CAMPER X MULLER VAN SEVEREN: REINTERPRETING RETAIL IN A PLAYFUL MANNER
When Belgian duo Fien Muller and Hannes Van Severen was approached by Spanish footwear company Camper to work on the design of their new Antwerp store, the challenge was to create a space that was both functional and creative, placing the shoe at the center of their retail concept. We caught up with the two artists based outside Ghent to discuss their relationship to the brand, why they appreciate the seduction of fashion and how they infuse their design ideas with subjectivity and warmth.
How did the idea of the collaboration with Camper come about?
Hannes Van Severen: Camper approached us by email first, which led to a meeting.
Fien Muller: The company director came to our atelier and we talked for several hours. We felt very positive afterwards.
What did you know about the brand before?
F: I didn’t know it so well actually.
H: I knew that they were making shoes of course, but besides the most famous products, we didn’t know much about the company itself.
F: We were aware that they frequently collaborated with other designers and artists, which we found interesting.
What was your first impression of Camper?
F: They were really professional as a team and everyone seemed enthusiastic. It’s also a family business -despite its current size- and that gave Camper a personal dimension. It’s important for us to be able to relate to the people we collaborate with on a subjective level and that was the case here.
H: We were given carte blanche by Camper. The only thing was that the display had to include 100 pairs of shoes, but besides that we had complete freedom.
What was your concept then?
F: We started with the size of a shoe and the idea of a shoe box itself, reinterpreting it as a display unit.
H: The space was small and we had to show all these styles, so we came up with the concept of a display wall featuring all these boxes in marble. We had to maximize the space while making sure everything was visible. We wanted to create harmony and a sense of rhythm, too.
When I see marble in stores, I tend to think of a frozen mausoleum. How did you make it warm and playful?
H: We used a very ambient marble and the shape of the boxes was minimal. What happens within the box had to be fun and inviting, in contrast with the simplicity of the box design. The marble is colorful, too, and there is nothing icy about it. It’s more baroque actually.
Let’s talk about your use of red.
H: Red is obviously the signature of Camper -paired with black- and we had been using the same shade in our furniture design.
F: Fire engine red, to be precise. We like working with this color.
H: We also loved the idea of the marble combined with the red and the green flooring. It created a little landscape with different characters.
F: The lighting in the box was also important and we spent quite a bit of time getting it right. It was a soft light, but we needed to make sure each shoe looked great.
Your project is playful, but there’s also a dramatic edge to it.
H: Definitely. We were interested in the relationship harmony and contrast, trying to find the right balance between the two.
When you work on a project like this, which is highly visual, do you think of its impact on social media and how people may photograph themselves within that space?
F: No, that is not something we take into account. We are both sculptors, but I have a background in photography, which probably explains why it looks so photogenic. It was actually the first time we designed a retail concept for a fashion brand.
H: We really envisaged this as a total experience, something immersive almost. That’s why every detail mattered in order to get it right.
Do you shop online or in stores?
F: I prefer shopping in a store. I don’t do online.
H: I buy things online, but it’s often after I viewed them in a store.
When you think of the retail space now, do you envisage it more like a showroom or an actual space with interaction and exchange?
F: As a brand, you need to think of the store as both things.
H: I think it’s still important to see and feel the products. Online doesn’t replace that.
Is fashion about seduction then?
H: Fashion is a sensual experience, too, and when we design, we don’t like to start with computer drawing, we’d rather be connected with the material first and feel the furniture against ourselves.
F: It’s about experiencing things within their real dimension.
H: That’s very important for us. We need to feel the relationship between ourselves and the object.
As this was a project for Camper Together, did the fact that you are a duo motivate them to work with you?
H: If you look at the company and talk with Miguel Fluxá, you understand they’ve been working as a family for a long time, so there’s definitely this sense of connection and kinship.
F: We could relate to how passionate they are about manufacturing for instance.
As a couple, how do you reconcile the private and professional spheres?
H: It’s very natural for us. We’re in an ongoing exchange about beauty, things we like and dislike. It’s not always very serious. We agree pretty much all the time.
F: The design process comes naturally to us as a duo. Other things surrounding it may create stress, but the actual creation is the most fluid part.
H: We work symbiotically. If one doesn’t agree with the way something is going, the other will take it into account. We’re not trying to manipulate or influence each other.
Would you describe your process as purely instinctive then?
F: We have a very personal way of working. Emotion is what matters to us the most.
/ Interview by Philippe Pourhashemi /
/ Photography by Sánchez y Montoro & portrait by Mirjam Devriendt /
Camper Store Antwerp
Ijzerenwaag 14, 2000 Antwerpen
Mon - Fri: 10AM-6PM, Sat 10AM-6.30PM
A year ago, six Belgian designers who’s work is positioned between art and design, founded BRUT: a collective that was soon heard of by many and admired by even more in and outside the design business. One year later, Ben Storms, Bram Vanderbeke, Cédric Etienne, Charlotte Jonckheer, Linde Freya Tangelder and Nel Verbeke are rewarded by the Henry van de Velde Award for Young Talent. A conversation with the Six, as individuals and as a whole.
BRUT was founded a year ago. What did you learn since then?
We are more flexible in our looking for possibilities, in how we reinforce each other and in how we trust each others qualities. Working together requires openness, many dialogues and keeping an eye on our plans on the short as well as on the long term.
Did any unexpected advantages or disadvantages come up?
There’s a lot of work in setting up our expositions, but we cannot underestimate the possibilities it creates. Also, being different individuals, it is at times still a challenge to come to conslusions, yet this doesn’t feel like making compromises. It generates an added value.
BRUT gives each of us a certain freedom, as we, being individual initiators, influence what we put down together. Working together makes us also go deeper into the research of a certain theme and makes us think larger-scaled when it comes to scenography, network reinforcement…
BRUT been welcomed in a very positive way – the attention we got during and after Milan was certainly not what we expected. It challenged us in a way that we had to react to what was coming to us very quickly, but now we have found more balance in meeting external proposals.
BRUT knows a big success. What impact does that have on you as individual designers?
BRUT is still a cluster of individual design practices. The fact that we come out as a collective, generates attention of press and new contacts for each of us. Some of them are more interested in the collective and the scenographic aspects of BRUT, others want to know more about one of us as an individual designer. Next to that, BRUT gives each of us the freedom and space to present new work. It’s a stage that reinforces the individuality and the collective all at once.
Do you feel like BRUT inspires other designers to set up new collectives?
Definitely. Belgium doesn’t have that many collectives, but we notice that since we started BRUT, many young designers feel inspired. But working as a collective cannot be imposed. It’s something that is only possible when there’s a shared vision. Without it, things can work counterproductive. That’s an important knowledge we want to give: being a collective is not self-evident. Instead, it has to do with many aspects: the individual visions, the projects you are doing together, the objects you produce individually, the audience you want to reach…
Are there international collectives you look up to or are you being compared to other collectives?
We are compared to other collectives – yet not as for the content we produce. There is for example Envisions and Dutch Invertuals, which is not a collective in the way we are, as there is one organiser. In our first publication, we were called ‘The New Six’, in comparison to the Antwerp Six: six fashion designers who decided to join forces to create visibility during Paris Fashion Week and manifest their work. That is for us a beautiful comparison, as this collectivity was the start of something that has grown to strong and remaining values in the fashion business.
What are your plans with BRUT for the future?
First of all, we’re showing our second scenography as a collective – BODEM. Afterwards, we’re going to make a clear selection of fairs we would like to be a part of.
We look at everything step by step. We want to go further as BRUT and grow in a way that strengthens our individual practice as well as that of the collective as a whole.
/ Images by Alexander Popelier /
A cherished destination for menswear lovers, Pitti Uomo 95 welcomed 36000 visitors in Florence this month, including 9000 international buyers.
The energy of the fair was rather contagious, reflecting a growing menswear market where customers enjoy fashion’s playful side and dress for their own pleasure. Sportswear fatigue is definitely in the air, even though it will take a while before stores update their offering to embrace more tailored items. You could already feel the influence of Hedi Slimane’s work at Celine with brands cleaning up their silhouette and pushing the suit as a must-have. Italian designer Aldo Maria Camillo -whose CV includes collaborations with Berluti, Valentino and Cerruti- delivered an inspiring and sharp show where the jacket was an ongoing focus.
If visitors come to Pitti to check out the new ranges offered by the Monclers, Zegnas and Borsalinos of this world, the fair is nevertheless becoming an exciting playground for singular talents and identities. Pierre-Louis Mascia, whose gorgeous silk patterned pieces are produced in the Como region, designed a lavish and decadent collection for men, inspired by refined dandies. Milanese bag brand Serapian, which was founded in 1928 and recently acquired by the Richemont group, offered desirable, elegant and sustainable-minded bags, which were chic and timeless. Certain styles had been made in vintage leathers carefully sourced from the company’s atelier, which gave depth and narrative to the bags, as well as a special patina.
The same desire for individuality was reflected in Y/Project’s striking show, beautifully orchestrated by Glenn Martens: “Opulence is definitely a word I like at the moment, and I want my clothes to reflect that feeling. The idea of pleasure -and breaking free from boundaries- is key within fashion now.” The hybrid garments Martens is famous for designing seemed to have subconsciously influenced other brands, and sartorial codes were mixed-up to create new forms. Officine Creative’s footwear range, which was previewed at the fair, encapsulated that feeling of fusion between formal and playful, utilitarian and elegant.
If the Made in Italy label remains a promise of innovation, craftsmanship and expertise, foreign brands also come to Pitti to promote their work. Fernando Bonastre, a Pitti regular who is Spanish but Paris-based, designs minimal and graphic bags that answer the requirements of his busy clients: “I love coming to Pitti, because it’s a great environment to showcase your brand. Department stores get to see your new styles first and I have Asian clients ordering here every season, because they enjoy the atmosphere of the fair. Florence is obviously a magical place, and it’s easier -and less stressful- to look for new brands here than in Paris and Milan.”
/ Words by Philippe Pourhashemi /
Brussels-based photographer Pierre Debusschere may be known for his fashion work -and prestigious clients such as Raf Simons, Delvaux, Dior, Louis Vuitton or Italian Vogue- he nevertheless has a much wider repertoire. His latest exhibition, entitled ‘UNcovered’ and staged within the walls of the MAD building in the center of Brussels, is a powerful and intimate show mixing film and photography. ‘UNcovered’ explores key notions of identity, social roles and body representation, but it is not a didactic or divisive show. It invites us to reflect on immediacy instead, emphasizing the individuality of each subject. The Belgian worked 10 months on the exhibition, making it one of his most personal statements to date. We sat down with Debusschere to discuss his creative vision, his evolving relationship to the industry and why he loved being alone with his models.
Philippe Pourhashemi: With this exhibition, it feels that your work has become less ‘plastic’ and more direct than before. Do you see this change yourself?
Pierre Debusschere: I’m actually pleased you describe it this way, but it’s not really a change for me, more of an evolution. For this exhibition, I was interested in the idea of layers and masks. I also wanted to spend more time with the people I photographed.
PH: How long would an average sitting last?
PD: Around 2 hours each time. This was very different from shooting a fashion image where you are with a much larger team. I was on my own with the models every time and could really focus on them. I even did the make-up myself. That was quite pleasurable for me.
PH: The make-up is quite impressive. Was it easy to get people to take their clothes off?
PD: People knew they were going to be naked, but I didn’t shoot them like that straight away. They used their blankets first and the image happened gradually. There is one image in the show where you only see the blanket over the body for instance.
PH: How did you find your sitters?
PD: Some were people I spotted at parties, some were actual models I had worked with and wanted to have in the studio again. I was looking for diversity and different body types.
PH: It took you 10 months to put the exhibition together. Did you focus on this project only?
PD: No, I had to work at the same time, doing commercial and editorial commissions. Let’s say that there were quite a few sleepless nights, but I’m happy with the outcome.
PH: Did you photograph everyone in Brussels?
PD: Yes, I photographed all the sitters in my own studio in Forest. It was important for me that they lived here, too, and there is only one person in the show who is not from Brussels.
PH: How do you reconcile the commercial aspect of your work with more creative projects like this one? Is there a big divide between the two?
PD: Actually, I enjoy both aspects equally. Of course, it’s nice to work on an exhibition and have complete creative freedom, but I also like to collaborate with clients to understand what kind of imagery they’re looking for. In fact, I’m more comfortable with this aspect now than I was in the past.
PH: You listed the names of all the people who helped you with ‘UNcovered’. Why was that important for you?
PD: I really envisage this as a collective effort and this was my way to underline that.
PH: A lot of images within contemporary fashion photography seem interchangeable. How do you distinguish yourself?
PD: You could argue that everything has been done before, but I don’t believe that. It’s still possible to create engaging and innovative pictures, except that we all know there’s quite a bit of copying around. For me, there is a difference between using a reference to re-appropriate it within your work and simple copy paste. That is not the same process creatively.
PH: What did you want to communicate with ‘UNcovered’?
PD: My images are open doors. I like to raise questions within my work, but everyone is free to find their own interpretation.
/ Interview by Philippe Pourhashemi /
/ Images Courtesy of Pierre Debusschere /
July 12th - September 30th 2018
Wednesday to Sunday – 11 AM – 6 PM
Openings July 12th & September 7th 6PM-10PM
MAD, Place du nouveau marché aux grains, 10
Setting the tone in stone. What a perfect natural motto.
Van Den Weghe's aim is to introduce one of the masterpieces of nature into luxury homes. For over 60 years now, their Belgian atelier has been collecting stones from all over the world. In this amazing place, architects and clients are working in close collaboration with artisans. Stone is their shared passion, and they make it happen through expertise, technology and aesthetics.
Tanguy Van Quickenborne, owner, talks about Van Den Weghe and its DNA.
How can you describe Van Den Weghe?
Van Den Weghe is a company with a start-up mindset, working with an ancient craft. We are in love with aesthetics, design, art, architecture and beauty. Innovation is the key to everything we do. Pushing limits and boundaries is what we enjoy. You have to know the rules first in order to break them.
You are an art collector. What is the link between art and stone?
Yes indeed. Art is made by humans, stone is art made by nature. I have in fact two collections: art pieces and stone slabs.
What is you recipe to success?
Do what your mind and gut feeling tell you to do. Always do something else than all the rest.
What is your favorite stone and why?
A new stone we are going to receive shortly. When we receive a new stone, the feeling I get is the same as falling in love again: a new kind of stone to adore.
Why are you working in Belgium?
Because the company's history is Belgian. There are plenty of good craftsmen here. Luckily 50% of our projects are abroad.
What is your biggest achievement as a project?
It's difficult to say but we are very proud of the following projects: Penthouse Luc Tuymans designed by Glenn Sestig, Louvre Abu Dhabi for Jean Nouvel with Meyvaert Glass Engineering, a major job in Saint-Tropez we managed to deliver in 4 months time, the projects we do for Pierre Yovanovitch and Joseph Dirand, and the acquisitions of some companies.
Where are your clients from?
Our clients are from all over the world. They share the love for beauty, just like we do.
What is your professional background?
I started working in logistics for 2 years, but I knew very fast I wanted to work for my own company. I wanted to do something with art and architecture, and now that's where I am.
According to you, what makes the difference in Van Den Weghe?
The people we share the same values with. Our whole team.
What are your next projects in the upcoming years?
I don't know, we'll see what happens.
/ Interview by Julie Nysten /
/ Photography by Merel Hart /
/ Production by Michael Marson /
Celebrated NY artist Doug Abraham is well known for his pop-inflicted reworking of global clichés. His recent collaboration with Marc Jacobs demonstrates his dark and edgy take on images rejuvenating collaboration with fashion. He digs deep into sex and violence, when Art meets Fashion.
For Behind The Blinds, he tells us how and why.
Is sexy a particular kind of disgust?
It can be. A compassionate disgust.
How hard do you believe art and crime are related?
They're both defined by the institution.
Is fashion spreading beauty?
Could fashion images do without sexual stimulation?
Or with more... all images could do with more of everything... more more more.
There is a criminal feel to your images, do you consider yourself more like a criminal or a thief?
Do you find stuffed animals beautifuly awkward or just plain ugly?
I like cute things.
Are your images licking life or death?
One needs the other to be appreciated.
Are all fashion shoots about sexual penetration?
What scissors do you use, or are they all digital?
All images are made and sourced digitally.
If I was fortunate enough to touch a piece of paper I would draw on it before I cut it.
Would you rather work in fashion or for Apple?
I service all clients with equal enthusiasm.
When you cut, do you feel the image bleeding?
I'm a digital artist so I feel nothing as my medium is nothing.
What underwear are you wearing now?
If the world is a massive criminal stage, should an artist augment crime or make the existing crimes more visible?
I'm not a "should" person.
Is it ok to be a self-conscious fashion victim?
Yes, it's all ok.
Does fashion use more slaves than IT?
"Slave" is better as self defined.
Is violence sexy?
I try not to yuck other people's yum.
Do you enjoy spreading your art with Instagram?
Are you represented by a gallery?
When did you start?
On Instagram? 2013.
As an artist? 1984.
What is your favorite brand?
What did you create last?
A 5 min fashion horror film.
1 ARTIST / 10 FRIENDS
10 QUESTIONS / 10 ANSWERS
Simon Demeuter : Why is the bear a recurrent theme in your work?
In my work the bear refers to the animal totem image used in magical rituals.
Reading Michel Pastoureau’s book ‘L’ours. Histoire d’un roi déchu’ really inspired me.
Benoit Platéus : Is there any particular pottery piece that motivated you to create ceramics yourself?
A ‘Casanis’ Moorish head-like water pitcher I have seen at friends in the South-West of France 20 years ago.
Sandra Caltagirone : Your lastest work takes the form of exquisite corpses. Can you please explain this new artistic influence?
We started drawing exquisite corpses with my boyfriend , and I had this idea of giving them a 3-D aspect… Some sort of declaration of love I guess.
Florent Delval : Which devine figures your totems are supposed to call upon?
The spirit of my ancestors as for the real totems.
Florent Dubois : Do you think ceramics can have a queer touch?
Certainly, though I would not want my work to be perceived as mainly queer. Similarly I prefer to be recognized more as a sculptor than a ceramic artist.
David de Tscharner : What will be your next reincarnation?
A cat maybe… Everybody loves cats.
Jean-Baptiste Bernadet : What is your opinion about Tom Robbins’s quote "It’s never too late to have a happy childhood”?
It’s true that I tend to achieve fulfillment more slowly than others. For years I have been looking for a playground where I would feel at ease and now I am having the time of my life.
Barbara Cuglietta : If you could create a new word, what would it be?
Virginie Devillez : What do you think about Constantin Meunier and Social Realism in the 19th century?
I love Constantin Meunier’s sculptures and really appreciate the atmosphere that one can feel visiting his last workshop transformed into a museum (Rue de l’Abbaye à Ixelles)
Patrick Croes : What is the border between craftsmanship and contemporary art in your work?
My work and ideas are modern but strongly influenced by popular art. I suppose using pottery in my work gives it a crafstman’s dimension.
Watch them undress as they watch you dissolve into the summer heat ...
You are not dead you are meant to be HOT .
La Vierge Violente, Koji Wakamatsu (1969)
Paroxismus, Jesus Franco (1969)
La piscine, Jacques Deray (1969)
The Counsellor, Ridley Scott (2013)
Summer Lovers, Kandel Kleiser (1982)
Ten, Blake Edwards (1979)
Les pétroleuses, Christian Jaque (1971)
Domino, Tony Scott (2005)
L’enfer, Henri-Georges Clouzot (1964)
Tabu, F.W Murnau (1931)
Estate Violenta, Valerio Zurlini (1959)
Blame it on Rio!, Stanley Donen (1984)
/Selected by REMY RUSSOTTO/