Interview: Camilla Franks on Opening her First West Coast Boutique
Camilla, the Australian lifestyle brand worn by the likes of Beyonce, Oprah, Kate Hudson, Naomi Watts, Miranda Kerr, Shanina Shaik and Olivia Palermo, has made a milestone journey across the Pacific Ocean to the U.S. The first-ever Camilla boutique on the West Coast has debuted exclusively at South Coast Plaza. True to the brand’s globetrotting aesthetic, the boutique has a distinctly bohemian and playful design, as if a travelling caravan had stopped and set up shop in Southern California to display its exotic wares.
The wayfarer imprint of designer Camilla Franks is everywhere – from the walls decorated with items handpicked and collected from her travels to the handmade tent with trims and tassels hovering above a vintage camel cart from India. On displays accented with branches are the devotee favorites – ornate prints and breezy silhouettes, including the signature billowy caftans that have become synonymous brand.
To mark the boutique’s opening at South Coast Plaza, we spoke with Camilla about going stateside and the inspiration for her collections:
Why did you decide to expand to the U.S.?
We’ve received a lot of brand love from the U.S. over the years. Earlier this year we opened a New York office to show love for our wholesalers and assist with further expansion.
A store in the US has long been on the cards, however we were willing to wait for the right piece of real estate to come along our way. We found just that in Orange County’s South Coast Plaza. So far, the boutique has been so well received and we’ve welcomed a new tribe of customers into our tribe.
How did you curate the selections from your collection for Southern California?
Our collections are designed to speak to both hemispheres, so all those who wander in the space will enjoy our global offering. In saying that, we select and curate buys that we believe will be beautifully received in that part of the world.
With our South Coast Plaza boutique, we selected pieces that spoke to a coastal and carefree lifestyle.
Who is the Camilla customer in Southern California?
We love the vibrancy that the Southern Californian woman brings to our brand. She is kind, outgoing and adventurous. It’s the perfect match.
How has she styled pieces from your collections?
We always love to see different interpretations of the brand – and we’ve seen that this woman loves to mix Camilla pieces with her wardrobe staples for her everyday looks, while reserving the head to toe Camilla looks for her overseas jet setting.
If there’s a famous person who you feel embodies the Camilla aesthetic, who would that be?
I often turn to muses to inspire and keep our designs true. While there is no one true muse, I love Talitha Getty, Stevie Nicks, Frida Kahlo, Bridget Bardot, and Grace Jones. For me, they all touch on different corners of bohemia.
Where do you go and what do you do to get inspiration for a collection?
For each collection, we look to a different part of the world. My creative inspiration is travel – the unexpected and the unknown.
We travel off the beaten track; and immerse ourselves into the world of the unknown and the unexpected. We often don’t speak the same language but share we a common language through textile, sound, food and color. It connects us.
I am the luckiest girl in the world. Sometimes I feel I am working for National Geographic.
One of my favorite trips, I got to spend time with some of the oldest tribes in the world in Africa. The Pokot Tribe, The Maasia Tribe and the Turkana tribe.
I immerse myself into their world and all it represents: their music, food, colors, there daily life… I become one of them. We have dueling cameras and usually come back with over 30,000 images.
This poetic collision of imagery and personal experiences translates into the prints for each collection, which is designed to capture the essence of destinations, people and cultures. They are a travelling journey… they tell my story… my experiences.
The South of France seems to be a major inspiration for the latest collections. What specific places and experiences led to the creation of the collections?
The France inspired collection, La Fleur Libertine, is such a special collection for me because it was a collection truly born with love.
My fiancé JP and I travelled through France when we were young 20-something lovers, and over 20 years later we returned with our daughter Luna in my tummy in search of inspiration for this collection.
I was inspired by the French’s unmistakable love of life. Everything is celebrated, unapologetically decadent, never dull and full of life. Nothing is ever left unturned – and I love this about the French.
The prints were inspired by long lunches at St. Tropez’ Le Club 55, the flea markets in Nice and wandering the streets of the artist town St. Paul de Vence.
How do your Australian background and experience inform the Camilla collections?
The label was founded in my hometown of Sydney. I grew up on the beach and my first store was on Bondi Beach almost 15 years ago.
The beachside living and climate definitely influenced my earlier collections, which leaned more towards resort. This market has served us well and brought us to where we are today. However with global expansion and a desire to keep evolving, we’ve introduced ready-to-wear pieces to reach a new customer.
Our brand experience is one that is warm and hospitable. Everyone is welcome in our realm and our core believe is that every woman has the right to feel beautiful, no matter her age, shape, size or color. When creating a new collection I want my designs to allow them to feel just that.
Now that you have a West Coast outpost, do you have a favorite place to visit while in Southern California?
I love wandering around Venice Beach. It has a special kind of bohemian vibe to it and reminds me a little of my beloved Bondi Beach. A home away from home.
To view the Camilla collections, visit the Camilla boutique on level 1 in the Saks Fifth Avenue Wing.