Inside the wardrobe of three Australian fashion favourites

22
Camilla Franks.

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How you dress speaks volumes about you. Three high-profile fashionistas give us a peek inside their wardrobes.

CAMILLA FRANKS

At 41, kaftan queen Camilla Franks is expecting her first child and has never felt better. “It’s the fittest I’ve ever been, as it’s a forced detox, darling,” she tells Sunday Life.

We are sitting cross-legged on the floor of her wardrobe, drinking coconut water and patting her dogs, Beau and Gypsy, amid colourful textiles, vintage kimonos and more clothing racks than most small boutiques. Her wardrobe takes up an entire room of the Woollahra home in Sydney she shares with her partner, artist J.P. Jones. Her next task is to baby-proof the house before welcoming their new addition in January.

What does this space means to you?

It’s my sacred place. It’s got to inspire me. Every corner has a story, a memory or an inspiration that reflects my personal journey. I love having textiles around me, whether vintage kimonos or beautiful antique tribal-warrior jackets.

Is there one thing in this wardrobe you cannot discard?

My first kaftan. It’s not the prettiest thing. It’s about 14 years old, bright red, with a hood and gold embroidery, made of off-cuts from vintage kimonos or saris. I wouldn’t get any awards for it, but it represents the inception of my brand.

Which outfit has the best story attached to it? I jumped out of a chopper in Kenya about three years ago in my Flight of the Arch round-neck kaftan. We were flying over this amazing big lake and I was hanging out of the helicopter photographing everything around me. The pilot turned to me and said: “You’ve got one minute to make your mind up. You can jump out of the chopper now and have the most amazing experience of your life, or forever hold your peace.” So I jumped out without a parachute but in a kaftan, into a croc-infested lake.

Is there any item you particularly regret adding to your wardrobe?

A black Dolce & Gabbana suit I bought in LA because a friend insisted that I should wear more suits and fewer kaftans. I’ve never worn it. It’s gathering dust at the back of my wardrobe.

What’s the one thing you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing?

A copycat Camilla. I’d go to Burning Man and burn it.

What’s the one thing every woman should have in her wardrobe?

Something that connects her to family or upbringing or that has a sentimental attachment. I have a hand-knitted poncho my mum bought in London in the 1960s.

What’s the oldest item here?

My 300-year-old ivory Tibetan prayer beads. I got them outside one of the oldest monasteries in the world. I wear them every day, when I practise my mantras and when I’m working with my Buddhist teacher.

What do you wear the most?

My Nike high-tops. I just love them. When I’m on one of my inspiration trips, to France or Japan, I can be on my feet for more than 12 hours a day, so I usually travel with three or four pairs in different colours. I’ve got red, white, yellow, black and orange but I want more.

What do you one day hope to add to your wardrobe?

A wedding dress – but one I can wear again. I’ll design it so it won’t be white, or look like a pavlova. But baby clothes will be the next thing. This little baby will be covered in colour.

What is the thing here that makes you feel most beautiful?

My engagement ring. It’s really beautiful, precious and sacred for me. It’s not just an engagement ring. J.P. and me, our journey is long. We met 20 years ago. We loved each other, hurt each other, learnt a lot and now we’ve come back together. It’s the right time for us to reconnect and create a family. The diamond was given to him by his dad, Jack, who’s passed away and whom I was very close to. It’s engraved with tribal symbols that are very special to us.

What is the one thing you put on to cheer yourself up?

A jumper with my face knitted on it. It was given to me by one of my beautiful knitwear vendors in India.

And is there an article of clothing with a superstition attached to it?

My girls – I have about 120 women who work for me – held a surprise baby shower and they made me a red charm bracelet. Every single girl in my office now has one. It represents a blessing for the baby, a wish for the baby and a dream for the baby they hope to come true. We all wear them every day, like a tribe.

What’s the most extravagant item in your wardrobe?

A hand-painted Valentino leather jacket [which can retail for more than $10,000, pictured above]. Every five years I buy myself something really special to pat myself on the back.

And the most expensive?

Expensive for me isn’t about the price. I tend to resonate with something that has sentimental value.

REBECCA VALLANCE

One wouldn’t expect that growing up in Ballarat would prepare someone for the fast-paced, demanding world of fashion, but for leading designer Rebecca Vallance, it entrenched in her a strong work ethic, a dash of “hustle” and impressive Janome skills learnt at the hem of her grandmother.

“I sometimes used to push boundaries that didn’t need to be pushed.” Photo: Nic Walker

The former fashion publicist’s eponymous label has gone from strength to strength since launching in 2012. Halle Berry and Victoria’s Secret Angel Behati Prinsloo were early adopters, and now nearly every major retailer around the world wants a piece of her tailored, sophisticated collections. Harvey Nichols, MyTheresa and Harrods all stock Rebecca Vallance, as does the global e-tailer Net-A-Porter.

She can barely keep up – not that you can tell. “I was in a fitting meeting with Sylvia Jeffreys for her wedding dress four days after I had my second baby,” she says nonchalantly as we sip herbal tea. We’re sitting in the sun-drenched wardrobe of the home in Sydney’s Vaucluse she shares with her husband, David Gasan, and their two children.

Tell me what this space means to you.

I like everything to be quite clean and organised. I am very time-poor, so everything has its place: shoes in one area, handbags in another…

What’s the most sentimental item?

My engagement ring is an obvious one, but also the vintage earrings my motherin-law bought me for the first ever New York Fashion Week presentation I did. They are vintage Givenchy, amazing. She has incredible taste.

Is there one thing you can’t discard?

A six-year-old black blazer from my first collection.

What’s your favourite item?

My Saint Laurent statement necklace and cuff. They are about eight years old.

Is there anything you regret adding to your wardrobe?

I sometimes used to push boundaries that didn’t need to be pushed. Like when I was pregnant and wore high-waisted tailored pants when I was a bit far gone.

Is there one thing every woman should have in her wardrobe?

A perfectly cut black blazer and a dress that makes her feel beautiful.

What’s at the back of your wardrobe?

A big Lanvin handbag filled with scarves that don’t look nice folded. I used to wear them all the time in London but I rarely wear them in Sydney.

Is there an item of clothing you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing?

Drop-crotch pants.

What’s the oldest item?

A Scanlan Theodore roll-neck top from 1998 and a vintage Chanel clutch.

What do you wear most often?

Black Rebecca Vallance suit pants and gold Valentino trainers – my work uniform. I rotate the Valentinos with a pair of Pierre Hardy trainers which are pretty much identical. I like to wear suit pants to work every day. I design suits every season, so I always wear the latest offering and sometimes mix it up by wearing a cool flat shoe.

What do you one day hope to add to your wardrobe?

An Hermès Birkin.

What is the one thing in your wardrobe that makes you feel beautiful?

An evening gown, the one Karlie Kloss wore on the runway at the David Jones show earlier this year. It’s my go-to, and it just keeps going and going, so I just change the colour for each collection and send it out again. It’s one of those dresses where it doesn’t matter if you’ve had a baby, are about to have a baby, feeling slim or heavy, it is universally flattering. It’s made from a crepe fabric that we develop in-house. It just makes every wearer look so elegant.

What is the one thing you put on to cheer you up?

My jeans. On the weekends when I’m playing with my kids I love being in my Citizens of Humanity skinny leg stretch jeans [which retail from $300]. I like the high waisted style at the moment, too.

What’s one item that has a superstition attached to it?

I am very superstitious. I cannot put hats on beds and there must be absolutely no shoes on the table. I also don’t write in red pen, but I don’t have any hard rules when it comes to dressing.

What’s one thing you always pack when travelling?

I always pack a pashmina when I’m travelling internationally. I have a favourite by Louis Vuitton which is about a hundred years old. These days, though, I also always travel with my Louis Vuitton baby bag as my kids are usually with me. We’re all going back to Italy over Christmas to ski, and for my husband’s aunt’s 60th birthday.

What’s the most extravagant item in your wardrobe?

A forest green Elie Saab evening gown off the runway [from about $20,000]. It’s all beaded. I haven’t worn it here yet but I wore it when I was in London. I lived there for five years before coming home to Australia. My Maltese husband wanted to give living in Sydney a go and he loves it. We holiday in Europe all the time, though, so that makes up for being away from friends and family.

ALINA BARLOW

Jewellery designer Alina Barlow, 37, isn’t supposed to be showing Sunday Life through her elegant, black-lacquered wardrobe, a cavernous space littered with Hermès handbags that includes a make-up enclave.

“I may always wear
black but I have the most colourful mind.”

“I may always wear black but I have the most colourful mind.” Photo: Nic Walker

But the step-daughter of Sydney FC owner David Traktovenko is pleased that a chance encounter with a cute young property developer in the early 2000s changed the direction of her life and saw her settle in Australia.

Alina was due to return to her native Russia after completing her finance degree at Sydney University when she met her future husband, Scott Barlow, who’s now the chairman of soccer club Sydney FC. Sixteen years and two children later, she’s on track to becoming Australia’s next big creative force with her fine-jewellery brand, Alinka.

What does this space mean to you?

My dressing space is very organised, everything is colour co-ordinated and clearly laid out, which helps me make quick decisions on my outfit for the day. With young kids, I am always time-poor in the mornings, so being able to see what I have in my wardrobe at a glance makes a huge difference.

What’s the most sentimental item?

My mother’s wedding band. It is very simple, classic rose gold, but I love it. It makes me feel amazing.

And the one thing you can’t discard?

Sadly, too many things. I am a hoarder, which is probably due to my background, where I had nothing. But if I had to pick one thing, it would be the skinny black Fendi pants I bought before I moved here from Russia.

What’s your favourite item?

A classic black Dior jacket. It goes with everything from T-shirts and jeans to a formal gown and has been in my wardrobe for at least five years. I usually buy statement pieces that are investments, then mix and match them with things from Zara. I love fashion and various brands but I don’t discriminate. I buy things that speak to me and that I have a connection with.

Which of your outfits has the best story attached to it?

It’s a pair of Collette Dinnigan white shorts and a black Chanel singlet that I wore on my hens’ night in Cannes, and which I still wear today. The outfit is very special to me. I spent my hens’ night with my mum, grandmother, mother-in-law and some close friends. One of my bridesmaids, Dasha, has since passed away and I have named a piece of my jewellery after her.

Generally, is there anything you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing?

Anything that hasn’t been ironed. I grew up in communist Russia in an apartment where I shared one room with my parents and my grandmother. In spite of this we ironed everything, from bed linen to socks to undies.

What’s the oldest item?

A pair of Chanel slip-on heels I was wearing when I met my husband in January 2001. We met at a bar on my first night out in Sydney. I was still at university, I didn’t know anyone, but my girlfriend really wanted to go out. The rest is history.

What do you wear the most?

Black, or any variation of black, from black jeans with cool black T-shirts, designed by Maria Grazia Chiuri [Dior’s creative director], to black Dior skirts and jackets. My little girl always asks me: “Mummy, why do you wear so much black?” I tell her, “I may always wear black but I have the most colourful mind.” I read it somewhere and it’s a quote that really resonates with me.

What’s the one thing every woman should have in her wardrobe?

There are two things: a full-length mirror and a little black dress.

Is there one item of clothing that makes you feel particularly beautiful?

My black and gold Lucas Hugh yoga bodysuit [from $430]. I love starting my day with very early yoga practice.

What cheers you up?

A cashmere Eres robe in dusty pink [from $1000]. I grew up wearing wool, but that was so itchy. These cashmereblended throw-overs are beautiful.

Is there an item in this wardrobe that has a superstition attached to it?

My Alinka evil-eye bracelet [from $2195]. I don’t take it off my wrist and I believe it protects me from negative energy. I rub it for luck.

What’s one thing you always pack when travelling?

My Hermès black bikini. It’s about three years old. I love sport and whenever I’m travelling I try to swim every day.

What’s the most extravagant item?

My current obsession is the Jypsiere bag by Hermès [from $6500]; it’s cross-body style and I need my hands for my kids. I have it in black, navy and beige.

And the most expensive?

A Gucci dress by Tom Ford I was going to wear as one of my wedding dresses but it was probably a bit casual. Mum bought it for me. It’s timeless.

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