Reinvention After 50: Camilla Olson, Biochemist to Fashion Designer

Not many can transition from the world of a microbiologist
to success as a fashion designer, but CAMILLA OLSON did this very thing at age
57.  She brings a scientific view
to design and has used her forward thinking to develop a new way of creating
fabulous textiles.  “Clothing must tell a
story,” she says. “and address a woman’s needs and desires.”   

Camilla was willing to answer some specific questions for
the over50feeling40 audience about her reinvention.  But, I also want to mention an interview she
did with INSPIRARE because of this quote:

Inspirare Question: Who is your target?  Progressive modern women who need to take their
clothing from day to night including baby boomers. They are a lost and
forgotten generation that easily gets dismissed by some stores… (YES,

Pam:  What was the main reason behind leaving the
health care industry to pursue fashion?

Camilla: I felt like I
reached the top of my game in that industry after 25 years. Going back to
school was not something I was longing to do, but it happened. To encourage my
daughter’s interests, I took her to the open house at the Academy of Art
University to look into the fashion program. Surprisingly, she was not as
interested as I was. At first I was excited to find a place where I could
develop my sewing skills. Quickly I realized what I had committed myself to and
was seduced by the idea of developing a label to dress my contemporaries.

Pam:  Do your think your age was a plus, a minus, or
a non-factor while you were in the Academy of Art?

 Camilla: Let’s be honest, I was a fish out of water. I felt like all
these kids had so much more talent. It was a club I didn’t belong to but I
wanted membership. It was an amazing time of discovery for me, I had some
brilliant teachers who really helped me focus my vision and refine my designs,
a time of trial an error. I never stop learning now.

Pam: What surprises
have you discovered about women 50+ and their fashion choices?

Camilla: First that
there are not enough choices for women over 50 that are wearable and modern. I
was disappointed at the response a few department stores had to my passion for
dressing my generation. They were more interested in dressing women aged 35
years than dressing the baby-boomer. My line fits a wide range of women of all
sizes, quite a few of my pieces have options for sleeves or no sleeves and you
can pick your hem length. Let’s face it by 50 we know our assets.

Pam: Please explain
as simply as possible how the iron transfer printing process(laying sheets of
metal on to fine silk) works to create unique looks.

Camilla: During school
one of my mentors was the former textile designer to Alexander McQueen, Simon
Ungless. I worked closely with Simon where I developed the iron transfer
imprinting process, which yields a soft and unique effect every time. It has a
stunning elegant effect when applied to silk and I love the idea of using
various shapes of metal to imprint upon the fabric. I have figured out a way to
do this that is non-toxic and used kitchen-table ingredients.

Pam: What advice do
you have for women who desire to leave their old lives behind and pursue their
passions after middle age?

Camilla: Do it, there
is no time like the present. Creativity is something that lives in all of us.
It will get you out of your routine and give you a new adventure every day.

Camilla is truly an inspiration and tomorrow I will model a scarf she sent my way!

Have a wonderful Monday!


  1. Thank you so much for introducing Camilla Olson.
    Great interview, a very interesting and inspirational woman.
    I immediately checked out her website – her fabulous collection is a bit over my budget. However, I had a look at her sales and there are some great offers.

    Lady of Style
    now on Facebook

  2. I love this story – that she changed her life dramatically at 57! (the age I am now). Great interview Pam, thanks for this.

  3. Hi Pam~What an inspiring piece. This designer has such sophisticated, artful design and she's creating it appropriate to the modern woman of our generation.
    I'll be keeping on eye out for more-and that chic scarf you will be wearing.
    Fun stuff!
    xx, Heather

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