Inspiring Women: CAMILLA’s Camilla Franks Isn’t Letting Her Cancer Battle Stop Her Path To Global Domination

by Freya Drohan

The latest powerhouse in our Inspiring Women series is vivacious Australian designer Camilla Franks; the bon vivant behind luxe bohemian label CAMILLA. While her brand is moving a mile a minute, Franks herself recently took a moment to remind the world that everything is not always as glamorous as it seems. When she posted on social media about undergoing surgery to have her ovaries removed amid her battle with breast cancer, fans rushed to support the mom-of-one in her journey to recovery. Her legions of followers continue to lift her up as she leads her namesake brand too. The latest feathers in her cap? A new Dallas store, which opened this past weekend, and the newly-unveiled Fall ’21 collection. Here’s how she does it all…

How have you been since we last spoke? What’s keeping you positive and motivated right now? 
I’ve just wrapped a wild few months of Australian Celebrity Apprentice and Australian Fashion Week and my feet are slowly landing back on earth. I’ve taken my daughter for a week of R&R at Wolgan Valley in the Australian Blue Mountains. We shared some beautiful moments together, riding horses, watching sunrises, and just bonding and spending some much needed time together before we fly over to the UK next month to see her dad and my soulmate, JP. Now that the world is slowly opening up again, I’ll then be heading to Italy for an inspiration trip, to sip on Aperols, eat pasta, and design my next collection: the Italy collection!

I wanted to wish you well after your recent surgery. I’m sure it’s been a really tough time—have there been any silver lining moments that kept you strong? 
Breast cancer has taken too much from me, as it has so many women and families. It’s a battle we need to keep fighting to the point of exhaustion. A battle we need to win. My heart aches for all those who never get to fulfill their dream of motherhood at all. I am beyond grateful that I have my beautiful little girl Luna. I am blessed to have experienced motherhood. But as for so many other mothers and would-be mothers, breast cancer has cruelly decided my future.

Camilla Franks (Courtesy)

How has sharing your experience with breast cancer on social media helped you navigate this time? 
I’ve shared this latest reality in my fight for life in the hope that I can inspire action. My hope is that you will stay vigilant with your own bodies, that you will support each other through treatment—however long it takes—and that you will fund the organizations that can change the statistics. I am a proud ambassador for the National Breast Cancer Foundation, because they fund research into the most diagnosed cancer in Australia—afflicting 1 in 7 women. Over 20,000 Australians will be diagnosed this year alone.

Talk us through the new Time Trippin’ collection/campaign for Fall! What’s the vibe?
I began working on this collection in 2020. During this time, the world seemingly stopped, and we were unable to travel and get off the beaten path which is how we usually develop our prints. Our wings were clipped, so we had to think outside the box. We used the collection as a form of escapism and we travelled back in time seeking inspiration from artists, lovers, poets, architects, and dreamers of times past. We soared back in time and visited different eras, immersing ourselves in the times and studying the greats: the poetry of Byron, the writings of Shakespeare, the iconic art of Alphonse and Klimt, the mesmerizing stained glass windows of Notre Dame. The Baroque, Gothic, Shakespeare and Deco eras all play a part of this upcoming collection too.

Time Trippin’ (Courtesy)

Time Trippin’ (Courtesy)

You’re donating $1 from every online purchase to charity. What are the three charities chosen and why are they particularly close to your heart? 
Owning my brand has to come with accountability and responsibility. I feel if you don’t have a social responsibility to give back to a community or cause, no matter how big or small, your business lacks heart. The CAMILLA today stretches far beyond the walls of CAMILLA. It’s a platform which speaks from the heart to empower and break down barriers and to help drive change for future generations. I had a blessed beginning in life: I was educated, I was able to start a brand and to live a life of freedom. This shouldn’t be considered a privilege—everyone deserves a world of possibilities. And I want to pay that forward. Core to our business model is donating $1 (with the option for our customers to top up) of every online order to three key charities we are truly passionate about: The Hunger Project, Women’s Community Shelters, or the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Together, these three charities are helping to stop child marriage through education, protecting victims of domestic through providing shelter and preventing women dying of breast cancer through research and funding. As well as the online donations via I=Change, we drive many other philanthropic initiatives and events. For example, designing a t-shirt whose total sales revenue went to Bushfire Relief or auctioning Camilla “Unicorn” pieces for another charity. In the last couple of years, we have raised over a quarter of a million dollars, which has been directly donated to those in need.


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You were on Celebrity Apprentice Australia recently! Was this your first time doing reality TV? 
I never really thought I would ever be on reality TV. For me it brought up fear and vulnerability. The mix of cameras in my face and hormones rushing through my body. It was terrifying! I had just done five straight weeks of IVF. And then went on to film a reality TV show—not normal!! It was so scary being so raw and vulnerable on TV. But I wanted a new adventure and some risk and to step out of my CAMILLA bubble. It was a pit of big, ballsy, beautiful, unique personalities under one roof. What could possibly go wrong?! But anyway, I did it and ticked it off the bucket list. And I’m proud of myself for doing it. I threw myself into the ring that is Celebrity Apprentice to raise money for the National Breast Cancer Foundation. I want to make sure we raise enough awareness and funds for the research of cancer, because I don’t want my little girl going through what I went through. I went through the fight of my life with cancer and I made a contract to myself that I would do whatever it takes to try and create Zero Deaths by 2030.

So many of your campaigns are inspired by superheroes and warriors—who are some superheroes and warriors in your own life? 
My warriors and superheroes were the beautiful souls that helped support me through my breast cancer journey. I cannot thank them enough. The nurses, obstetricians, oncologists, cleaners, surgeons, cooks, physicians, pathologists, cleaners, therapists…they are angels on Earth. Those that brightened my darkest of days.

CAMILLA Fall ’21 Swim (Courtesy)

With so much going on in the ‘Camilla World,’ how have you been also prioritizing moments for yourself?
Take care of your body as it’s the only place you have to live. There’s decisions you make and paths you choose, but your health can set its own course entirely and sometimes you just have to buckle up for the ride. Over the years I’ve curated my own health habits: different practices, techniques, and healers that I rely on to keep this body going. Yoga for the body and mind, meditation, reiki, music therapy, diet and a tight-knit support network of family, friends, and colleagues. I’m fascinated by Eastern and Western medicines and always have an open mind when it comes to healing and wellbeing. Sometimes I just have to follow my own intuition. Sometimes it’s just time to let my hair down, kick my heels up, and have a
margarita with girlfriends!

CAMILLA is one of my all-time favorite brands, what do you hope everybody feels when they put on one of your pieces? 
I remember when I first started 17 years ago, there was so much ageism and shape-ism. And that, for me, didn’t sit well. And so, when I’m designing, I design with the whole idea that I want women to feel empowered and feel beautiful. Everyone’s welcome at CAMILLA. And I believe that everyone has the right to be and feel beautiful, no matter what age, shape, or size.

What role model do you hope to be for Luna?
Luna is now three-years-old and I’ve loved seeing her develop into her unique character personality, that is fiercely cheeky. The ultimate joy! She’s funny, curious, and she knows exactly what she wants and when she wants it. With Luna, my inner child gets to run more free and wild than ever before. And Luna has given me a life way greater than I could ever have imagined. I want to show her that the impossible is possible. That dreams are worth fighting for. That when you lead with love, everything falls into place.

What’s coming up for you and the brand? 
I’m going to be sucking the marrow out of life! Watching my beautiful girl continue to develop into her fascinating character and nurturing my other baby ‘the business’, so she heads towards global domination!

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