While some high-street brands have the occasional fling with an outside designer, Majorcan shoe brand Camper has made collaboration a central plank of its retail strategy. It has cleverly managed to maintain its own strong identity while functioning as a place where you can see cutting-edge design by external designers.
Initial collaborations with Marti Guixé transformed its shoe shops into retail design test beds, and under the rubric of Camper Together, the approach was extended, with Humberto and Fernando Campana, Alfredo Häberli, Jaime Hayón, and now Konstantin Grcic, all invited to design shops. Under Miquel Fluxà, son of the founder and vicepresident of Camper, this collaborative approach has been widened further to its core product – the shoe.
So far, three product designers – Hayón, Häberli and Maria Blaisse – have been asked to transfer their skills and design shoes for Camper. ‘We just contact the people we admire or believe that can contribute to the creativity of the brand,’ says Fluxà.
‘We believe it is interesting to design shoes with creative people that we admire, because they usually bring another point of view. A shoe as an object is also very close to industrial design, so we believe the contribution of industrial designers such as Hayón enriches the creativity of the company.’
However, the collaborations need to be closely managed and supported. ‘Most of the collaborators have never designed a shoe before, so Camper’s input is very important in order to get from the idea to the final shoe,’ says Fluxà. ‘Designers come at least twice a season to our head offices in Majorca, and we usually go to their studios quite often. It is a day-to-day process, from the first drawing to the selection of materials, lasts [a shoemaking term for the final manufacturing mould], prototyping and so on.
‘Today, with the communications, it is easier to have this kind of collaboration all over the world; it would have been very difficult only ten or 15 years ago,’ he adds.