Camila Frater is a fashion designer who grew up in Toronto and attended a prestigious arts high school, where she began exhibiting her work in gallery spaces in both Toronto and NYC at a young age. She has a fine arts background and received intensive training in the field before studying fashion design at Parsons School of Design on a merit scholarship.
Camila’s works of fine arts and fashion have been exhibited and showcased in galleries across the world, including Teen Art Gallery, ScotiaBank Contact Photography, Vancouver Fashion Week, and New York Fashion Week with Flying Solo. Her designs have been labeled “The Best of Vancouver Fashion Week” in Vogue Italy, and she has been featured in publications such as Elle, Vogue, Glamour Mag, and Office Magazine.
Currently, Camila’s designs are stocked in two highly influential underground New York City retail spaces, “Retail Pharmacy” and “Lucky Jewel,” both of which represent young and independent New York City designers. Her designs have been worn by singer Pinkpantheress in Office Magazine and shot by acclaimed photographer Petra Collins.
Camila’s art practice consists of illustrations that reflect moments in time, primarily in animated sequences, emphasizing the idea of displaying different versions of oneself and developing personal narratives within those concepts. Her unconventional way of drawing has bridged a framework into patternmaking, resulting in large scale pieces that blur the line between fine art and fashion design.
How did you develop your unique style and approach to fashion design, and how has it evolved over time?I remember always prioritizing being creative and always making. The most consistent type of theme I worked with in my process was this idea of being “layered”. In many cases, it could mean working with a lot of different layers with patternmaking, I really appreciate how these aspects in fashion create a wide range in versatility when it comes to draping and styling. It allows me to be creative with how we can structurally layer fabric in garment construction. I also enforced appraoching design in a multidisclipinary way really helped me approach my work differently.
Can you describe your design process, from concept to finished product?Recently I’ve been working with design techniques of creating patterns in unconventional ways. In my last collection, I was interested in focusing on how modular and angular shapes can be manipulated and affected on the body. I felt that these type of shapes I was looking for can be primarly acheived by using paper as a way to drape onto the form- Although in my case, I had made up this format of drawing large-scale illustrations in a way where it required a lot of adding onto the drawing, ripping sections of paper and taping on, and so on. This created a modular shape in the outline of the large-scale drawing that I was looking for. I transfered it onto toile, and draped from there, keeping in mind all of the fold lines purposely made when folding the drawing into a compact shape. So basically, my draping process was all according to these large scale drawings I made, and corresponded to the paper fold lines, creating a collection of dresses that had these layered effects to it.
What role does your fine arts background play in your fashion design work, and how do you integrate your art practice into your designs?I really try to experiment with the different nuances in my fashion illustration process and also how we interact with large scale drawings. It is always important for me to somehow implement my illustrations into my design work, whether that be textile print or something more complicated such as my patternmaking being derived from the large scale drawing. I experimented with this collection by building large scale drawings that were modular in shape and had specific folding patterns that I later integrated into the patternmaking and draping.
Can you tell us about your experience at Parsons School of Design, and how it has impacted your career as a fashion designer?
Parsons is a great design school to go to if you really feel like it’s right for you. Being in the design program very much jump started my career and skills given the strict nature of the curriculum, being in the NYC fashion capital, and working alongside of prestigious professors guiding you through your degree. I think when you go to school, it’s really about how much you want to take advantage of the school’s resources, facilities, and program. You can go to school and let it pass or really take it into your own control so you can surpass your goals. I had a really good experience in my education and the location that I am in accerlates oppurtunities/experience for a young entrepeneur.
How do you stay inspired and motivated when designing new collections or pieces?
It can be super hard to not get tired of your work from time to time. It’s good to rest if you need to, but the only way to motivate yourself is to do the work- even if you don’t feel like it.
I think in order to stay consistently inspired is to research. Not only fashion related things but go to museums, find new music, look up new artists and really try to fill yourself with new ideas and information. Having conversations about where you are with your work with people who also are designers or artists themselves has always helped me feel a little less stuck when I am in a designing process, getting different fresh perspectives helps you step out of your bubble.
Can you discuss any particularly noteworthy collaborations or partnerships you’ve had in the fashion industry?
I think that collaborating with stylists or stores is always a super fun experience for me. In one experience, collaborating with a stylists and sharing my work can get it onto different levels. I recently saw my design accesories styled in a Gus Dapperton music video, and the whole video had a chroegraphed dance number, it was so cool to see my design item engaged in a medium like that haha. I also used to present some of my pieces in a pop-up shop format with stores, but it was curated in an art exhibition format. Being open to collaboration that implements other people’s visions into how/where they see my work is definetely awesome.
How do you balance the creative and entrepreneurial aspects of running your own fashion label?
For sure, when you are running a label independently, you are your biggest advocate so it is important to be informed on what opportunities are around you that will benefit your label and be open. I try to make a balance on having time to work on my new designs as that process takes the longest to build. I think for me specifically, I always line up new opportunities in correlation to when I release new work. Research and outreaching to your community and resources always can open up new doors.
Can you speak to the challenges and opportunities of being an independent designer in the competitive New York City fashion scene?
There will be competition everywhere you go, it’s just more concentrated here so it feels prominent.Its important to not let it consume you, and don’t let your ego get to you. Just learn how to be yourself in your work, don’t try to be like everyone else.. I like to look at it in a way where I should try to be open to everything. The fact that there are so many people in NYC and opportunities, I am happy to be here and be a part of it, and grateful for the opportunities I’ve had and the more that are coming to me. There is so much to take part in, so it’s best to just go forth with your best foot forward, make mistakes, and learn as much as you can so you can teach someone next to you.In regard to challenges, for sure it is super competitive here, and it can be challenging to find the right communities that you feel that you and your work can fit into and benefit from. But, it truly is just a matter of time until you run into the right people and opportunities, you just have to put the negative parts aside because the more you go forth in the direction of doing good for yourself as an independent designer, the more good that will happen.
What advice do you have for aspiring fashion designers, particularly those with a background in fine arts?
Sure.It’s a different route for everyone, it’s truly about finding what process works for you when merging different mediums given that it is important for your work’s rarity and truth. For me personally, in the beginning, it was difficult for me to merge my visual and mental art and design vision into the 3D prototyping stage. I would draw a lot, and I would come up with these complex designs on paper, but always struggled immensely when trying to bring it into real life. It was never exactly what I wanted. I later on learned that this was something that everyone struggles with, but at the time- it was a particularly isolating time for me! Even though Parsons is a school that celebrates the conceptual and multidisciplinary approaches to fashion design, no matter where you go, you will always encounter people or professors who will think that designing in the traditional step-by-step way is the only way you can be successful in design. Not everyone will fit into the box of the fashion status quo. I think if everyone did, this would be wrong. It may be true for them, work well for some, which is great! But- not everyone will share that, and you will never be able to enforce that into someone’s process, especially if it’s budding. I’ve known many people who have been frusterated with the limitations that fashion design programs can hold people back who have more multidiciplinary appoaches to design. Everyone has different learning processes, different visions and ideas, especially in something so complex like fashion. The way you express that in a design format will show up differently than a textbook guide on “how to make a fashion collection”. That’s why I think it depends on you, and how patient and willing you are in discovering your own unique process of merging different design techniques. My advice is when you are in that process, really hone into your niche, what’s your thing? What is cool to you… not anyone else, what do you want to explore? What comes to you like second nature when creating? Once you have those answers, the rest will be fun to explore.
Can you give us a sneak peek into any upcoming projects or collections you have in the works?
I am working on the development of a new capsule dress collection I plan to release in the next coming months. It’s using the same processes and techniques as my last collection, but really experimenting with dye sublimation and wet print this time. I am also working on some smaller promotional items I want to release this summer that are quicker to make!