Color as a dream, a hypnotic space. If there is one designer capable of giving form to the truth expressed by the poet Marina Tsvetaeva, namely that everything in our life is decided during the first seven years, that designer is Camille Walala. Color immediately found its way into the life of this creative talent born in Provence, with an architect father. DNA and her childhood home full of the African fabrics favored by her mother offered the ingredients for her success.
After which Camille has found ways to apply them, in original recipes that maker her one of the designers and urban artists most in demand today. Facades of buildings and boutique hotels, ad campaigns for fashion brands (Armani) and interiors of showrooms and offices (Facebook), urban furnishings in England, decorating projects for the facilities of NGOs in Tanzania: nothing – from the small to the large scale – escapes the coat of color this Lady Pattern spreads with fantasy and geometric rigor, practically anywhere, combining a particular Memphis flavor with the graphic signs of the Ndebele people to generate an optical, pop style that has already been extensively imitated.
A vertigo that has its origins in biographical episodes, when young Camille reached gray London from Provence, with Africa in her heart. A geographical and spiritual short circuit that soon became the thrust of a career: “My work can bring joy to people, also because I usually work in spaces lacking in color. Urban landscapes are quite monotonous, so applying large patterns on facades becomes a perfect way to bring something unexpected.”
Not that the world before Camille wasn’t used to seeing concrete buildings reinterpreted with spurts of spray paint or brushstrokes. What’s new and has an impact is the fact that she brings an intense dialogue with architecture to the urban setting. No big faces, no figurative depictions, but plenty of room for decoration in terms of design: “I have always loved architecture – I have lots of books and I could look at photos of buildings and their details all day long. My reference points include artists like the late great Carlos Cruz-Diez, famous for his works in public spaces, but also Freddy Mamani, the Bolivian architect, father of the Neo-Andean style. Not by chance,” she smiles, “Bolivia is one of the countries I’m planning to visit, and I am sure it will change my way of making design, while other places that have inspired me to date are undoubtedly Mexico City, Tokyo and Milan.”
In recent years the already intense dialogue with architecture has become increasingly vivid in Camille’s works. “When I intervene on the facades of buildings my instinct is to be sensitive to the design idea behind that particular construction: I don’t like to paint as if the surface were a flat canvas. This is why I love to incorporate details of facades in my patterns. And for this reason, when I start to work I immediately try to have the architects there, beside me. Art and form can move forward, in step. It is a long path, but I like to operate in that way.”
One of the latest challenges for Walala is the third dimension. After years of artwork on facades and interiors – from the Instagram hit in Brooklyn commissioned by WantedDesign, where the patterns are borrowed from the architectural rhythm of the windows of an industrial building with a height of 40 meters, to the striking labyrinth at the Now Gallery in London – since 2018 Lady Pattern has come to grips with urban furniture, during the London Design Festival.
At the latest iteration in September she designed a pedestrian area, inventing benches and planters. The result is an urban salon, the Walala Lounge, an invitation to relax and socialize in the midst of the delirium of the British capital: “Working in 3D calls for a different pace, and it is more demanding than work on a flat surface. This is why I work with two talented architects who help me to develop ideas and projects. With them, I can push the work in new directions. The Walala Lounge was quite a success, and I am proud of it, but we’re just at the beginning of the three-dimensional research… for now I have just scratched the surface.”
On the one hand there is the hypnotic dimension of installations and interiors; on the other, the high level of social interaction conveyed by Walala’s works. Does it take a generous spirit to give life to design that becomes an activator of empathy, encouraging human connections? Maybe. After all, generosity does seem to be one of Camille’s strong points: just look at the way she offers her notebooks and her library to curious eyes, where books by Nathalie Du Pasquier (who else?) are featured: “I love to draw. It’s my way of escaping from reality. I like nothing better than going to a cafe early in the morning, ordering a cappuccino and sitting there with my album, creating things. I create anything. Without being afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes are part of the game.”