CAMILLA’s New Collection is an Ode to the Most Iconic Style Muses

by Freya Drohan

Any print lovers nostalgic for bygone eras will swoon for the new CAMILLA offering. The “I Am” Muses collection is inspired by Grace Jones, Janis Joplin, Brigitte Bardot, Talitha Getty, and Frida Kahlo, with several styles curated specifically for each icon and her vibe. The Daily caught up with Australian fashion designer Camilla Franks to chat about her “print magic” and the backstory of the 16-year-old brand which bohemian globetrotters can’t get enough of.

Tell us about the collection!
It is a collection that absolutely worships women, with this beautiful tough, but feminine energy. We want to reframe the current narrative of who and what a woman should be. We want our customers to reclaim their power, we want to give them armor to layer on, piece by piece. We want to give them confidence, conviction, and independence. We want them to learn from the magic of our muses and borrow parts of their personality for their own capsules. Our muses are strong women who wrote their own rules, did exactly what they wanted to, whenever they wanted.

The collection is inspired by Grace Jones, Talitha Getty, Frida Kahlo, and more: what kind of iconography did you seek out for inspiration and how did it influence the designs?
My team and I search for hidden gems when we’re mining for inspiration and this collection provided a unique opportunity to search in unexpected places. We listen to their records, read their books, trawled through just about (what felt like) every photograph ever taken, studied their art and really tried to understand who they were as a person. It’s a study in their personal histories rather than aesthetics alone.

What makes a modern-day muse to you?
When we began this journey of designing a collection inspired by certain muses, I saw these women as ultimate manifestations of their style. But as the design process progressed, I came to discover that they emerged as either one of two things: a modern-day muse can be someone who motivates you to double down and be the best possible version of yourself; or sometimes they’re a portal of escapism and expressionism, allowing you to live outside of your normal style. You can be a bohemian queen one day and amplified androgyny the next.

Our social/work lives have been irrevocably changed this year and we’re at home a lot now! How would you recommend people style these pieces at home?
For me, the CAMILLA brand has always been about expressing yourself and your style, whenever you wanted to and feeling fabulous doing it. We’ve seen our tribe enjoying that freedom of expression right through these difficult times. We might be pairing our embellished silk pieces with a comfy pair of Uggs, but we’re still rocking our favorite pieces…on the top half anyway! The silver lining of this craziness right now is that it forces you out of your comfort zone. You have to stay nimble and adapt each and every day. As such, you’ll find super-comfy Zen-wear silhouettes for lounging in and staying active at home as part of our wider collection now.

Has 2020 caused your personal style to change? What’s your go-to uniform these days?
I’ve always been into bathing myself in print magic. My uniform tends to change subject to my mood. I’ve never really defined myself by a particular look, I always like to play around with different aesthetics. A structured military jacket over a flared jumpsuit one day, then a two-piece leopard lounge suit with a romantic shirt underneath the next. This year I’ve loved ditching the occasion-wear for something a bit more grounded, but that’s more to do with keeping up with my little Luna. I am in my new Zen-wear pieces more often that not! We have bought back a few of the tribe’s favorite prints: Mother Xanadu, Jaguar, and Dancing in the Dark. We’ve reimagined them into comfy, cosy, slouchy lounge silhouettes: hoodies, jersey pants, comfy tees. It’s all about lockdown looks with a punch of personality!

Your brand recently turned 16 (a teenager!) what has changed since day one and what has remained the same?There was a time when I was a one woman show. I was the boutique manager, designer, marketer, financial manager…it’s very funny to look back on. I didn’t let outsiders know that! It was smoke and mirrors. When someone would call, I would pretend to be different departments. Total fake it ‘til you make it attitude! My Bondi boutique was a playground for me to learn everything in the fashion industry. And I tend to learn things the hard way, there’s been many bumps and bruises and hurdles, that I’ve either jumped over or face-planted into. It’s all part of the story. I think you develop stronger armor as you go along in the fashion business and in life. I wish I could go back to that naïve, barefooted Bondi girl and tell her that it was going to be one crazy wild ride, but that everything was going to be ok. I still pinch myself when I think back to my early days. It will always have a special place in my heart.

CAMILLA I Am Muses collection (courtesy)

A strong sense of femininity is central to CAMILLA. What makes you feel fearless and empowered?
The fashion industry has come a long way in my 15 years but when I first started out, I encountered ageism and shapeism, which naturally led women to feeling intimidated and disempowered to express themselves. I’m so glad the industry has embraced a much more forward-thinking attitude towards the wonder of the human body. Since the beginning I’ve designed to make women feel good about themselves. Every woman has the right to feel beautiful, no matter her age, shape, size, or color, and when I’m creating a new collection, I want my designs to allow them to feel just that. I’ve never followed trends or tried to conform to how a fashion brand should be. For me, there’s no authenticity in that. Over the span of CAMILLA, we’ve kept our ears close to our customer’s hearts. I believe that all brands are built to evolve, but this can only happen if you’re honoring the desires of your customer. When I’m creating a new collection, I want my designs to allow them to feel empowered and free. This is so important for me. Fashion should be all about celebrating a woman’s unique identity.

What does the future look like for CAMILLA?
Owning a business comes with accountability and responsibility. If you don’t have a social responsibility to give back to a community or cause, no matter how big or small, your business tends to lack the heart! Our vision for my brand is bigger than fashion. It’s about the full vision with heart. We believe that every female is entitled to education, protection, and empowerment to be their free self. Empowerment really does start with education, which is why in 2018 we partnered with The Hunger Project to educate women, on what their rights are.

Any other personal passion projects on the horizon?
We created a program call The Butterfly Effect, and are working with 1,000 girls living in Bihar, North India. So far, we have seen incredible results. We’ve seen girls going back to school. We are seeing girls saying no to childhood marriage. Our dream and hope for The Butterfly Effect, is what the name implies. It creates a domino effect, that what these girls learn, they hand down to their peers and their daughters, and their daughters take this learning and pass them on to their daughters, and so on and so on. They become powerful agents for change for future generations.

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