Hi Camilla...

Fashion is such a tough profession to get into, how did you manage to break into it and end up as a famous fashion producer and life stylist working all over the world?

FASHION

MY STORY:

CAMILLA JOHNSON-HILL

That’s a difficult question, but I guess I owe a lot of it to my dad and mum and ending up in France! I was born in Hong Kong. My father Alan was in property and as I was the third daughter in as many years, my

mother Sue had her hands full and was a

stay-at-home mum.

It was a privileged background,

two cars, loads of holidays, the beach close by. It was heaven. My Dad always told my mum that he would work his socks off to make money and make the family secure, and then he would switch careers to spend more time with his family. That is exactly what he did, and for my first few years we didn’t see much of him.

When he was 35, and I was

six, he bought a vineyard in France and we

upped sticks. We didn’t know much about wine, and we couldn’t speak French.

Suddenly we were in the middle

of nowhere, collecting eggs, working hard.

My parents dropped me off at a French speaking village school and told me to

get on with it.

I remember the rest of the

class reading out stuff from the blackboard. When it came to my turn I couldn’t read a thing. From then on, until I was nine, they simply skipped me. But I quickly learnt French and made lots of friends. It was a trade-off from a privileged background where we didn’t see much of our father to a different world in which we worked and played together. It was a wonderful family life.

From that time, from my parents, 

I learnt that you just get on with it. There was no crying about lost friends. The answer was simple – make new ones and learn to make yourself indispensable!

I was not particularly gifted

academically but I loved sport, particularly cross-country running and swimming. I was a natural swimmer – when I was three months old my father threw me into a swimming pool – sink or swim – and I could swim well before I could walk.

At nine I reached the point where

I was fluent at French but, although we

spoke English at home, I had forgotten

how to read and write English or speak it

in a social context. My parents sent me to a small fee-paying boarding school in Kent. My parents were of a generation when they thought that a public school education was the best gift they could give their children.

I had a very good education that provided a lot and most importantly it gave me a huge head start in life and that is what my parents sacrificed so much for but the education I received was not very academic.

Gradient Purple Blue

MY ADVICE TO YOU IS...

Keep an open mind. Don’t be fooled by the veneer of an

industry, go for the substance.

Fashion is a really tough industry, often with an unhealthy lifestyle, and nothing comes easily.

 

Start at the bottom. Don’t go into a fashion house, for example, thinking you are doing them a favour by

showing up.

 

Work hard, learn from other people and learn from everything going on around you.

Hover to reveal!

I then moved to another boarding school near Ascot. There were good and bad aspects. It taught social manners, how to behave and, in my case, the best way to bunk off to London on a Friday night to go clubbing.

I was very confident, very sociable.

I got my A-levels in Art, Maths, Geography

and French, but I wasn’t brilliant. As a young teen I became fascinated by photography. I had loved art, but I couldn’t draw for toffee. Photography allowed me to compose images without having to draw them.

At the same time my father’s

work ethic was a factor. We never got pocket money. If we wanted something, we had to work for it. That meant I always got summer and evening jobs; waitressing,

working in a bank, anything.

But at 16 I worked as an unpaid

intern at Vogue, making the tea, working all hours. I just loved it. Strangely it was not

so much about fashion – I was not that 

interested in clothes – but about the

images you could create. Every break

during what were my schooldays I spent

at Vogue. It was a world of glamour, of

imagery, of exciting ideas.

After university I signed up at a

photography college in Paris. Because I had kept up my contacts I also got an internship at French Vogue. Again I worked for free getting up at six for a project, working weekends. I lived in a room six flights up which was so small that when I opened up the sofa-bed it touched both walls. I just loved it. And because I spoke

English and fluent French I was very

useful – crews on photo-shoots tended

to speak either French or English, but

not always both.

A career in fashion magazines took

off and I set up my own production

company with such clients as Tom Ford,

Donna Karen, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent,

Gap, Jil Sander, Burberry, and many

more. I contributed to many magazine

launches including Russian Vogue and

Chinese Vogue. I’m also European Editor

of Interview magazine.