“Here we are,” says the taxi driver, as he pulls up in front of a non-descript garage door in a deserted street. He has taken us to a part of São Paulo where we have never been before to meet Humberto Campana, one of Brazil’s most renowned designers and one of the two Campana Brothers.
There is no company name on the door, but there is a doorbell. “This should be it,” I say as I press the bell. “Or maybe it isn’t,” I reconsider as the door remains closed. “Great. The taxi has gone and here we are in downtown São Paulo and no Irmãos in sight.”
At that moment, the door swings open and a woman invites us in with a warm smile. This must be Ana Paula, the brothers’ business, marketing and communications director and Humberto’s right hand. “Now we’re talking,” Maarten says as we enter a large space crowded with tables, chairs, lamps and cupboards. “We have just landed on Planet Campana!” From amidst this jumble of furniture, Humberto suddenly emerges. “There sure is a lot of stuff,” I say. “Do you produce all your pieces here?” “Actually,” Humberto says, “the best way to tell our story is by strolling through our atelier. So I suggest that we walk and talk – does that suit you?” “Sure, we’d love to take a peek behind the scenes,” says Maarten as we follow Humberto into the workplace.
“This is where we create prototypes, make special items and produce our own goods. We don’t have a factory so there is no mass production – every piece is custom-made. We do work with some partners, like Edra in Italy, who have licences to produce some of our designs, but that’s about it.
“For us, it’s not about high sales figures, but about the creative process,” he explains as we walk past a craftsman who is welding pieces of metal together. It’s interesting to think that this will soon turn into a – more or less – comfortable chair.
“Most of our inspiration comes from São Paulo,” Humberto resumes. “The chaos of the city and the total lack of any architectural standards make it a fascinating patchwork of inspiration for us. São Paulo appears hostile, but right under the surface you find humanity.”
Ana Paula continues. “The brothers attach a lot of importance to sustainability, local production and the use of natural materials. By choosing sustainability and low environmental impact, they hope that others will learn and follow their example. It is a way of life.”
Humberto interrupts: “But watch out! We aren’t lecturing society – we are doing this to express our beliefs. We have always drawn inspiration from everyday objects that we come across on the street or in a corner shop. “For example, I once walked past a street vendor whose stall was filled with teddy bears,” he says as he walks over to a lounge stool made with teddy bears. “This is what we turned it into. This chair is an icon of our time, illustrating our need for comfort and tenderness.”
“Can I try?” “Of course!” says Humberto with a broad gesture. “Make yourselves at home.” “Hmm, this is nice,” I say as I sink into the arms of the teddy bears. “Guys, I’ll be right here if you need me… In the meantime, could you bring me a latte, please?”
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