There aren’t many Australian, let alone global, fashion brands that can count themselves as instantly recognisable as CAMILLA. Founded fifteen years ago on the shores of Bondi Beach, designer and artist Camilla Franks has cemented herself as the ‘Kaftan Queen’, with her unique and vibrant pieces worn regularly by the likes of Beyoncé, Kate Hudson, Elle McPherson, Miranda Kerr and even Oprah.
The crystal-embellished kaftans, jumpsuits and dresses have since gone on to become a quintessential closet staple, whether lounging on the beach or headed to a black-tie event. Speaking to marie claire, Franks opens up about how the label has coped with the ever-changing norms of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Well, what a ride it has been!” Franks says. “We have pretty much thrown everything up in the air and reimagined every corner of our business. My team have moved mountains to try and adapt to these new circumstances and ways of working and I’m so lucky to be holding hands with such a dynamic and talented group of warriors.”
Despite always thriving in e-commerce, the brand shifted its focus to ensure that the ‘Retail Angels’, as Franks calls them, would remain part of the team despite government guidelines to close retail stores. And there was certainly no shortage of work to be done, with the label launching their annual warehouse sale online for the very first time.
“The week we were supposed to hold our warehouse sale in Paddington Town Hall was the week social distancing restrictions were enforced,” Franks explains. “It was no mean feat! We purpose-built a whole new website, shot over 6,000 individual pieces through three temporary in-house studios, and extended into a second warehouse space to ensure social distancing for our pick and pack angels – all in ten days!
“Since physical distance has been less and less possible, we’re really embracing technology and social media to maintain a connection.”
This includes a new Facebook forum, CAMILLA Tribe, where the retail team can connect and engage with the brand’s loyal customers. “It is a beautiful space that is thriving with genuine connection and creativity—we’re seeing daily posts of different ways to style CAMILLA—from headscarf challenges to new collection pieces and of course old treasures!”
Also, virtual Angel Appointments were launched, where customers can book in a one-on-one styling session from the comfort of home, and then have pieces hand-delivered by the retail team to their doorstep. “Many of our customers have said they actually prefer it this way and are sitting at home raising a glass of champagne to the new collections!”
“We’ve teamed up with FarFetch so now customers in even more remote parts of the world can access our brand,” Franks adds. “We’ve launched exclusive sites for our European and New Zealand customers, so they can purchase in local currency.”
The brand even holds virtual Monday Mantras, Soul Sessions and Style Sessions—“all ways to stay connected with our Tribe!”, the designer says.
Franks has never been a traditional designer, something which has helped the brand thrive during a time like this. On top of colourful prints, flowy silhouettes and one-of-a-kind pieces, CAMILLA has always been focused on making the “tribe” feel connected—an ethos that has not waned, despite the trying times.
“Since the beginning, I’ve designed to make women feel good about themselves,” she says. “The greatest feeling as a designer is to see a woman transform into the goddess hiding inside her once she’s put on a CAMILLA. It’s often a really intimate and moving experience and one that brings us so much joy and sometimes happy tears.
“But mostly from the heart, this moment has reminded the importance of personal connection and community, in its most simple form. I’ve always run my business by nurturing and nourishing the value of tribe. Between my work family, my tribe of customers, with my amazing Indian family, and of course my Warrior Angels! It’s what makes life meaningful.”
As for how Franks hopes this affects the fashion industry, like many other designers, she hopes the time to pause and reevaluate creates a more conscious consumer.
“My hope is that we as a human race will be more mindful, conscious and accountable for our choices. We will become much more thoughtful about our consumption and start to reflect our values through our purchasing behaviours.
“This is a big, beautiful opportunity for us all to think about how we can create a better world. I think we are all learning more lessons on accountability and responsibility. It will become more and more important to lead a life that aligns with our values and be more and more grateful for the little things in life.”
It’s also a time to give Mother Earth the rest she needed, an aspect of her pieces the designer has long been passionate about.
“It’s clear that Mother Earth is not happy with us. She has sent us all to our room to have a good hard think in how we can do better. But what is so incredible about this time is that we are starting to see her heal.
“How powerful is this message! The pandemic and this message of healing is shining a light on what is truly important. We’re feeling huge shifts personally and as part of the collective.”
marie claire is supporting #WeWearAustralian, helping to shine a light on the Australian fashion industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic.