A footwear store with a twist
by Adeline Seidel | Jun 23, 2015
The architect Diébédo Francis Kéré has devised and executed a unique retail concept on the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein for Camper. Photo © Vitra

If you want to attract customers to your store nowadays you definitely need to walk that extra mile. By installing free Wifi, for example, along with charging points for people’s smart electronic devices. Such services, so the hope, will prompt visitors to the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein to set foot in Camper’s new pop-up store there. Take a rest on a blue seating sculpture in front of the main entrance, spend a while surfing and get your smartphone powered up again. Thus refreshed and recharged, you are ready to buckle up and enjoy the branding extravaganza that takes the shape of a geodesic dome à la Buckminster Fuller – and visit an exhibition, open-air museum and showroom all rolled into one.

The experts at Camper really know their stuff when it comes to staging their brand: As long ago as 1981 the Majorcan footwear manufacturer was trailblazing in the sector: it opened a “mono brand store” in Barcelona. And in the “Camper Together” stores various designers were put through their paces designing the Camper universe – including Konstantin Grcic in Berlin, Jaime Hayon in Tokyo and Neri&Hu in Shanghai, to name but a few of the collaborations between star designers and the footwear manufacturer. The philosophy: Though they like to have the same footwear range the world over, today’s cosmopolitans prefer not to have it showcased in the same predictable brand architecture over and over again.

Exploring new retail and technology concepts: By the Camper-Pop-up-Store Vitra is going back to its origin as a storedesign-company. Photo © Vitra

At first glance, the pop-up store on the Vitra Campus, designed by Berlin architect Diébédo Francis Kéré, looks rather simple; on closer inspection, it reveals itself to be quite an exciting experiment destined to interlace the advantages of both the online and offline worlds. The aim is to create a fresh and exciting shopping experience. Two elliptical rings made of shelves that act as dividers make up two spaces: The one in the center of the domed structure is capacious and bright. A mat made of woven seaweed (in Majorca they are called “Esparto”) and cobalt blue seat cushions named “Mochi” (designed by Hella Jongerius for Vitra) lend the space a relaxed and unpretentious feel. The idea, the architect explains, is to get prospective customers chatting with other people while everyone has fun trying on the shoes presented on the shelves as if they were so many well-heeled collector’s items.

The second space, barely three meters wide, envelops the first like a planetary ring. This environment is devoted less to the product and more to the brand. What you will find here are projects and product information that are essential to understanding the brand. The white shelving modules are extremely versatile: Shelves can be removed to make more room or fitted with sliding doors for practical storage space. While the power cables have been expertly integrated in the shelf units and remain concealed from sight.

Passageways connect the two spatial zones with one another and also act as a link between the temporary installation and the surrounding interior of the Fuller Dome. Photo © Vitra

Those wishing to find out even more about the shoes can do so at the pop-up store. Some of the items on display have been fitted with an RFID chip and present the facts about themselves on a monitor if placed on a designated surface on the shelf. In addition, customers keen on precision can have their feet digitally measured. The advantage: They will be advised on models that are optimally suited to their feet’s anatomy. Plus the computer is happy to toe the line should the sales expert feel the need for added assistance. Customers can have their personal data stored on a card and online in their personal Camper account and retrieve it on their next shopping trip. In addition, via large touchscreens you can connect to the entire footwear range on the Net, including full information on the models, sizes and colors available. “The reason,” explains Camper CEO Miguel Fluxá, “is that no Camper store is able to have all 700 models readily at hand.” Introducing the possibility of online shopping in stationary trading.

For Camper it is the first store to combine the benefits of online shopping (emancipated customers keen to find out about the products themselves and not happy to accept limits to the selection) with the sensory experience of the offline world. To this end, Camper could not have picked a better location than Vitra Campus – as it turns out Kéré’s concept is quite time-consuming. But that’s not a problem here as visitors to Vitra are already in the mood to immerse themselves in detailed content. Plus, compared to the usual downtown shopping trip the Campus setting offers plenty of tranquility and leisure to play with the possibilities offered by the store. While the shoemaker employed to illustrate in situ what it takes to make a Camper shoe will be happy to answer the one or other question. The verdict: The pop-up store is the perfect place for genuine Camper fans who wish to indulge in the brand experience and feel that purchasing an ordinary pair of shoes is a tad mundane.

Camper Pop-up Store
Vitra Campus, Weil am Rhein
June 18 thru September 30, 2015
Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The book on Camper
The Walking Society
Edited by Anniina Koivu
408 pages, approx. 500 illustrations, hardcover,
Lars Mueller Publishers, Zurich 2015
49.00 euros

Strolling through the outer zone, visitors learn interesting details about the Camper brand, while the central area of the installation offers a direct, hands-on encounter with the shoes. Photo © Vitra
In both areas, digital devices supply visitors with more in-depth information as architect Diébédo Francis Kéré (left) und Hanns-Peter Cohn (Head Shop Segment) (right from the monitor) explain. Photo © Adeline Seidel, Stylepark
The central element of the retail architecture is a self-supporting, shelf-like wall construction, which was realised by the Vitra company Vizona using blockboard. Photo © Vitra
Premiere for the „Mono 6 P/L” system for in-store communication by Visplay: This system bundles the electrical wiring needed for lighting and digital signage. Photo © Vitra
The Vitra Group’s lighting specialist, Ansorg, planned and supplied a product lighting solution for the project that can be easily adjusted by an Ipad. Photo © Vitra