Photo: Isaac Brown

The duo behind Camilla and Marc give us a masterclass in fashion and business

Since launching their namesake label in 2003, sibling duo Camilla Freeman-Topper and Marc Freeman have become a formidable force in fashion both in their native Australia and around the world. Their brand, Camilla and Marc, was built on the idea of transcendent, timeless pieces and is renowned for its superb tailoring, high-quality basics and chic everyday-wear. In fact, it was an early proponent of clothes that were made to last more than one season, and over its almost-20 successful years has remained steadfastly true to its original vision. Now, the brand and its founders are using their huge influence to draw attention to a cause close to their hearts, not only working to change the conversation around ovarian cancer, but raising essential funds to change diagnosis and treatment on a global scale. Here, the revered fashion duo tap into their impressive careers to offer a masterclass in fashion longevity, success in business and curating the perfect wardrobe.  

Embrace a challenge

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Camilla: Gruelling as they are, the challenging times are usually the most inspiring. Looking back, for us it has always been more about the journey and being open-minded and curious enough to learn along the way, than it ever was worrying about what we might be getting wrong. And honestly, making those tough decisions is the best thing you can do. There’s always a way forward — it’s just about finding the right path.

Marc: We had to learn that we couldn’t do it all, so now we try to turn every failure and tough moment into an opportunity. And so far, the journey has been wonderful and exciting and heady and challenging and terrifying, all at the same time.

From the left: Viola shirt from Camilla and Marc. Lennox trench coat from Camilla and Marc.

Stay true to your vision

C: First of all, even in the early days of Camilla and Marc we never took ‘no’ for an answer. To be successful in this game you need to stay true to your vision and your own creative style and you need to have an innate understanding of who you want your client to be and what speaks to them. We set out to create timeless, elegant forever pieces for the Camilla and Marc woman and over the years, she has shaped us as much as we have created clothes for her. 

M: Be honest, be patient and take your time to build the dream. Success comes from focus, grit, hard work and a bit of luck. And it is different today from when we were starting out. Now, we live in a data driven world but I think you’ve got to dig deeper to what lies within the truth of the numbers to understand how people connect with you and how you can connect with people, that’s where you’ll find customers who really understand what you’re trying to create and will get on board with your vision.

Find inspiration everywhere

C: I’m inspired by travel at the moment. I was recently in Milan and Stockholm and I had never been to Stockholm before. I was so energised by the culture and the food and the architecture. I went to the old city and it was gorgeous. It really has stayed with me for the last few months.

M: We are inspired by the world and how we interact with it and how the people around us interact with it. The creative process is fluid and ongoing and as we’ve grown, we’ve built a team of collaborators who, at the end of the day, just make it so fun. 

Creative collaboration is key

C: Marc runs Camilla and Marc’s business side, and although he is incredibly creative, I am the Creative Director. But we have been doing this together since the beginning, when we both did everything (before we had any employees). Marc really is my first port of call whenever I have any big life questions, and we had talked about starting something together long before officially launching our brand.

M: Our partnership works because of a few key factors: Transparency enables us to see all the angles of opportunity, optimism allows us to be curious of the opportunities, and candour allows us to always speak our minds and helps us make fast decisions. Collaboration has been so important in making our brand come to life but I think it’s important for success in any kind of business. 

Ellsworth Dress from Camilla and Marc.

Motivation comes from knowing your purpose

C: Finding purpose can be hard for some people but it’s something I have always tried to consciously do in my life. That sense of purpose keeps me looking forward to the next thing and the next, but it also serves as a reminder to soak it all in and be present in every moment (or try as much as I can to be). That is often when those nuggets of gold are found. 

Listen to your team. Everyone has an opinion, and everyone’s opinion is valid

C: Creating an amazing team and trusting them is really important. Even though we did every job at the start, I like to think that our team now can actually do their jobs better than we ever could. We are very lucky. 

M: I also like to say that the best argument wins. So, helping people in our team to have open conversations and then letting the best argument win fosters this incredible spirit of collaboration. I think it’s important that people know they can always question things within reason, so suggestions can come from the most junior members of the team or from senior management. 

Harness social media 

C: The rise of social media and its impact on our industry has been huge and it’s changed our lives on so many levels. From a brand point-of-view, it’s been incredibly positive. It has allowed us to connect to our community directly and fluidly. Compared to the way we communicated with our customers when we launched, it’s been a wonderfully positive shift. We can own our story and tell it in a more personal and meaningful way. And we are really able to help our customers in ways we never could before. I just got a direct message the other day from a customer who bought a blazer in one of our stores and she reached out to me on Instagram saying ‘I love this. I have seven blazers of yours that I bought over the last 15 years and still wear them and rewear them.’ And I just think that is such a beautiful sentiment. I never would have had that kind of connection with our clients if it wasn’t for social media. It’s pretty humbling. 

Use your reach wisely

M: Fashion is a historically political industry and it has the power to inspire action and change. That’s what a direct connection to the customer through social media allows us to do today. Nowhere has that been more important than in our ovarian cancer campaigns. Launching that three years ago, we’ve been able to shape the way we wanted this story to be told and have been able to amplify other people’s stories which has been so crucial. 

C: Honestly, ‘Ovaries. Talk About Them’ is probably one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. And every year it’s getting bigger and bigger. Having such a big platform to share important messages around ovarian cancer, and being able to take customers on a journey around these initiatives, is what really excites us about the future of fashion — using our platform to create awareness and make some change. 

A timeless wardrobe is transformative

C: Clothing can change the way you feel and it can empower you, but you also need to make sure that you are still letting yourself shine through. Go for clothes that enhance your natural style, not ones that overshadow you. That’s where the idea of a timeless wardrobe comes in. There are a few pieces that are imperative for any classic wardrobe. Tailoring will always be key — you can’t go wrong with a sharp blazer and a great trench coat. Get yourself a beautiful pair of trousers and a great jean that fits you perfectly. And never forget a simple tee. If you’ve got those things, you can really build a wardrobe that reflects who you are by layering the extras — shirting, accessories, shoes, etc.  

Camilla and Marc Design Studio

Break it down and simplify

C: It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with all the options and trends out there. Particularly if you don’t really understand ‘fashion.’ But if you want to look stylish and feel good, my advice would be to break it all down to a very simple, core concept and don’t overthink. Less really is more. 

There’s no space for imitation

C: Don’t come into fashion thinking that you can do something that someone else is doing because there’s no space for that anymore. Especially with social media. You’ve got to come and do you. 

M: I think that a lot of industries don’t change that much but what is interesting about fashion is that it’s constantly changing. And it draws people who want to perpetually create something that feels new and fresh and who are not scared of embracing that change. 

It’s all about the small moments

C: The big wins are great but for me and Marc it’s always been about the small moments that have accumulated over the years. The big things are amazing and I’m so grateful for them, but it’s those times when I’m walking down the street and see someone wearing one of our blazers or trenches or dresses that never get old. Actually, on my flight to Los Angeles recently I saw two people wearing our trench coat, and I’ve always said that I love travelling with a trench coat because you can wear a really cosy, comfortable tracksuit but then throw on a trench and feel polished. I don’t know if they had read me saying that or not but it was one of those pinch-me moments that I will remember forever. 


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