Chinese Whispers with Camilla Head Designer Jenna Redfern

Chinese Whispers with Camilla Head Designer Jenna Redfern

Jenna Redfern, Head Designer at Camilla, shares the inspiration behind the Chinese Whispers collection.

By Emma Carr | 29th March 2017

The beautiful and wildly creative Jenna Redfern began designing at Camilla in 2012. Last September, she became the label’s Head Designer.

I recently sat down with Jenna to talk collection inspiration, accessorising for winter, and what goes into developing such spectacular prints.

What is the inspiration behind Chinese Whispers?
The inspiration for Chinese Whispers comes from the history, the architecture and the traditional artisans of China and Tibet. We travelled past the big-city lights to meet with artisans and learnt about the methods they use to produce their art and textiles. It was incredibly humbling to be invited into their worlds.

We’ve also included a lot of hand-embellished detailing in this collection – from mandarin collars laden with glass beading to frog knots and a few traditional styles interpreted in a contemporary way.

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How are the prints developed?
Camilla and I are always travelling, and always on the hunt for antiques, art, traditional textiles and clothing. When we visit a new place, we spend time with minority groups and tribes and immerse ourselves in their culture. We eat with them, dance with them and learn about their traditions.

We photograph everything – usually taking between 20,000 and 30,000 photos on an inspiration trip. We then collate all of our treasures and images and the story of our travels starts to emerge as prints. Once we have an idea of what the print is going to look like, we develop our fabrics, embroidery, trims and other surface details.

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How do you keep up to date with designs?
We don’t necessarily follow trends at Camilla; [we] allow the collection to grow from the traditional designs of the culture from which we draw inspiration.

I usually try to get my hands on local magazines at whatever airport I am passing through but I think if you like something, and it makes you feel good, you should wear it.

What are some easy ways to accessorise during the cooler months?
Layering is a big part of the winter aesthetic at Camilla, and our winter collections always have knits, leathers, and the occasional hand-embellished floor-length coat. Our printed and hand-embellished leathers are my personal favourites.

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Chinese Whispers honours the artisans of China who uphold their ancient art. What is the story behind your art of design?
For me, working in fashion isn’t just about the clothes – it’s about telling a story. For Camilla, the story is definitely told through travel. Everything we create is about transporting our customer to another country and conveying the feeling we had when we travelled there.

The prints are works of art and each motif or pattern has a meaning. We are celebrating traditional arts in a contemporary format that makes it relatable to a greater audience. We are creating an awareness of the world and bringing a piece of that experience home for everyone to share.

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What part of your job would people find most surprising?
Probably the amount of travel I do. I’ve grown used to it, though, and it’s hard to stay in one spot for too long. I also live part-time in India, where I spend a lot of time working closely with our extended Camilla family, which includes colleagues, suppliers and our craftsmen and women. We also have 10 rescue puppies there that keep me company!

What did you wear to your first job interview?
I wore a dress I made.

What do you do to relax?
I don’t get much free time so it’s hard to switch off. When I travel for work, it’s often inland. I definitely miss open shores, so I love to visit the beach whenever I get the chance.

Who do you admire?
My friends and family. I am lucky to be surrounded by a pretty inspirational bunch of people. I'm constantly inspired by my friends and the people I meet during our travels – there’s a whole lot of love!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Trust your gut and dream big.

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Liked this? You’ll love these!
1. Camilla’s New Mood
2. In The Mind of Sass & Bide’s Head Designer 
3. 20 Questions with Australian Designer Isabelle Quinn

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Article by Emma Carr

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