The sleek design duo behind the creative consultancy that counts noted brands such as Cabana Magazine, Bulgari and Rocco Forte Hotels as their clients, talk to us about their inspiration behind designing spaces and their love of story-telling.
Let’s start from the beginning…. how did you meet and what made you decide to set up Campbell-Rey?
DC: We met around 10 years ago, when we started working for Acne Paper, a biannual culture magazine published by Swedish fashion label Acne Studios. We had both worked as interns for the magazine one after the other in Paris, and began working as the editors at the same time when we returned to London to continue our studies.
CR: The magazine was a fantastic grounding for us as it was such a small team. In many ways it was a crash course in the history of design, architecture, photography and fashion, but we also worked with the marketing, events, commissioning and running the day to day aspects of the magazine which all proved useful when we started our own business. At the end of 2013 we were beginning to be offered more and more freelance work, and Campbell-Rey was born at the start of 2014.
DC: Independent publishing was a great learning curve for us, but we both felt it was time to pursue new avenues. Initially many of our clients were in the luxury, craftsmanship and legacy sectors, and this evolved gradually to encompass hotels and real estate, with our eventual focus moving to physical and spatial design as well as product design and creative concepts. I think at the heart of what we do, we’re drawn to creating spaces that make people feel intrigued, happy, and surprised. Hopefully creating a sense of wonder and transporting them somewhere else.
You both have different academic backgrounds…have your subject choices influenced the way you see the world and how you design?
DC: Neither of us have any formal design training. I studied law at King’s College, and Charlotte studied fashion history and theory at Central Saint Martins so it means that the way we work is very instinctive. A benefit of this is that we don’t feel constrained about what we “should or shouldn’t” be doing. If a client approaches us and we’re excited about the project, then we’re free to take it on.
CR: We are lucky that we are practicing in a time where the world is on our doorstep and collaboration is welcome and appreciated. We have great partners we work with across all areas of sourcing, production and storytelling and it’s a joy to have such a broad horizon of inspiration from so many different angles. At this point, we have established a more distinct aesthetic universe that encompasses all of our creative output, and people ask us to take on projects that are very diverse where we can apply our particular approach. This has resulted in what seems to be a wide expression, but is in fact a very precise style and tone applied to fit each particular project or client. I think working across a lot of different applications is one of the most exciting things for us.
Setting out who were your greatest influences? And have these changed?
DC: There are definitely references we return to, like mid-century Italian architecture, Palladian symmetry, trompe l’oeil, forced perspective, surrealism and tropical modernist elements. Part of the fun of what we do is the ability to continually add new references, to refine them and to find inspiration in new places. It might be discovering a new artist or architect, or travelling to a new continent, but we are always absorbing our surroundings and finding ways to use these inspirations in our work.
CR: I think certain things will remain constant inspirations to us, like the use of colour, the celebration of materiality and an interest in how things are made, as well as trying to create something that feels surprising and warm. We often return to the ideas or rituals surrounding Italian lifestyle such as the conviviality around a big family dinner table, the passeggiata or the aperitivo, which expresses the emotions of warmth, inclusivity, joy, mixing of generations and exchange of stories. We often reference entertaining and hosting, thinking about a great dinner party – who would be there? What they would wear? How would they interact? What would they like to rest their eyes on? We’re designers, not artists, so we tend to work in service of a brief, but we love elevating what could be an everyday object to a useful tool of beauty. It’s wonderful to be in a position where you can bring joy to other people’s lives and enhance their everyday in an aesthetic and innovative capacity, or introduce them to new ways of thinking.
Campbell-Rey advises and actively participates in interior design, the visual arts and product design – is there a particular area which captures your imagination the most?
DC: Since the Salone del Mobile 2017 when we launched our first furniture collection, we have been feeling particularly inspired about designing in the physical space, both in terms of products and spaces.
CR: We love telling stories, it’s probably our publishing background echoing into what we do now, and in a way it doesn’t matter if it’s a product, a decorative object, or an interior or a magazine, as long as it communicates a greater expression. In the same manner that a Skype call can never replace the humanity of a meeting face-to-face, holding a beautiful object in an interesting material that fills a function is a very special experience. So that captures our imagination, that feeling.
What do you think the future holds for creative consultancies? Will we see more of the blurring together of creative lines?
CR: Yes for sure, we live in an interesting time when collaboration is celebrated and creative disciplines are blurred – where a street artist like GucciGhost is designing a collection for Gucci, social entrepreneurs like Elon Musk can put a car in space, inclusivity is preferred over exclusivity in the luxury industries, stores are about experiences rather than transactions, and brands are the new educators to propel a social consciousness through the manufacture of their products. Just a few years ago we had to spend quite a bit of time explaining what we do and how we do it, whereas now clients and our audience are enjoying that they are part of a creative journey that is not a prefabricated box. Today we’re seeing a much more open-minded mentality from clients, as well as wider playing field in terms of the deliverables that they expect.
What can we look forward to seeing from Campbell-Rey in 2018?
DC: We’re working on our first residential interior which is new to us and incredibly exciting. We’re also slowly developing our next few products, working with a couple of interior brands on design collaborations and continuing our work alongside an Australian real estate developer on their storytelling. We’re very enthusiastic about new ways of applying our thinking, and it feels like an exciting moment for our approach – presenting a focused message but being flexible when it comes to the medium and the output. 2018 is shaping up to be a very exciting year.