Fashion Inspiration: How Camilla Kaftans Get Made, From Ideas to Oprah’s Wardrobe

by Cameron Bayley
Posted: September 12, 2015

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Camilla Franks’ unique approach to fashion – exotic prints displayed at their finest in her signature item, the kaftan – has made her brand a celebrity favourite and an international, cross-generational success. What inspires her ideas and what makes them stick?

How do you develop one of your prints?

I basically throw myself on an aeroplane and find a place that I want to get inspired by and immerse myself in the culture – their tribe, their food, their colour palette – for three weeks. I have very little communication with the outside world. I probably take about 15,000-20,000 photographs. We then catalogue them and I start developing the prints based on different tribes or places. We start [working our way through the images] coming up with embroidery swatches, and silhouettes based on certain things. Those prints are the foundation of my collections.

How long does it take from that initial trip to the finished garment? 

It’s about eight months, but it’s not long enough! In the world of fashion there’s never enough time, we’re always chasing our tail because we’re not just designing one collection [at a time]. I’m designing mainline, ready-to-wear, kids, shoes, jewellery, other accessories, homewares – and it’s all got to look right in-store. It’s like putting a big, confusing puzzle together. 

How did the caftan become your signature piece?

For me the kaftan is where it began. Mum always wore kaftans – I only ever knew her wearing that kind of dress. And what I love about the kaftan is that it really does make you feel quite beautiful, it’s so comfortable. I love it because it really celebrates my prints, which are like my travel journal. It tells the story of my travel, my life, my passions and different cultures. And it’s versatile. You can style the kaftan your own unique way. Whether you’re going from beach to bar, or whatever, you can manipulate the piece to suit where you’re going. Obviously I spend my life on aeroplanes, and they’re easy to pack!


camilla kaftan summer 2015

Why do you think the kaftan has become so popular generally?

Our philosophy is that every woman has the right to feel beautiful no matter what age, shape or size. And I think it’s because we’ve stuck to that with all our designs. I don’t follow trends or try to be cool or conform to what a fashion designer’s meant to be. We’ve got a different DNA and handwriting to most other brands.We’ve been lucky to have a huge celebrity following – from Beyoncé to Oprah. Kate Hudson is a gorgeous one, and her mum, Goldie Hawn, Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Lopez.

We do off-the-chart fashion shows that create the full sensory experience. Of course, I have an amazing team. I love that saying [from Yoko Ono]: “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” 

I think a lot of brands struggle because there is a lot of competition out there. If you’re trying to have a globalised collection, there are lots of people around the world doing what you do and sometimes better, so you’ve got to be authentic. If you’re authentic to who you are, then you’ll find your tribe.

We’ve been successful because we’ve stayed true. And I love my business fiercely. I believe in my baby and my vision with my whole heart. I have a very tight focus on the company and the brand and what it stands for and delivers.

Do you have a Hobby you hold dear? See how Camilla Franks turned her hobby into a Career.

What's next for Camilla Kaftan? See how they expanded their fashion retail business.

Learn more about making your fashion design dreams a reality with Open Colleges. Find your perfect career in Fashion here


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Cameron Bayley

Cameron Bayley

Is a fashion/arts writer, with a decade’s experience in magazines. He is currently the associate editor of Emporium magazine. He is a journalist and editor with almost ten years’ magazine experience, currently working as associate editor, freelance journalist and copywriter. Extensive magazine experience includes writing about everything from fashion, arts and entertainment to lifestyle and business, in titles including Grazia, Men’s Style, Manuscript, Foxtel Magazine and InTheBlack.

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