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Features / Workwear

Workwear: mural artist Camille Walala walks us through her wardrobe

Photography:

Elliot Kennedy

With Fashion Month kicking off today with the first day of New York Fashion Week, we’re launching the first in our latest Workwear series of features which look to find out what creatives really wear to work and why. There’ll be another five fab dressers coming up over the course of the next four weeks, all of whom were shot by Elliot Kennedy.

If you don’t know Camille Walala by name, you might recognise the vibrant, geometric-patterned walls she designs and paints dressed in a blue boiler suit and wielding a tin of paint and a set of brushes like she means business.

Having originally studied textile design, Camille’s practice often trickles down from her enormous murals and into her sartorial choices, both literally – she fails to find a pair of tights that aren’t stained with cobalt blue or bright red emulsion for our photoshoot – and figuratively – she often dresses to match her sites, or designs corresponding prints to make herself into an extension of her work.

We visited her in her home in east London to talk about her workwear, and found a Memphis-inspired gem full of beautiful books, fabrics and retro furniture tucked away inconspicuously on an estate, one turquoise and blue-striped balcony standing out a mile in a sea of brick red and tarmac grey. After showing where she does her computer-based work, Camille took us for a walk to nearby Queensbridge Primary School, to see the walls she’d painted there a couple of months back.

Here she is explaining why she sacked off running her own clothing brand to paint places instead, and why you won’t ever find her slouched over her computer in sad old pyjamas.

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Elliot Kennedy: Camille Walala

What are you wearing today?

Today I’m in very monochrome colours. I like dressing up every morning, I think it’s the first step to being creative for me, combining colours and accessories. Even if I’m just working by myself at home I will dress up, I need to feel comfortable and aesthetically nice to work. If I’m not painting I like wear smarter stuff, so today it’s strong visual black and white dots. I like mixing jewellery, too – my necklace and bracelets are by Marimekko – I like stripes and dots together.

So do you tend to dress differently when you’re working?

If I’m painting I have different outfits, but I have sacrificed a few things. I’ve got a lot of jumpsuits, for example, which I can usually make match my walls. I still try to be careful when I paint in them though, because I still like them!

“I like the idea of looking for clothing, it’s like you might win, you might lose, you don’t really know. Going into a shop where everything is expensive doesn’t give me the same buzz.”

Camille Walala

So where do you find most of your clothes?

I love vintage! Charity shopping and vintage. I quite like Monki – my friend Lynnie Zulu has just designed a print for them which is really good. But I don’t really want to have the same prints as everyone else – especially if it’s a strong print from a brand that you can recognise straight away. I like to be individual, I don’t like to wear the same things as everyone else.

The way I love dressing is to clash patterns, but trying to make sure they work together. I love colour blocking, too – usually I will wear jewellery which matches my tights. I wear different colours in summer and in winter – warmish in winter and kind of bright and cool in summer.

I’ve always loved vintage and charity shops, but in France where I’m from is far from everywhere, and nobody likes the same things as me. I once found a gold and black jumpsuit for one pound in a massive warehouse. I felt like I was in Ali Baba’s cave! I like the idea of looking for clothing, it’s like you might win, you might lose, you don’t really know. Going into a shop where everything is expensive doesn’t give me the same buzz.

Do you think that being from the south of France has influenced how you dress at all?

I’ve definitely never been scared of wearing colour. I grew up in a place which was very colourful – my mum’s house is very bright, with a lot of African fabric, so I think that probably helped. And being in the sunshine makes a difference!

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Elliot Kennedy: Camille Walala

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Elliot Kennedy: Camille Walala

Do you think your style has evolved over the years? Have you always dressed in the way that you do now?

For me coming to England was amazing. I always wanted to be different when I was a teenager. I grew up in a really small village in the south of France, but my dad moved to Paris when my parents divorced, so I would go to Paris and buy clothes that were different to everyone else’s in my village, and I just loved it. But at the same time, when you look different in Provence people judge you and criticise you. When I arrived I was in my early 20s, and it was amazing! It was like a new world where I could wear whatever I wanted and nobody would care! I was able to express myself so much more.

I’ve seen a lot of photos where you’re dressed to match your walls that you’re painting.

I do like trying to make it match as much as possible. My dad always says “you should make a pattern on your clothes to match the walls you’re painting!”

Do you have a lot of clothes?

Yes. I’m trying to go more for good pieces now though, better quality, nice structure. Sometimes I buy something but I don’t know what it’s going to go with, so I just keep it until I find a skirt or a pair of shoes that’s going to go with it.

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Elliot Kennedy: Camille Walala

You started out working in textile design, is that right?

Yes! In 2009 when I finished uni I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and I didn’t really want to work for anyone, so I started doing my own little brand designing patterns and things printed digitally. I was selling them at Broadway Market, doing everything – clothes, accessories, cushions with my prints. I liked designing the prints, but I wasn’t as good at the making of it. So I did that for two years and worked in a restaurant on the side.

It was in 2012 that the owner of XOYO asked me to design the massive room upstairs. He was like ‘you can have this amount of budget, “you can do whatever you want with it.” I went mental! It was amazing, really Memphis.

At the launch party when they opened the bar, just to see people having an amazing time in something I had created, it was like a revelation! I was like “right, this is what I want to do. I want to create spaces and not just prints.”

“I still love Memphis, but it’s becoming a bit overdone now, it’s a bit too much. I’m trying to evolve in my own way. I don’t want to copy and paste Memphis.”

Camille Walala

Have you always been into Memphis?

Yes, since 2008 when I finished at Brighton. My final show at uni was inspired by Memphis. It’s quite funny because when my tutors saw my work they were like “boffff,” but I was a bit older than everybody else, and you know how when you’re older sometimes you want to rebel? And now, I’ve seen that recently some of the trend forecasters have picked up some of the prints that I designed while I was at uni as being a trend now! I just want to go back to my tutors and go “ha!”

I still love Memphis, but it’s becoming a bit overdone now, it’s a bit too much. I’m trying to evolve in my own way. I don’t want to copy and paste Memphis.

And do you always wear red lipstick?

Yeah! I’ve been wearing red lipstick for like five years, six years? I’ve become addicted to it. When I went to Australia I was wearing this one that was Barry M and they don’t do it there, so I bought like five lipsticks for three months of holidays. This one is Mac. And it’s nice when you’re a bit tanned.

So French!

Exactly!

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Elliot Kennedy: Camille Walala

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Elliot Kennedy: Camille Walala