LACOSTE + CAMPANAS
Imagine a South American city of 11 million inhabitants with its complex and lively downtown. Estúdio Campana is located there, in the neighborhood of Santa Cecília, São Paulo. It is an inventive and stimulating region, where skills of traditions meet. Korean immigrants, members of the Jewish community and people coming from the Northeast region of Brazil (nordestinos) walk through its streets. It feels like a small town where everyone knows each other. The place is a synthesis of Brazilian multiculturalism, the intersection of roots and origins that nourishes the Campana brothers’ creations. As we enter the metal door of the old warehouse, we see the experimentation and transformation lab created by Humberto and Fernando. In the two halls divided by a yard, 12 people--architects, seamstresses and a craftsman who has been working with the Campana family for nearly 15 years--work together. Amidst leather samples, crystals and wire threads, the team materializes the ideas that will be later produced by companies such as Edra, Alessi, Artecnica, Bernardaud, Corsi Design, Kreo, Magis, Grendene, Skitsch, Plus Design, as well as by the studio itself which signs limited numbered editions.
The Estúdio Campana became famous for furniture design and creation of intriguing objects. Today, its work volume increased, spreading to various universes and is aimed to various audiences. Fernando and Humberto are approached by art institutions and companies and, since their beginning, have been establishing partnerships with Brazilian craftsmanship producing communities. This fluid dialog among the projects of distinct natures and dimensions is one of the keys to understand the Campana brothers’ creations. In Fashion, the Campanas signed the “Campana Collection” of Brazilian jewelry brand H. Stern (2001). They keep a record of collaborations with Grendene’s trademark “Melissa” shoes and purses, and in 2009 they reinterpreted the traditional LACOSTE polo shirt.
The designers’ skills in understanding the essence of a brand, the ease in playing with its origins – as well as the undeniable sense of adventure – resulted in the Campanas being asked to reinvent global brands identity. They have deconstructed and reinvented the Camper stores in Berlin (2006), Barcelona (2007), Florence (2008), London (2008), New York (2010) and Zaragoza (2007). In 2011, they redesigned in Paris the D’Orsay Museum´s Café Hauteurs, and the New Hotel in Athens. It was the first hotel project designed by the Campanas. In Brazil, the most recent interior design project was the Café São Paulo Opera House, in the Municipal Theater of São Paulo. Among the most recent artistic partnerships is the creation of the sets and costumes for the Marseille National Ballet “Métamorphoses” show (2007) and the scenography of the musical “Peter and the Wolf”, presented at the Guggenheim Museum in New York (2008).
The Estúdio Campana’s surprising perception about what is considered “ordinary” and “trivial” has played a big part in the collections of many institutions. Humberto and Fernando were the curators of the “Jardim de Infância” (Kindergarten) exhibition, at the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art (2009) and the “Campana Brothers select: works from permanent collection”, at the Cooper‐Hewitt Museum in New York (2008). The work of the Campanas is also part of the permanent collections of renowned art institutions such as the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art, the MoMA in New York, the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris, the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rheim, and the Museum of Modern Art in Sao Paulo. Their brand new exhibition is ‘Barroco Rococó’ at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, on show thru 24 February 2013.
Humberto (born 1953) and Fernando (born 1961) are from Brotas, a city 250 kilometers away from São Paulo. Brotas, with its agrarian economy, is located in a region of abundant natural resources. Until moving to São Paulo to begin their graduation studies, they both lived with their family. Their father was an agriculture engineer and their mother a primary school teacher. They lived in a house with an unpaved basement and a vast backyard, surrounded by fruit trees and streams leading to the waterfalls of the region of Brotas.
Humberto graduated in Law. Having obtained his diploma, he officially began to research what had been his main interest since his childhood: craftsmanship infinite possibilities. In the 80s, he set up a small studio of hand‐made products.
With a degree in architecture, Fernando was interested in the research of alternative methods for design materialization. He studied Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer’s power of communication and outline synthesis as well as the construction of small scale objects. After obtaining his degree, he followed an internship at the 17th edition of the Art Bienal, in São Paulo.
By the end of 1983, Humberto invited his brother to help him deliver a large order. Since then, they are among the most celebrated partnerships in contemporary design. They are reknowned for suggesting new object reading codes besides contributing to a change of perspective in everyday life.
Campana´s first exhibition as a duo took place in 1989 at the Nucleon Galery, in São Paulo. The iron chairs collection was called “Desconfortáveis” (Uncomfortable), a selection of pieces which discussed the artistic aspect, the error and the poetry in discomfort.
In 2009, ten years after the exhibition that launched it, the Estúdio Campana was chosen to celebrate its anniversary at the Vitra Design Museum, in Germany, which was also commemorating a decade of existence.
Humberto and Fernando Campana were awarded the Special Prize at the Museu da Casa Brasileira (Brazilian House Museum) in 2001, and Designer of the Year by Design Miami in 2008. In 2012, they’re awarded the Designers of the year by Maison & Objet, and in 2012 they were selected for the Comité Colbert in Paris, honored at Beijing Design Week , and they received the Order des Arts et Lettres in Paris.
Frequently asked questions - Fernando and Humberto Campana
How did the Campana brothers begin to work together?
After obtaining his degree in Law, Humberto lived in a small town in the state of Bahia. He came back to São Paulo in the late 70s and began to attend iron and terracotta sculpture workshops and jewelry classes. He set up a small studio of handcraft products and began to sell baskets and mirrors framed with shells. For a busy holiday season order, he invited Fernando to help him. Fernando usually says that he was only called to make “deliveries” and he soon realized that there was much more to achieve with his brother. The Campana brothers’ beginning was not planned at all.
What did they aspire to do when they were children?
Humberto refused to wear shoes and said he wanted to be an Indian in the Amazon. Fernando dreamed about becoming an astronaut.
Differences and resemblances between Fernando and Humberto
For Humberto, work is an attempt of mental organization. For Fernando, work is leisure. Humberto is more intuitive whereas Fernando is more rational. The brothers developed a very similar view in relation to life and work (sometimes they even show up at the studio wearing similar clothes!).
Do the Campana brothers discuss a lot?
Yes! Discussion and critics are present at all stages. Both of them developed an open mind to accept each other’s creative input and they complement each other with that.
Do the Campana brothers appreciate the same aesthetics?
They do in terms of design, art and architecture, but not in music, literature or movies. Humberto is “classical” whereas Fernando is “pop”.
Are they equal in their input of ideas?
No. Depending on the project requirements, they work in turns.
How is the Campana brothers’ creation process?
It is completely chaotic ‐ the only stable thing is the task of keeping tuned with their time in order not to launch something that has already been created.
How important are materials in the designers’ work?
These are elements that will determine projects and concepts. The material will indicate what it “wants to be”, be it a chair or a lamp. For the designers, material, form and function articulate together. At first, Fernando and Humberto decided to work with cheap materials since they could not afford expensive ones. Today, this is a conscious choice due to their concerns with the environment. The Campanas are constantly researching “trivial” disposable materials in order to serve their nobility.
How relevant is sustainability in the Campana brothers’ work?
Fernando and Humberto conceive their work as a product of shortage. Their effort to humanize design (by rescuing the tradition of craftsmanship communities) acts positively on the links of the productive chain.
What is the Campanas’ view on their Brazilian roots?
To translate the Brazilian identity into design is one of their most important challenges. Many of their projects are reinterpretations of solutions they witnessed in poor communities in the country – lovely unusual solutions. However, they live in São Paulo. As a result, their work tries to create bridges between the primitive artisanal (and deeply humanized) universe and the contemporary industrialized world.
Which designers do the Campana brothers admire the most?
Shiro Kuramata, Achille Castiglioni, Ingo Maurer, Ettore Sottsass and Andrea Branzi.
Art or Design?
Fernando and Humberto try to establish a dialog between emotion and functionality. They believe in the incorporation of craftsmanship in mass production. In terms of creation, they see little difference between the designer and the artist. Both are researchers and witnesses of the their time.