On Tuesday 17 September, Camper opened a store in Spitalfields (London). To celebrate it, we were invited to tour the best design studios in London, among them Doshi Levien, responsible for the flagship store’s interior design. Established in 2000, the studio run by Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien exploits hybrid styles of different cultures in all their projects. They like blending technology with traditional craftsmanship and industrial design to tell a story. This is how they’ve managed to build a foundation and to make the most of a simple idea. They have worked with companies such as Moroso, Cappellini, Intel, Authentics and BD Barcelona. We have interviewed them.
One of your latest works for Camper is the installation for their store in London. Can you tell us a little bit more about yours designs? Where did you get the inspiration?
We’ve done a few projects with Camper now and the most recent collaboration we did with them is the store in Milano, in Monte Napolione, where we were presenting the shoe collection that we’ve done for the brand.
I think that when Camper came to us we really wanted to express the Mediterranean spirit of the brand so we got inspired by really solid architecture from Spain and Italy, where you have a lot of stone, marble, really solid materials. We wanted to do a shop with an idea of ‘Eternal Mediterranean Summer’ and to use materials that were authentic, that were very hard wearing and somehow have the feeling that they could be washed. There are a lot of playful elements: the table is like the Spanish steps made out of marble, so you have this idea that you can wash the shop. It’s like a shop that has been around for hundreds of years, like when you go to small towns and you discover that shop that has just been there.
You have teamed up with the brand in more occasions… Where does the connection come from? How did you first start working together?
The first store we did was in Roma, in Campo de Fiori. It was very interesting that our concept of ‘Eternal Summer’ has been to Vancouver, Boston or London. The next one will be in Napoli.
Where do you think Doshi Levien and Camper melt with each other? What do they have in common and what features complement each other?
Nipa ? The interesting thing about Camper is that they are very open to work with different designers. So when they give you a brief to do the store, they are not wanting it to be ‘Camper’, they want it to be your design. The stores are very important focal points for them as well and again I think it is a company that truly believes in design.
Doshi Levien is a tandem, who does what in the creative process? How does it work?
Jonathan ? A lot of fighting (laughter)! It’s not so easy to define anymore who does what. When you work together for a long time there is a lot of overlap in your thinking. We have a different way of going about projects. My way is more exploring through making and holding the materials, letting materials guide the process of design. I do a lot of full size mock-ups of the pieces we do, so I am probably more 3 dimensional in the way that I think about design. Nipa, on the other hand, has a strong sense of the feeling of the project, she needs to have all the direction of the project and can identify that.
You work in very different projects ? from furniture or kitchen tools to installations or shoes. What do you prefer? Does the kind of product change your working method?
Nipa ? I think that for every designer ? or at least for me and Jonathan -, we are not fixed on the things we like. It’s not like we have a design philosophy or style that has to be applied in everything that we do and the interesting thing is when you work for different projects you have to actually work with the identity of the company that you are working with and what is right for them.
You have worked with a selection of renowned companies. What has to have the brand or company to work with them?
Jonathan ? A Creative Director with a vision and a soul, that is really interested in pursuing ideas. Nipa ? Respect for each other is very important because you spend a lot of time with them. It has to be enjoyable; the relationship has to be good. Jonathan ? But if you are working with a company that has a principle, a person that really understands its idea and the vision, the trust is there and becomes a lot easier to share. In the world of design you share a feeling for something. One of the most important things is to share that feeling to the work.
What are you working on now?
We are working with a big steel company in India and also a really big project for an Italian company that will launch a new make-up brand. We are doing everything, from the logo to packaging, the identity? We are also working on an exhibition of ‘Everyday Indian Objects’ for the Grand Hornu, in Belgium, which will be launched in October. It is about 350 everyday objects and it is the first exhibition about everyday design of India ? we are not only curating it, but also doing the interior. And there is another project going on with Gallery Kreo, in Paris, and they will launch some tables we’ve done in October as well.
Your favourites hotspots in London are…
Nipa ? We discovered some months ago a really lovely coffee shop in Leather Lane, called Prufrock Coffee. We also love the Barbican, which is a utopian idea of a village, with a beautiful lake in the middle, an art gallery, a cinema, secret gardens for people who live there. It’s heaven in London; Also St. JOHN Bar and Restaurant, in Smithfield. I love the idea of the market being in such a Central area; The Tate is always on the list; The Boundary which is a hotel but also has an amazing rooftop with beautiful views of London too.
You can’t stop listening to…
Nipa ? I am a Bollygirl, have to admit it. Somehow when I listen to Hindu music the language takes you to another place. Jonathan ? During working process I find it really hard to have music as it can distract you, but sometimes we listen to the designer’s playlists and it can go from 90’s rave to drum and bass.
Nipa ? I hate places where everything is defined and I love places where there is this friction between the old and the new. I would ban everything, including countries, that has a monoculture and are monoracial. I would ban purity. For me, the friction, the mix, the hybrid is where life is. New things happen when you mix these things together. Jonathan ? I would ban iPhones on working tables.
You never thought you’d end up…
Nipa ? I never thought I’d end up being able to express my ideas in the way I am doing now. I grew up in India and this idea of working in Europe and with good companies was so distant, so far away. And it feels so good now. Jonathan ? I think I never imagined I’d do the breath of work we do.
Nipa ? Be good to people. In the end it’s all about relationships. Jonathan ? It’s good2be me.