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. >