Opening this week at the Design Museum in London is an exhibition celebrating 40 years of Spanish shoe brand Camper, looking at everything from its manufacturing processes to its playful use of design in its marketing and stores. We spoke to CEO Miguel Fluxà about the role of creativity in the company, and why it remains a family-run business…
Camper as we know it today is 40 years old, but the roots of the company stretch back far further, to 1877, when Spanish cobbler Antonio Fluxà travelled to England to explore new methods for industrial manufacturing and, on his return, introduced his team of craftsmen in Inca (Mallorca) to machine-made shoemaking. The modern Camper brand was created by Lorenzo Fluxà, Antonio’s grandson, in 1975, when he saw the opportunity for a new, more casual style of footwear to emerge in post-Franco Spain.
Above and top: images of Life on Foot at the Design Museum. Photographs by Jill Tate
Lorenzo’s son Miguel is now CEO, and the company remains a family-run business, with stores across Europe, Asia and the US. The show at the Design Museum pays homage to the company’s rigorous design roots – while its full production is now outsourced, Camper still retains the skills to turn sketches into wearable prototypes in a matter or days – as well as its innovations with store design and advertising, which Fluxà believes have been possible due to the business remaining in the family.
“It does give you a lot of advantages,” he says. “It gives you a lot of freedom, because you are not in the hands of someone else – of course you still have to give some answers, but not as many as you would if you were on the stock exchange. It gives you more freedom to do certain things which otherwise we probably would not have been able to do: whether it’s communication, or whether it’s collaborations on projects, or whether it’s diversification.
“It gives you something that I think is very important, which is a long-term vision,” he continues. “I think today the world is dominated by short-term vision … but I think it’s also important to think long-term, because sometimes you can make mistakes or damage the brand by just thinking in short-term actions. I think this gives us a lot of perspective – when I do things I think more of the next generation than my generation and this is quite unique.”
Above: poster by Marti Guixé from 2002-3; Japanese Camper poster from 1982; shoe box designs by Memphis; Neville Brody’s alternative Camper logo from 1995
Camper and the Fluxà family’s love of wider forms of design is evident throughout the exhibition, which includes examples of the brand’s ad campaigns, packaging design, and the bespoke furniture that is used in its stores, as well as, of course, its core product, shoes. Fluxà sums up the company’s vision as rooted in creativity and innovation. “I think it’s an integrated vision as well, it’s not just a vision about the product but also about the communication and the stores and so on,” he says. “I think it incorporates some humour, which is important for us.”
Also on show is Neville Brody’s short-lived overhaul of Camper’s brand identity, which took place in 1995, timed to coincide with the opening of the first London store. While only briefly used, the alternative logo still features on the underside of the company’s best-selling shoe, the Pelotas, which has its own entire display in the exhibition. “It’s survived just a little,” says Fluxà of the alternative logo, “which is interesting in a way because it disappeared after one year, we never really used it that much.”
Collaboration is at the core of Camper’s work, and the exhibition highlights this through examples of shoes created by high profile guest designers including Bernhard Willhelm, Hella Jongerius and Jasper Morrison, and packaging design by Javier Mariscal and Memphis. The show also alludes, in the limited space available, to the brand’s unique store designs across the globe, which have featured contributions from the Bouroullec Brothers, Marti Guixé and Shigeru Ban, among many more designers.
Above: Casa Camper Berlin, the brand’s hotel in Germany; Store interior in Milan; New York store exterior and interior
Camper has worked with a number of different ad agencies over the years but currently all its communications are produced in-house by creative director Romain Kremer, who joined the company in 2014 and is the first non-family member to take up this role. “He comes from a fashion background so of course he has a very srong sense of aesthetics but I think he has a very clear vision of how to align everything and put it into the market,” says Fluxà of Kremer, “how to align the product with the communication, with the stores, with the visuals.”
As to the future, while Camper has previously experimented with hotel design, and also bag design, shoes remain its core proposition. “I think we still have a lot of work to do with the shoes,” says Fluxà, “in a way we feel that there is a lot more potential for the brand – questioning what does casual mean today. The sneakers world and the luxury world in a way have gone into the casual world … I think this is our territory and there is a big opportunity for the brand.”
Life on Foot is on at the Design Museum until November 1. More information is at designmuseum.org.