With a career beginning in textiles, Camille Walala’s colorful and inspiring journey has seen her collaborate with some of the world’s biggest brands. These include Nike, Harrods, Lego and Converse.
“I didn’t really know what I was doing,” recalls Camille Walala, a London-based multidisciplinary designer, of a time before establishing her namesake brand in 2009.
A “purveyor of positivity”, Walala was raised in the South of France in a Provence village of 300 people. “It was nice to grow up there, but I really hated school,” she adds, continuing to explain how she had failed her GCSEs and A-Levels, and that she wasn’t quite sure which direction to take in this part of her life. “But then my dad eventually told me to go to London to learn English when I was 23,” she says, and what was meant to be a three-month residency soon turned into 20 years.
Walala instantly felt at ease in East London and worked in hospitality until she pursued a degree in Textiles at Brighton University. After graduating in 2008, however, she soon came to realize that it wasn’t the right profession for her: she didn’t want to work for anyone else.
As such, Walala steered away from textiles and began experimenting with graphic forms and shapes. Naturally, she arrived on a different and exciting path – “It took a long time to find what I wanted,” she says, pointing to both of her parents who had a huge influence on her creatively. “My mum’s house is decorative and she has lots of beautiful clothes. She’s got a really nice style – it’s really homely and she’s not scared of using colors and patterns.”
Surrounded by fabrics growing up – particularly those with a Provence and African-infused pattern – it comes to no surprise to hear that this would have an impact on Walala later on. What’s more is that her father, an architect based in Paris, encouraged her geometric and structural way of thinking – “proper architecture that’s quite black and grey, with lots of concrete and beautiful shapes,” she adds. “My style definitely comes from both parents.”
Walala’s bout of confidence after graduating pushed her to open up a stand on London’s Broadway Market to sell her cushions and fabrics. Although this wasn’t successful in the long run, it gave her the opportunity to network – resulting in a job to paint a mural for her friend’s exhibition.
Walala’s next venture was a Memphis-inspired lounge housed in London’s night club, XOYO. “I’d never done anything like this before, it was really amazing,” she says. “I had the opportunity to do the interior and I just went wild. It was just what I wanted.”
The start of many commissions, this was the birthplace of her playful and large-scale designs. Walala began projecting, painting and adorning walls and streets across London. This expanded upon her already impressive client list including Harrods, Sarenza, Armani, The Other Art Fair, Nike, Selfridges, Converse, and Facebook.
Last year, she was asked to create an interactive space on South Molton Street for London Design Festival. A semi-permanent creation, this project fit the bill entirely for the new direction that the designer was seeking to partake. “I love the idea of pushing art permanently because I’m interested in transforming the city and bringing a bit of joy and color,” she explains. Working with collage, “quite basic colors” and shapes, the installation was formed of 11 benches and enabled its passers-by to sit and relax with their vibrant surroundings.
Most recently, the designer collaborated with Lego for a project titled House of Dots. Her task: create a facade in London’s King’s Cross and to decorate it in Lego’s signature playful style. Walala landed on something a little more interactive than her previous works. “As it’s for kids, I wanted to do something where they could come and play,” she says, “or just discover something different.”
The finished result is a joyous house filled with multiple rooms, comprising Lego’s new range of 2D tiles and an aesthetic plucked from Saudi Arabia and the work of Bolivian architect Freddy Mamani. “We didn’t have any barriers,” she continues, commenting on how there were no strict rules in the process. “We didn’t create things like we would in a normal house.”
Walala strives to create work that’s positive and impactful – the perfect antidote to the turbulence across the globe. Future plans, although currently on hold, will see her working more with the community. A soup kitchen with a space for the homeless is at the top of the list for the designer. “I have food and I want to collaborate,” she says, “and I want to find a space that can bring the community together.”