Published - Controlled Chaos, the Campagna Brothers

When Fernando and Humberto Campana, (aka the Campana Brothers) recently visited Louis Vuitton’s atelier in Asnieres, on the outskirts of Paris, they were shown to the climate controlled room where luxurious leather from around the world is kept and then visited the cutting room, where they saw craftsmen making LV’s classic trunks. But what really fascinated the two brothers was the leather off cuts on the floor. Fernando Campana, the youngest of the two brothers, recalls thinking, “All these strips; I could make them into a purse or a bag.” From sofas created with rag dolls to coffee tables and fruit bowls using TV antenna and chairs using rubber hoses, the design duo has been creating beautiful sophisticated new designs by transforming everyday materials, often considered rubbish by others. “Reprocessing is something Brazilians know how to do very well,” explains Fernando, referring to the chaotic and incongruous constructions that can be found in the favelas or Brazilian shanty towns: “on one side you have poverty, but on the other you have improvisation to make a shelter or furniture out of nothing.” The Brazilians even have a word for this form of problem solving: gambiarra, which Humberto likens to “spontaneous design.”
There is no denying that their native Brazilian environment is at the heart of the Campana Brothers’ designs. The creative duo made their early Favela Chair (1991) out of hundreds of wooden chips that look like off cuts and disregarded planks from a lumber workshop. The cardboard seating, table, cabinet and lightings of their Papelao series (1993), which the Italian luxury furniture manufacturer Edra went on to mass produce, was inspired by the towering bundles of used, flattened cardboard boxes on the pushcarts of wastepaper collectors. Looking at the Campana Brothers’ designs is to glimpse the streets of Sao Paolo, where they live and work. A street vendor’s kiosk filled with plush toys becomes an iconic chair design, the cut-out design of cheap plastic drain gratings provide inspiration for a gold jewellery collection for Brazilian jeweller H. Stern. Piles of ropes in a shop form the basis of their breakout and now iconic Vermelha chair (1993), which uses 492 yards of cotton rope woven, knotted and looped around a metal frame.  To read the whole story, grab a copy of Prestige Singapore (August).