Welcome to the Camper world, which described in these terms, might sound like a very boring one indeed. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Because, without ever denying its origins, its values and its heritage, the leading Majorca shoe brand has been able to turn from a small local reality to a major global player in just a few years. And has done so using creativity and design.

“Our rule to innovate is that there are no rules,” says Miquel Fluxà, grandson of Antonio, the Majorca cobbler, who in 1877 went off to the UK to learn about manufacturing, brought the skill and knowledge back to the homeland, and opened a shoe factory.

“It's easy for a brand like ours to innovate because we are based on clear values that drive our choices, our selection processes, our activities. The Camper values were not invented in a marketing workshop. They are issued from the farmer society in which the company was born – a slow life made of frugality, pragmatism, conviviality and respect for natural resources. Spiced up with creativity, of course.”

Based on these values, Fluxà has been developing the brand that his father created in 1975 (prior to that Camper did not exist as such) in all sorts of directions. “I just do what feels right, often taking chances that seems against common business logic,” he says.

Examples? Camper has no official corporate identity apart from a logo. Its advertising campaigns are always different from one other, and so are its shopping bags (famously, Marti Guixé designed for them one with “If you don’t need it, don’t buy it” written on it).

Most of its shops are unique. “We are a global brand. Logically speaking, we should go for a one-design. But the boredom of it depresses me and it’s very much against our own DNA,” says Fluxà.

It takes courage – and a very good dose of self-confidence – to propose things such as mismatched sandals, or shoes with funky coloured laces or poems written all over them. And business guts to decide, contrary to common logic, to start diversifying in areas that have apparently got nothing to do with the core product line.

“You have no idea of how many leading brands have approached us because they wanted us to start doing sunglasses, bags or other fashion accessories,” says Fluxà.

“I know that would have been the easy way to grow beyond the shoe business but it would have just meant more products, more fashion. What intrigues me, on the contrary, is providing customers with something that is useful. Shoes are a basic need, and so are food and shelter.”

This idea was enough to convince Fluxà to dive into the horeca business.

In 2004 Camper launched its first concept called FoodBall. Conceived by Marti Guixé, at that time working almost full-time for the company, FoodBall was an ecological fast food restaurant: there were no tables nor chairs, just big concrete steps to sit on; a menu written on the walls (further decorated with child-like illustrations); organic food and biodegradable plates and cups; and a large flatscreen TV featuring ecologically conscious videos – like documentaries on endangered Majorcan donkeys.

“It was probably a little bit too radical for its time,” admits Fluxà, “and it was not as successful as we expected.”

Quite the opposite happened to Casa Camper, the hotel concept developed by the Majorcan brand. A first site was opened in Barcelona together with the FoodBall and a new one in Berlin last year.

The name says it all – casa meaning ‘home’ in Spanish. In both hotels, the hyper-modern interiors were designed by Fernando Amat, the owner of the Barcelona design shop Vinçon, who is just as pragmatic, functional and comfort-focused as Fluxà.

“I wondered: what do I really hate in hotels? The minibar, the lack of space to hang clothes, the desks that are never big enough,” says Amat. At Casa Camper guests can just go to the lounge area and grab a sandwich or a juice twenty-four hours per day, they have a whole wall filled up with designer coat hangers, and the minimalistic desk presents them with a very nice view on the city.

But the real beauty of the Casa Camper hotel lies in its eco-friendliness, starting from the solar panels of the room for heating up water, to the water recycling system in the rooms.

Below the Berlin Casa Camper, Fluxà has recently opened a research-focused restaurant managed by a former El Bulli chef and designed by the Bouroullec brothers. Here, the guests sit high above the kitchen, which they can observe at all times, like in a theatre.

Applying the diversification strategy into a more product-related areas, Fluxà has come up in 2007 with the Together concept. Leading international designers are asked to design Camper stores all over the world, while some of them – like Jaime Hayon and Hella Jongerius – were even assigned with a shoe collection, together with fashion designers.

The magical thing about the whole operation is that the company basically gives no briefing and relies completely on the designer’s skill. And, yet, despite the fact that Konstantic Grcic, the Bouroullec brothers, Jaime Hayon, Tokujin Yoshioka, Alfredo Haberli or Michele de Lucchi have nothing to do with each other in terms of style, the Camper soul clearly emerges from each individual store.

Not in terms of shapes, materials or layouts, but for the flair that one can breathe in it. That is made of freedom, creativity, open-mindedness and capacity to always think out of the box.

No marketing-driven brand identity could ever achieve such a result. Camper’s secret recipe for success cannot be fed, taught or imposed. Because it is called creative freedom.  

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Converting culture

Converting culture

The Icograda World Design Congress 2009 Beijing was an historic event for Icograda – in Icograda’s fifty year history this was the first time a Congress was held in China. It was also held within the first Beijing Design Week.

News, Share