Check out our exclusive interview below:
The Knockturnal: How did you get your start in design?
Camilla Franks: I honestly can’t believe it’s been nearly two decades since I embarked on this beautiful adventure! In some ways it feels like such a whirlwind – an incredible (and sometimes slightly terrifying) rollercoaster of emotions, experiences and growth – and in other ways it seems like lifetimes since those days when I was first starting out and trying to break into acting as a naïve, barefoot Bondi beach girl. Those acting days were the platform for the CAMILLA you see today. As a kid, I struggled to find my creative feet. My report cards said things like ‘Easily distracted. Doesn’t pay attention. Tries hard when she wants to.’ I was born with creative DNA, but it wasn’t until I discovered acting that I started to blossom. To find my truth. I was so passionate about acting that I completely threw myself into it. And that passion led me to really immerse myself in the characters I was portraying. One of the ways that I would bring my characters to life was to create their costumes, which helped me breathe life into their stories. Even my rehearsal gear became a canvas for creativity. I’d repurpose vintage kimonos, or off-cut sari fabrics. People started noticing these wild creations and then the fashion industry actually wanted to buy my costumes. All of a sudden my designs were paying for my rent! I threw myself into the world of fashion, even though I had absolutely no idea what it entailed. The one thing my years of acting had taught me was that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So, I knew I had to make a grand entrance. No one in the industry knew of me, so in true CAMILLA style, I went big! I hosted an opera during fashion week to showcase my collection. It was full of theatrics, drama and flair, very much true to the CAMILLA brand. This paid off when major retailer, David Jones purchased the collection. That moment gave me the courage and the spark to chase my dreams, wherever they might lead. I knew I wanted to go global, so season after season, I would schlep my collections around the world. It was terrifying, but I believed in my baby with my whole heart and I refused to take no for an answer. Fast forward 20 years and we now have 256 international stockists and CAMILLA is available in 55 countries. I wish I could go back to that naïve, barefooted Bondi girl and tell her that it was going to be one wild ride, but that everything was going to be okay.
The Knockturnal: Your prints are stunning! What is your design process like?
Camilla Franks: We have a very unique design process – it’s lusciously long and invests a lot of time and creativity to always give customers something unexpected but still distinctly CAMILLA. I think that’s one of the things that sets the CAMILLA brand apart. To inspire each collection, I let curiosity lead. I follow my heart to the unexpected and unknown, and then retell the stories from my travels through the magic of our prints. Twice a year, we pack up the CAMILLA caravan and we set off on a new adventure. Each trip is a whirlwind of immersing and learning, celebrating the beautiful patchwork that humans and Mother Earth weave together. We craft an itinerary laden with landscapes, food, music, architecture, history, people and places. I go searching beyond the beaten track – always turning left, when I should be turning right. That’s where the good stuff happens, believe me! That’s how you truly discover the heart and soul of a place. I then come home and delve into the design process, reliving my travel journal with our 47 in-house artisans spread across two countries. We combine creative forces with the local artists we met, we pay homage to the gifts Mother Nature bestowed, and I retell my personal stories through the prints we create. We celebrate and honour each place. Prints are hand illustrated and painted, all our silks, satins and luxurious organic cottons are cut and sewn by hand, and each embellishment is applied with precision. We create multi-wear pieces, meticulously crafted to every size to accentuate the beauty of Every Body. This is slow fashion. Hand crafted and never trend driven. Created for longevity, to be treasured forever by first timers to the brand, and by our most loyal collectors. Pieces designed to be passed down through generations.
The Knockturnal: What inspired your latest collection?
Camilla Franks: My latest collection is a love letter to travel, and to Italy – the home of la dolce vita. AMORE MIO was born of the return to travel. It’s the first time that I’ve been able to go on an inspiration trip in a long time, and the saying is true – absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. Although, in some ways, the return to global travel seems like a lifetime ago, it has been just 18 months since many of us took our tentative first steps back out into the world. With our lusciously long design process, that’s how long it takes to truly celebrate and honour these experiences. It was an opportunity for me to rediscover my love affair with exploration, and to return to the heart of CAMILLA: storytelling through the magic of print. We travelled throughout Italy in June of 2021, just when the world was opening her doors again. From the churches and Duomos of Rome to the rolling hills of Tuscany and the hypnotic blue of the Amalfi. During that time, everything felt heightened and time flowed differently. Every moment seemed to last forever. The scent of citrus and Italian roses, the taste of salt on my lips, the sensation of wind whipping through my hair on the backseat of a stranger’s vespa, the colours that tumbled from market day suitcases… It honestly felt like the entire world existed just for me. So, I wanted to capture those moments; that romanticism, and evoke the magic of falling in love with a place all over again. I wanted this collection to be a reminder of how lucky we are to spread our wings again. Of the joys we must never take for granted.
The Knockturnal: What are some of your favourite places to travel to in Australia?
Camilla Franks: We are so lucky here in Australia. There are so many beautiful spots. I love being outdoors, relishing the joy of mother nature, being forever the intrepid traveller. When I was a girl, my family and I used to travel to Northern Australia and go on the most incredible adventures. We’d camp, then wake up at 4 or 5 in the morning to go fishing for the day. In our four-wheel drive, my mum and dad would take us to places like Fraser Island, a natural beauty spot where you’re surrounded by rainforests, sand dunes, and endless beaches. It was a time when there was no chaos in my life; a very simple way of life where you ate what you caught, woke up with the sun, and slept under the stars. We were touched by the beauty of Mother Nature. These are some of the happiest memories. Another favourite place I love travelling to is Hamilton Island. It’s my digital detox. An opportunity to recentre and rebalance, relaxing in the sun, doing yoga and swimming with my water baby, Luna. My absolute favourite place though, is home. Bondi Beach. Where it all began. I’m so lucky to travel the world, but I always revel in coming home. I love to spend my days on the harbour, there’s nothing more relaxing.
The Knockturnal: Who are some of your favorite celebs you have collaborated with / or who wore your designs?
Camilla Franks: I feel so fortunate to be woven into the lives of people that inspire me – not just famous ones – but those beautiful celebrity moments certainly do send a wave of squeals through the office when they happen. It’s surreal. Getting to meet Oprah and Beyonce would have to be a ‘pinch me!’ moment. It can be a vulnerable space as a designer, so it is nice to have the validation of these celebrities who can choose to work with any brand they want. Seeing JLo in CAMILLA on her honeymoon, and Russel Brand and Wim Hof getting back to nature in their Hotel Franks men’s robes was incredible. Last year, Michelle Obama wore us for her birthday and Gwen Stefani popped up in CAMILLA in the Superbowl, and gorgeous Nicole Scherzinger always takes us to her paradise vacays. We are so lucky to work with some amazing talent! Another highlight is definitely Jennifer Coolidge and working on The White Lotus season 2. The White Lotus is the brain baby of genius writers, actors, set and costume creators. It has been such an honour to be a part of it. The artist in me is fascinated by costume designers who craft vivid characters through fashion, so to collaborate with Alex Bovaird on her vision for this new ensemble of iconic characters was riveting. The White Lotus introduced a global audience to CAMILLA resort dressing and I’m so unbelievably humbled, honoured and grateful for that!
The Knockturnal: What are your goals for the future of the brand?
Camilla Franks: My purpose has always been to make people feel empowered, to make people feel beautiful, and to spread joy. The bigger my business grows, the bigger the capacity is for doing good in the world. As long as my purpose stays burning inside me, I’ll always stay inspired. Our dream is to drive change for future generations and create a brighter future. I’m proud that we’re now renowned not just for our products, but for our community: a human collective of all ages, genders, shapes, colors, abilities, lifestyles, faiths, and sexualities. I strive to use my voice and our platforms to fortify this community; our family – to share inspiring stories, to educate and encourage action in this world, and come together supportively. I’m on a journey. I don’t believe in perfect, but I do believe in the constant pursuit of being better. Inclusively better, ethically better, environmentally better. Better humans doing better business. I’m committed to constant improvement and I’m not afraid to fail. Leaving the world a better place must be the legacy that each generation gifts the next.