Shortly after he was tapped as Global Creative Director of Camper and it’s more adventurous sub-brand CAMPERLAB, Achilles Ion Gabriel uprooted his Parisian life to move to the island of Mallorca. Located off of Spain’s eastern coast, the idyllic Mediterranean island has been home to the Spanish footwear company’s headquarters since its founding in 1975. Since arriving in Mallorca, the 33-year-old Finnish designer has been mining the island’s culture and its natural beauty for inspiration. An experienced footwear designer in his own right, he now brings his youthful, surrealist eye to the Spanish brand. Combining a heritage brand like Camper with Gabriel’s intrepid mind might not make sense at first, but as seen with his first offering for the AW20 collection, it is possible to combine tradition with innovation, and magic. The result? True weirdness, the kind that makes you wonder, brings you joy, but also feels like home. As Gabriel readies to present his next collection while settling into his new home, he found time to speak with the equally daring Spanish actress and Pedro Almodóvar muse, Rossy de Palma about finding inspiration in the magic of Mallorca and letting your imagination fly. In the spirit of Camper’s new playful era, Richie Shazam the photographer, model, and muse put Camper’s AW20 collection to work and brought the magic of Mallorca, Spain to the streets of Reno, Nevada. — ERNESTO MACIAS
ACHILLES ION GABRIEL: How is your day?
DE PALMA: I’m in a butterfly mood. Sometimes in your life you feel like a snake changing your skin. Later, you feel like a phoenix, rising from the ashes. Now, I’m like a puppy or a butterfly. I just learned an amazing thing, How do you say in English, “Before the butterfly becomes a butterfly, she’s a…”
ERNESTO MACIAS: A caterpillar.
DE PALMA: I learned that the caterpillar, when it’s beginning to transform into a butterfly, they don’t recognize the butterfly. He thinks it’s a colonizer or an invader or something toxic that wants to kill him.
GABRIEL: Oh, wow.
DE PALMA: The metamorphosis is amazing. We as human beings in life, when something changes, we are not accepting at the beginning.
DE PALMA: When I was studying metamorphosis, I discovered that the word “amor” is inside the metamorphosis. We have to be careful with ourselves and kind when we are changing, and now I’m changing. I’m going to have a rebirth.
GABRIEL: I’m addicted to all the David Attenborough documentaries and that subject, but I’ve never heard this before.
DE PALMA: How old are you?
GABRIEL: I just turned 33.
DE PALMA: The age of Christ. A beautiful age. The forties are amazing, the fifties, too. Everybody who’s waiting for me in their sixties, they say that they are amazing, too. I think the key to staying young is to always be amazed by everything.
GABRIEL: I’m like a child, even when it comes to designing a collection.
DE PALMA: My friend Jean-Paul Gaultier is like that. He’ll never change.
GABRIEL: I was saying earlier, for me to move to Mallorca—it’s weighing on me. I come from Finland. Our country’s dead because of snow on everything most of the year. Coming here, with all the nature, all the culture, all the handcrafting, it couldn’t be better for a designer.
DE PALMA: It’s amazing, right?
GABRIEL: I’ve been coming here for more than a year, I would say every second week. But I got here in June, and I’m going to move everything here. I’m leaving my place in Paris.
DE PALMA: Now we can live wherever we want. We can do these connections online. But for work, it’s better you stay and take inspiration from Mallorca.
GABRIEL: It’s important for me to have the approach. I want to have an honest approach, and Camper is Mallorca’s friend. I have to make sure people can recognize the Mallorquin aspect of my designs.
DE PALMA: You look like a Mallorquin. You have to buy yourself a hat for the countryside.
GABRIEL: Oh, I have one.
DE PALMA: Mallorca has something very archaic. My father and my mother, they are not from Mallorca. They are from the north. But I’m born in Mallorca. The Corsica islands have a history of pirates, so there are treasures to be unearthed.
GABRIEL: I’ve heard. That’s why a lot of really beautiful places are not by the shore, they are inland. Because they were scared of the pirates.
DE PALMA: Totally.
GABRIEL: Do you have any of those Siurell whistle sculptures?
DE PALMA: I love Siurells.
GABRIEL: I want to make a room with only Siurells; walls, ceiling, floor, table.
DE PALMA: The other day I just found an artist on Instagram who makes Siurells into a lot of things, even a penis.
GABRIEL: I really want to see a Siurell penis.
DE PALMA: [Laughs] Also the food is amazing. You’re eating well, right?
GABRIEL: I’m not really into food, but I always say, if I have to choose between good food or bad food, I choose good food.
DE PALMA: What is typical in Finland?
GABRIEL: We don’t grow tomatoes. But we also eat things like reindeer. In France, they’re shocked. They’re like, “Why do you eat reindeer? They’re beautiful.” We have a lot of fish, but from lakes, not so much from the sea.
DE PALMA: In Mallorca you have a lot of organic food. It’s very good because a lot of people grow it in their homes. They cook us these pizzas that are rectangular.
GABRIEL: I didn’t have lunch yet. I want to go and eat.
DE PALMA: I want to show you some places. You have to meet Sadrassana, who has a restaurant and gallery in Palma and who is a friend of mine. You drive, right?
GABRIEL: If you don’t drive in Mallorca, good luck. I live in Es Malpas. I have a bad habit of driving a bit too fast because I can’t wait to go to the office in the morning.
DE PALMA: That’s good. You’re motivated. What do you attack first? The ideas or the drawings?
GABRIEL: These days there’s so many meetings. I’m collecting inspiration and I’m trying to block times on the calendar when there are no meetings. Sometimes meetings that I don’t personally find very inspiring, but it’s important that I’m there—that ruins my day for creating. So I try to do boring meetings on certain days, and then keep the rest of the week free.
DE PALMA: Then you can let your imagination fly.
GABRIEL: We have amazing archives here at the Camper headquarters. We have archived shoes from 1975. I’m trying to do a Mallorquin thing, more than maybe Camper has ever done before. But since I’m not Mallorquin, it’s going to be a surreal view of Mallorca, from my eyes.
DE PALMA: In Mallorca, the sea is so present in your life. Your first kiss, your first joint, everything happens close to the sea. When I came to Madrid, it was so hard to get used to being around buildings all the time, to not have that endless horizon.
GABRIEL: We go to the market here and I’m like, “Give me, give me, give me.” What I love here is that people don’t rush. You can be late, but you don’t have to rush. I wake up before the sun. I’m waiting there to get it up and it looks really beautiful. I’ve never had it before.
DE PALMA: Now, you have your first collection for Camper. It feels dreamy, like something inspired by children’s fairy tales.
GABRIEL: When you can do something nice and positive, you want to do it. There are enough negative things in the world. So for me, it’s really important that the collection has a positive approach. It’s about being fun or even silly and not so serious, because things don’t have to be, especially shoes and clothes. Serious is boring.
Special Thanks: Lulu Wei. Joe Daniel Montelongo
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