Australia and New Zealand: Fashion Down Under

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As I write this, I am about to go Down Under, which, of course, refers to Australia and New Zealand, half a world away.

The occasion: a Down Under family reunion with my kids.

My daughter, her husband and their two small children will join us from Thailand. My son and his wife will join us from France. We have planned a grand exploration of the nature, beauty and marvels of New Zealand, said to be one of the most gorgeous places on earth.

While I am beyond proud of who my children have become and what they are doing, I must confess that their residing in Thailand and France has its challenges. They are not exactly a Southwest Airlines flight away.

We chose New Zealand as a meeting place because (a) the travel distance from Thailand to New Zealand is manageable for children; (b) New Zealand is famous for its interesting culture and outdoor adventures; and (c) my husband Sam Paredes has been dying to go there!

You may know about the region’s stunning landscapes, but did you know that Australia and New Zealand are becoming a significant force on the international fashion scene?

Designer Camilla Franks in one of her signature caftans.

Designer Camilla Franks in one of her signature caftans.

At Tres Mariposas, we have been carrying clothes designed by Camilla, one of Australia’s best-known fashion designers. Her signature pieces are bold caftans capturing Australia’s global yet earthy identity with exuberant colors and prints.

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Camilla Franks first designed flamboyant costumes for the stage, but her entrepreneurial spirit inspired the launch of her own line 10 years ago. Today the beautiful, somewhat unconventional 40-year-old designer travels the world for inspiration and some of her collections reflect motifs from exotic places such as Turkey and Peru.

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When we were in her New York showroom a few weeks ago, she had just returned from an immersion trip in Africa. She has fans around the globe who love her silky fabrics and flowing designs, including Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, Maria Carey, Sofia Vergara and mother-daughter style setters, Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson.

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When we were at the trade shows in New York, we checked out other emerging designers from Australia – and liked what we saw. Modern Australia has a unique fashion style that is clearly distinguished from European or U.S. fashion lines. Australian fashion has a more casual approach.

Many of the region’s top designers have been inspired by the extraordinary range of Australia’s unique cultural influences.

So, yes, when I’m Down Under, I’ll be enjoying our grandchildren, sightseeing, hiking, walking on the beach and eating “shrimp on the barbie.”

But I also plan to keep an eye out for what women are wearing and which designers are up-and-coming. See you when I return

Kaftans Are Back for Summer

Kaftans, sometimes spelled caftans, those comfortable robe-like dresses often made of flowy soft fabrics, take many shapes and silhouettes, so it’s hard to generalize about them.However, it’s easy to say that this old style is reaching new heights on runways, at markets and in women’s hearts this season. Designers have reinvented this classic garment and it’s winning fans everywhere.

“I will never forget the first time I went to St. Tropez with my parents and the most glamorous women all wore caftans,” says stylist and designer Rachel Zoe on www.harpersbazaar.com.

Supposedly, designer Diana Vreeland once called the caftan “fashionable for the beautiful people,” but we don’t have to be jet-setters to enjoy the flattering, flowing lines.

“A caftan is always chic and effortless,” adds Zoe. “It’s a trend that began in the 1960s and has transcended time.”

This season we have had kaftans by a young Australian designer flying off our racks. Our contemporary buyer at Tres Mariposas, Gesuina Legaspy, wrote about the design house in a recent fashion posting on her Tres Gal blog. I’m happy to share it with you here, from

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“Every so often, I become so inspired and excited by a designer that I find myself wanting to tell their story, beyond a single photo or a line in a blog about multiple trends.

“I’ve mentioned Camilla here before, but the Australian-based line warrants its very own post, perpetually stealing the show with its vibrant hues, luxe fabrics and inventive style. They are inspired prints from all over the world, and come in a variety of bold colors and graphic patterns.

Designer Camilla Franks

Designer Camilla Franks

“Founded a decade ago by designer Camilla Frank, this luxury brand first caught my eye a couple of months ago, when I scooped up a few colorful kaftans for Tres Mariposas and we sold out within three days. I was infatuated with Camilla at first sight.

“The line is brimming with ‘forever’ pieces – precious silk and Swarovski crystals that can be worn through countless summer events, each garment unique and distinctive.

“I can see these pieces on women of every age, since the kaftans, maxis, kimonos and flowing blouses are flattering on all figures. You’d be in good company in Camilla, since everyone from Beyonce to Kate Hudson to Miranda Kerr are fans.

“My very favorite thing about the brand is that the Camilla dress can be worn half a dozen ways. That’s right – one dress is really six gorgeous styles: one shoulder, high, low, bra tuck, short and mini.

“I had so much fun experimenting with this dress in particular. I’ve learned that when you look good, you really do feel good.

“We’ve got a new batch of Camilla goodies at Tres, and I invite you to come by and try the line for yourself. Nothing says summer quite like Camilla.”

Flowy kaftans by Camilla can be worn in so many ways.

Flowy kaftans by Camilla can be worn in so many ways.