Where to now for Camilla Franks? How to expand your retail clothing business
by Cameron Bayley
Posted: September 14, 2015
From a single Bondi Beach store to a global fashion empire, one-time wannabe actress Camilla Franks created her career as an internationally successful designer with a unique footprint. More than 10 years on, she’s still dreaming big. So what’s next?
What does the Camilla Franks empire involve now?
We have 13 retail stores; we have a warehouse in Sydney and India; we offer seven different collections; we have a head office in Sydney, and operations in my second home, India; we have 350 wholesale accounts worldwide; and the “Camilla Worlds” within David Jones. I’ve been with David Jones since the start.
How important are big retail partnerships?
You need big partnerships to get your MOQs [Minimum Order Quantities] up so you can work with some of the manufacturers. If you’re in David Jones or Neiman Marcus or Bergdorf Goodman, people will look, and listen, and respect the brand.
Was extending into menswear a natural progression?
It was natural for me because when I first started with the Bondi Beach House in 2004 I would get the surfie boys in, or the festivalgoers, and they always wanted something like a kaftan that they could wear, that was a bit more hippie and laid-back. Boardshorts are the natural thing to follow. And men do love wearing print - and wives love having their husbands wearing matching things and going to parties.
Tell us about doing business in India.
I’ve got a beautiful big home over there with seven crazy street dogs – it’s madness! I do 80 per cent of my manufacturing out of India. We do all the printing, beading and a lot of the design over there.
I started working there seven years ago and found a family I really connected with. I’ll be spending Christmas with them this year and there’s a real relationship there.
I spend about half the year in India. We’ve got two full-time people there – and part of my team is always there working. We’ve built our Indian family from a small factory of 20 people to nearly 1000. It’s a huge achievement and gives me a lot of pride. We manufacture out of Indonesia and China, as well.
I think you have a great responsibility as a fashion designer to ensure the suppliers you work with are compliant. The Camilla company objective is to only work with ethically, socially, morally and environmentally compliant manufacturers and we work hard to make sure that happens. We’ve got a very dedicated team who travel regularly to all our vendor partners to ensure these standards are met.
My bigger picture for this company is to help women in developing countries by providing them with skills and education and, most importantly, a safe community, that’s really what makes me tick. I love that saying from Steve Jobs: “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.” I just want to do something that I’m proud of. Money should never be the sole focus.
On my business bucket list, I want to do New York Fashion Week, Paris Fashion Week, Milan Fashion Week. We’re going to start rolling out international retail stores next year. I want to have a Camilla restaurant, a full lifestyle department store with a bar, a healing retreat in Africa, a rehabilitation sanctuary in India, and a Camilla hotel!
So dream big?
"Yeah – dream big! What is that other saying? “Self-doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will."
US writer/philosopher Suzy Kassem
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