Aus­tralia’s queen of the KAF­TAN has built an EM­PIRE from her VI­BRANT de­signs. But it took a MELT­DOWN and dis­cov­ery of MED­I­TA­TION to build her up stronger than EVER.


the kaf­tan queen built a multi-mil­lion-dol­lar em­pire, over­com­ing ev­ery hur­dle thrown her way

Akaf­tan is a wear­able con­tra­dic­tion. Aloof, yet al­lur­ing. So­phis­ti­cated, yet play­ful. Ex­otic, yet homely. It’s as com­mon­place on the run­way as it is on the beach. And while it wafts along the cur­rents of con­tem­po­rary fash­ion, its ori­gins are an­cient, with count­less it­er­a­tions flow­ing through­out his­tory. Chris­tian Dior dab­bled in ver­sions of the clas­sic gar­ment in the ’50s, as did Yves Saint Lau­rent in the ’60s. And now, Aus­tralian de­signer Camilla Franks is cat­a­pult­ing this sym­bol of breezy lib­er­a­tion far into the fu­ture.

The iconic, vi­brant pat­terns sold by her name­sake com­pany, Camilla, dance their way across re­sort wear, readyto-wear, home­wares and ac­ces­sories in­spired by the sumptuous spoils of her global wan­der­ings. She has 19 re­tail stores in Aus­tralia, around 700 whole­saler ac­counts across 56 coun­tries, and em­ploys more than 150 staff. Oprah and Bey­oncé lead the pro­ces­sion of her de­voted, silk-draped celebrity clients and – fu­elled in part by rob­beries (in which nearly a quar­ter of a mil­lion dol­lars’ worth of stock was stolen dur­ing two weeks in 2012) – there’s even a black mar­ket for Camilla’s wares. Still, Camilla re­mains for the ev­ery­woman.

“I wasn’t re­ally ac­cepted in the world of fash­ion at the be­gin­ning, but I’ve never fol­lowed trends or tried to con­form to how a fash­ion de­signer should be – where’s the au­then­tic­ity in that?” says Camilla. “I’ve kept my de­signs true to the con­cept of in­clu­sive­ness and ac­cep­tance, and ev­ery­one is wel­come, so peo­ple feel free­dom, they feel joy.”

Burst­ing onto the scene at Syd­ney’s Mercedes-Benz Fash­ion Week in 2004, the then 26-year-old Camilla came as she was – with itchy feet for travel, zero fash­ion ex­pe­ri­ence and a kaf­tan con­cept. Thir­teen years, and a multi-mil­lion-dol­lar em­pire later, she pon­ders the some­what ob­vi­ous ques­tion: Isn’t it hard, as a no­body, to launch at fash­ion week?

“No. Be­cause I don’t re­ally take no for an an­swer,” she replies, point-blank.

“I was pet­ri­fied, but I love that say­ing, ‘Courage starts with show­ing up and let­ting our­selves be seen’,” she says, bor­row­ing the words of Brené Brown. “I just threw my­self out there back in the day. I was re­lent­less and per­sis­tent and wore my heart on my sleeve. If you re­ally work hard and put your­self out there, magic hap­pens. It just does.”

Launching in a spec­tac­u­larly the­atri­cal fash­ion – with an opera she chore­ographed and di­rected her­self, no less – her metic­u­lously hand-em­bel­lished de­signs flat­tered women with curves, preg­nant women, young girls and ladies in their seven­ties. >


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