beautiful no matter what age, shape or size they are,” she said. ”Our clothes are for the mother, the daughter, the grand mother, they run across all generations and all kinds of women.” The constant in every collection of flowing technicolour, bejewelled and embellished splendour is that it is inspired by a different travel destination or female muse. “Travel triggers my creativity on all levels,” says Franks. “I’ll be walking down the street in Istanbul and all of a sudden I just see prints and colour; you really don’t want to be inside my head!”
For her Melbourne Fashion Festival show, Franks’ new Road to the Blue House collection pays homage to Frida Kahlo and the Mexican home in which the bohemian artist was born, lived and died. Prints feature hollow eyed skulls, lush desert florals and burning candles of remembrance in softly draped silhouettes adorned with intricate beading and embroidery. “I love that she walked to the beat of her own drum and that she showcased her pain and her life’s journey through her art,” says Franks.
The workaholic designer was forced to take a break from her fashion journey in 2013, when she was diagnosed with the debilitating auto-immune infection Bell’s palsy. Franks is recovered now, but attributes the illness with giving her a better work life balance and a renewed appreciation of living in the moment. ”A year ago I was waking up at 530am, going to training and then in the office at 830am and working through until midnight,” says Franks. “Now I spend two hours on self love every day, whether that’s meditation and exercise or acupuncture and spiritual practices.”
That hasn’t stopped Franks continuing to expand: her business grew by 88 per cent last year and she plans to show next year during New York Fashion Week where she will also open a store as part of a strategy to evolve the brand globally. “I want people everywhere to immerse themselves in our tribe,” she says.
A Camilla hotel is also on the cards. “Ever since I started I wanted to be Australia’s leading lifestyle brand, actually the world’s leading lifestyle brand,” she says. “I can see a Camilla hotel with a restaurant and tapas bar including food from all my travels and a day spa showcasing the holistic side of my life with spiritual readings, yoga and meditation. At the top you’d have a beautiful boutique hotel with all the homewares and the lifestyle products. “
And with that she’s off to look at a pirate ship, leaving a fragrant trail of essential oils and incense in her wake.
To find out about Camilla’s plans for 2016 click here
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