If the Shoe Fits: Retail and Design Converge at Vitra Campus
Swiss furnishings manufacturer Vitra has teamed up with Spanish shoe company and design patron Camper for a pop-up project that reimagines the retail experience. Located inside a futuristic tent construction (once a Detroit car showroom in the mid-‘70s) on the Vitra campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany, the project opened on June 18.
The companies commissioned Berlin-based architect Diébédo Francis Kéré, originally from Burkina Faso, to design a space inside the tent: a modular, donut-shaped pavilion made of blockboard. The zig-zag orientation of panels creates seating, LED-illuminated shelving, and display space on both sides of the freestanding walls. Kére, known for his use of natural, sustainable materials, covered the floors with woven sea grass mats—a nod to his work in Africa that often incorporates local materials.
The pop-up project coincides with two current exhibitions, Making Africa at the nearby Vitra Design Museum, which features other work by Kéré, and Camper: Life on Foot at London’s Design Museum, honoring the company’s 40th anniversary.
The project seeks to create space for storytelling and serve as a laboratory for new concepts in retail. The objects on display come from the Life on Foot exhibition, Camper’s fall/winter collection, and the United Nation’s Ethical Fashion Initiative, which promotes the work of artisans in countries like Ethiopia and Haiti. Camper’s distinctive red shoeboxes line the top shelves of the structure.
Visitors can read information about the design and backstory of each piece and have their feet scanned and precisely measured to order a custom Camper-made insole. Additionally, a professional shoemaker will demonstrate the craft, making footwear live in the space.
Camper has partnered with firms including Shigeru Ban, Fernando Amat, Benedetta Tagliabue, and Kvadrat in the past to design storefronts, textiles, and furnishings.
“We’re known as a shoe brand, but we’ve been working with renowned architects for years,” says spokesperson Eef Vicca. “We’re keen on architecture.”
The pop-up project will remain in the dome until September 30.