Sibling-design duo Camilla Freeman-Topper and Marc Freeman established their namesake collection in 2003. Based in Australia, the collection started out as a dress brand with a serious emphasis on tailoring. Since then the brand has added Camilla and Marc Denim, Camilla and Marc Swim, Camilla and Marc Footwear and C&M Camilla and Marc, which just launched stateside. A celebrity favorite, the brand and its extensions speaks to all of the parts of a woman’s life.
How did the idea first come about to create Camilla and Marc?
CFT: Upon graduating at Sydney’s Whitehouse Institute of Design, I was fortunate to be awarded a scholarship to attend the Accademia Italiana Arie Moda in Florence, Italy. I decided to make the life changing move.
However between graduating and traveling to Italy, I was asked to show my graduating collection alongside 5 other top fashion graduates in a competition fashion show to which I ended up winning. One of the guest judges was working at Mercedes Benz Australian Fashion week at the time and called me the following morning to ask if I would like to show in the new generation award fashion show the following May. I was beyond thrilled albeit somewhat shocked as I still had to travel to Italy to do my masters in 6 months time. The only criteria was I had to have a business name and number. So I called Marc and the rest is history.
When starting the brand, was it always your intention to have a family owned and run business?
CFT: Yes. Marc and I started the business from our Fathers dining room, eventually we took over the lounge room, followed by the kitchen then one garage at a time. Eventually our father with love, told us we had to get out quick fast and find office premises as we had taken over the entire house! Marc and I were fortunate enough to move into our first studio office space in Surry Hills and ultimately finding we had run out of space there, we find ourselves where we are today in our beautiful CAMILLA AND MARC HQ in Waterloo.
What is the most challenging part of working together as siblings?
CFT: I would say there are no real challenges, Marc and I have a very close bond. We grew up close and we probably had every argument possible by the time we were the age of 9.
There is a great deal of trust between us. We balance each other out and we are very fortunate to have different strengths, which help for various departments of the business.
How would you describe Australian style?
CFT: All women, Australian or otherwise appreciate high quality and timeless designs. While we are known for our classic suiting, we also have a relaxed sensibility, which encapsulates the Australian women’s style and lifestyle perfectly.
What was it like honing your skills across the globe from Sydney to Florence?
CFT: It was incredible. I studied my Masters in Florence so it is also a pleasure to return there as often as I can these days. My entire experience of living, traveling between cities and also absorbing the art and architecture was unforgettable. There are many skills that I took with me to Florence which I fine tuned, however I am so grateful I deepened my passion for draping and mastered that art form while living in Italy.
What made you initially develop such a great appreciation for tailoring and draping?
CFT: I was drawn to this technique from a very young age as my mother and grandmother dressed immaculately, always so timeless and elegant.
Initially, I was always very creative and appreciated the movement of ballet throughout my schooling years. The artistic dance form resembles the movement and highly formalized steps and gestures which go hand in hand when mastering the moulage technique. I was drawn to their similarities, I guess you can say it was the song and dance that gave me appreciation of mastering both techniques.
Do you see any major differences between the US and Australian markets?
CFT: I see a vast variation between luxe and street wear, I also see the way women carry their outfits on the streets of New York compared to our well known Australian relaxed nature.
The similarities in the markets are the classics. In particular, the mix of deconstructed suiting, feminine paneled dresses, the main being a mix of masculine and feminine elements or luxe and street.
How do you manage designing for your multiple lines under the Camilla and Marc label?
CFT: We design for women who are confident whose approach to dressing is a love of quality in clothes and cut and wanting to look cool and always their best.
As a designer, I love the tension and interest created by dichotomy in style. I am so fortunate to have a great team behind me, whom I work with daily, together we have a powerful work ethic. We approach everything we design from a global point of view and strive to improve and introduce new silhouettes within our multiple categories to deliver a balance within each collection.
What was your source of inspiration for the RTW & C&M Fall 2017 collection?
CFT: This collection drew inspiration from Fiona Banner’s 2010 Tate Modern Installation Harrier and Jaguar – a pair of decommissioned fighter jets hanging in neoclassical galleries.
I saw the piece and was instantly drawn, it was incredible, not only for its sheer impact but almost for the absurd unlikeliness of the setting. This inspired me and drew me and my team to the juxtaposition of the subtlety and fluidity of the fabrics vs the sculptured tailoring, which can be seen throughout the RTW and C&M Fall 17 collection.
What goes into the fabric selection process?
CFT: Fabrics are always the first port of call upon commencement of a new collection.
I travel at least 7 times a year for the business, whether it be attending Fashion Week, Inspiration Trips with a member of my design team, fabric sourcing, fabric fairs or a personal family holiday – I feel like I am constantly in the air en-route to the next destination.
I enjoy to step away from the day to day office and envision the fabric come to life on an upcoming silhouette myself and the team are currently working on.
Now that C&M is being carried stateside, do you have any more plans for expansion in the near future?
CFT: Yes. Domestically our focus has been expanding our retail, bricks and mortar. Which we have achieved. This year alone in Sydney we have opened a further two stores making our boutique count eight, including our online website. Marc and I are in constant conversation of expansion. It is a never say never scenario, particularly the growth of our business within the international market.