Shoes are functional. They keep our feet dry and safe from the elements but we have an ingrained desire to take the humble shoe beyond this purpose. We like to make them into objects we can admire, play around with and explore. For Spanish footwear brand Camper, this sense of fun is at the heart of what they do and we’re given a glimpse of this creativity in a new exhibition at the Design Museum. Life on Foot marks the 40 year anniversary of Camper and takes us on the journey from collection conception all the way to the shop floor.
It’s important to say the show is part of a paid for partnership between the museum and the brand, but a spokesman insists it “was approved by the museum’s curatorial committee on the grounds that it fulfils the organisation’s vision (for everyone to understand the value of design).”
They were given “unrivalled access” to the Camper archives and the museum is satisfied it’s not an anomaly. “We are always interested in exploring how manufacturers make use of design, and Camper’s track record of working with a whole generation of innovative and highly creative designers allows us to do this in a new way,” she said.
Using Camper’s most popular shoes as inspiration, the exhibition curated by Pete Collard and Anniina Koivu eschews the chronological format and focuses on key parts of the brand’s process. In sections including Materials & Meaning and Global, the show even goes beyond the physicality of the shoe and explores the future of walking.
The posters, presented big and beautifully in large black frames throughout the show, are a personal highlight. There’s work from designers including Javier Mariscal, Oscar Marine and Nathalie Du Pasquier and the direct contrast in styles and approaches is great to see. But it’s the glimpse into Carlos Rolando’s 16 year collaboration with them that’s particularly fascinating.
Elegantly lit, Life on Foot uses black cork and light wood as a backdrop to the various exhibits. As you meander through the space like shoelaces looping into a bow, the colour in this show is provided by Camper and its extensive archive. Bright colours contrast with sumptuous textures highlighting the breadth of the brand’s collection and fascinating collaborations. As you’d expect there are a lot of shoes as well, but it’s lovely to see them neatly and proudly lined up like cuddly toys in a childhood bedroom. It’s a simple but effective approach to displaying the sheer volume of pieces they’ve accumulated since 1975.
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