How Top Designers Interpret Camp

Inspired by the theme of the Met Gala 2019, we asked creatives from a range of fields to show us their interpretations of camp.

Inspired by the theme of the Met Gala 2019, we asked creatives from a range of fields to show us their interpretations of camp.

This year’s Met Gala theme, “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” has proven difficult for people to wrap their heads around. (One thing we know for sure: it has nothing to do with fire and marshmallows.) The theme was born out of Susan Sontag’s esoteric 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp,’” a sort of bible spelling out the laws of camp aesthetics. In general, the term suggests flamboyance, excessiveness, and fantasy—a style that would normally draw the ire of the fashion police.

The exhibition, opening May 9, explores the camp canon, from a sequin Versace catsuit emblazoned with Vogue covers to an opera coat resembling a packaged microwave meal by Mochino to Stephen Jones’s headpiece of oversized lips—the cheekiness is in-your-face.

Of course, what constitutes the genre is open to interpretation. Andrew Bolton, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Wendy Yu curator in charge of the costume institute, is quick to point out that all fashion is in some form or another campy. As we gear up for tonight’s Met Gala, we turned to the design world to crowdsource ideas about camp and to see how the style is manifested in these top designers’ work.

Martin Brudnizki, Interior Architect

Annabel’s has been a stalwart of London’s society pages since 1963. Its spirit is legendary and, at times, it was the definition of camp jollity. When we were asked to design the new Annabel’s, I knew we had to pay homage to this legacy and I think the ladies’ powder room in the nightclub might be the best example of this. From the pink velvet–tented ceiling, the eglomise mirrors, leopard-print fabrics galore and a neoclassical sculpture of “Vanity” cast in marble, the whole space fits beautifully into the long oeuvre of fabulous powder rooms—from François Boucher’s Toilette de Venus to Jayne Mansfield’s Pink Palace.

Gregory Rockwell-Scheidler, Interior Designer

I love Western style and Americana. I wanted to think about camp in a macho, masculine way. There are strains of camp in the contemporary art and design world that often get overlooked, and I wanted to expose those and my own desire for objects and styles that are camp, over-the-top, too now—like this Jean Royere sofa shown at Design Miami. It is perfect, refined and rare, of course, but the second you take it out of the gallery, it functions more like a trophy of design and taste. All the artists and designers in this space are male. I used Aaron Young’s motorcycle paintings as wallpaper and [installed] a Donald Judd chair. It’s today’s camp—for the cool, nonchalant, affluent set. This collage was made for an exercise on American Western design for an avant-garde client and art collector in New Mexico.

Meredith Stoecklein, Fashion Designer, Lein

When reading “Notes on ‘Camp,’” I found a similar sentiment [to how] I feel about Lein. The idea that there is a nod to the past and traditions, but this decision to take the seriousness out of it resonates well with Lein’s overall brand philosophy to honor bridal culture in a playful manner. Camp creates a badge of identity through a mode that brings enjoyment—a mode that is purely up to the beholder. Man Ray is an artist that I thought of when reading about camp. I love the humor in his work. There is beauty through his lens of surrealism. I also love that he considered himself a painter above all. He’s just campy to me, as are lace gloves in today’s world.

Gustavo Assis, Eyewear Designer, Lapima

For me, camp is exaggerated curves, surfaces and textures that exist in harmony despite their apparent differences. When creating something authentically, even the most extreme combinations exude beauty.

Fernando Jorge, Jewelry Designer

Camp is an exhibition of grand and fearless gestures. It is unapologetic, irreverent and leaves a lasting impression long after the party is over.

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