CAMPERLAB seesaws between yeehaw and Y2K with its new collection
Camper’s sibling stays at the vanguard for AW22, experimenting with cutting-edge sustainable materials to reimagine consciously produced footwear
Lab experiments at school always threatened to be a laugh, a chance to swap a chewed-up Bic for bunsen burners and muck about with something corrosive. Most of the time, though, the reality was far less enjoyable; squabbles over groups, knackered equipment and the odd frog organ flung at your face. Thankfully, CAMPERLAB’s AW22 collection is heaps better. With the label experimenting with unique fabrication but passing our litmus test for statement shoes, they don’t take themselves too seriously.
If you need a quick recap on CAMPERLAB, it’s the more out-there subsection of Mallorcan-based footwear brand Camper. Launched in 2015 – exactly 40 years since its older sibling was conceived by Lorenzo Fluxà – it focuses on progressive, avant-garde designs and innovative builds.
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In 2019, Finnish designer Achilles Ion Gabriel took to the helm, looking to retain its Mallorcan heritage and create a surreal, playful take on elevated shoemaking. “I was born in Lapland and I only recently came to Mallorca to live and to work,” Gabriel explains. “This combination of influences works perfectly for me. I have fun with the materials but without being too literal. It’s my vision of the island as an outsider.”
CAMPERLAB’s AW22 ensemble continues in the footsteps of the brand’s last few fearlessly kitsch releases, but with even more innovation, invention, and green thinking. Two new silhouettes feature; the first is the Tossu. “It kind of means “sneaker” in slang and the word can also be used in other, sarcastic ways,” Gabriel explains. “Tossu is CAMPERLAB’s biggest achievement in terms of sustainability.” It’s an outrageously chunky 90s-inspired sneaker, with a puffy Styrofoam silhouette and an inbuilt knitted sock made from Sorona yarn, a polymer that mitigates the need for nasty chemical glues and ensures a rock solid shell.
For seconds, we’ve got the Venga, which is more cowboy than one of Dom Littlewood’s arch nemesis builders with its pointed toe and vintage detailing. Ever playful, it’s got a second layer underneath that protrudes for an extra bit of length, inspired by plasticine and making us putty in CAMPERLAB’s deft hands. “The Venga boots are sort of ironic in the shape yet playful with their moulding clay outsoles and funny colours,” Gabriel says. It’s also available in a warm, brushed three-toned leather which changes appearance over time, ageing with style into a deep, rich burnt burgundy-black, inspired by “destroyed leather with some added fun!” They’re for a “colorful fucked-up chain smoking cowboy,” obviously.
Tried-and-tested styles and colourways have also resurfaced, but reimagined for the new season. CAMPERLAB’s zany cow print returns after featuring for AW21, but this time it’s in a lemony-lime shade. There’s also another take on the Eki smart shoe, finished with gorgeous lacing details and rustic, artisan embroidery for autumn and winter dinners. The Traktori boots and clogs return, too, including a business shirt blue colourway, and the Mil has been toe-capped with a slush-puppy duo of pink and blue raspberry.
All in all, the collection is sophisticatedly playful and wild. Our own experiments at school might have been a write-off, but CAMPERLAB has got wacky shoes down to an exact science. We’re excited for what’s to come from Achilles and crew.