FOF fashion designer Camilla Olson is giving away her signature chiffon scarf (retail value: $98) in the color of your choice. Enter to win by checking out all the scarves, here, and leaving a comment below about the color you’d choose.
When Camilla Olson’s teenage daughter told her that she wanted to become a fashion designer, Camilla thought, “that will be the worst thing in the world for her. That’s no career!”
“I didn’t have respect for the fashion world . . . then,” Camilla remembers. She was 53 and had recently retired after 20 years in the very serious world of biotechnology and venture capital. After starting five different biotech firms–4 sold and one went public–Camilla had turned her focus to running the local PTA and volunteering in her community in Palo Alto, Calif. Still, she agreed to take her daughter to an open house at the Academy of Art University. “I thought, with any luck, she’ll hate it and move on to something else.”
As it turned out, Camilla was the one who changed her tune. “I was totally romanced by the whole thing,” she says now. “I thought, there’s so much more to this than I ever knew!” So while her daughter did ultimately lose interest and move on to other things, Camilla applied for an MFA in fashion design. “It was the most joyful decision I’ve made in my life,” she says.
Today–at 60–she is the founder and head designer at Camilla Olson Collection, a line of beautifully-tailored scarves, tops and dresses all made from her signature, hand-printed chiffon. “It’s an an environmentally sound printing technique that’s centuries old–no harsh chemicals. We figured out how to do it commercially,” Camilla explains. She admits that school was incredibly challenging: “After our first class review I cried. I thought, what am I doing here? Everyone was so much better than I. But my teacher encouraged me. She said, ‘I see what you’re trying to do, and I like it. Keep going.’” So Camilla did, eventually graduating cum laude and sending several of her designs down the runway at New York’s Fashion Week in 2009.
In 2010, after designing “$5,000 dresses in a size 0” for the runway, Camilla started her own line with a more realistic woman in mind. Specifically, an FOF woman. “I design for what I want to wear–for women who want to feel comfortable and confident but also look chic–whether a size 2 or a size 12. Women around here love it.” Camilla has developed a cultish following among Palo Alto FOFs in the know. This March, her longtime client, Betsy Franco–James Franco’s mom–was photographed wearing one of Camilla’s creations at James’ Star ceremony in Hollywood.
Betsy Franco wearing a slip dress designed by Camilla Olsen to son, James Franco’s, Star ceremony.
So far Camilla’s biggest challenge has been persuading department stores to get on board. “We finally had meetings with the top stores, and they said, ‘we love these prints. If you showed them to us on a younger body, we could buy them.’” Camilla learned that the stores were “pretty much eliminating” square footage focusing on FOFs. “I was appalled,” she says. Now she’s focusing her energies online, where her research says FOF women are making the majority of their buying decisions. She’s also starting a trunk show series, where FOFs can sell to other FOFs in the comfort of their own homes. Interested in hosting a Camilla Olson party? You can contact her at Camilla@CamillaOlson.com.
Enter to win a Camilla Olson signature chiffon scarf (retail value: $98) in the color of your choice by leaving a comment below, with your favorite color.