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Inspired by a shared appreciation of craft, three friends – Jon Strassburg, Heiko Keinath and Constanze Walcher – focussed decades of industry experience working across some of your favourite brands to create their own, Meta Campania Collective. With a focus on quality of make, fit, and material, their Paris-based, Italy-made single-source luxury brand is characterised by the lived-in individuality of each and every one of the timeless essentials it produces. A world away from the digital daydreams of tomorrow, this is a Meta-verse grounded in physical world reality.
Inspired by the wardrobes, nonchalance and lives of artists as varied as Pablo Picasso and Ed Ruscha, Meta elevates the everyday by offering essential items to “live and work in”. This is encapsulated by their lookbook which features a growing community of real people – from artists to chefs, musicians to athletes, photographers to healers – that live and work in their pieces. Inspired, LN-CC enlisted London-based photographer Harry Mitchell to shoot designer and maker James Shaw in the collection at his Walworth-based studio. His award-winning work explores the material landscape in a hands-on-way, James’ practice of functional art provides a playful environment for Meta Campania Collective. As Harry’s lens shoots James wearing his pick of the collection in and around his sculptural homewares made from waste plastics in an assortment of vivid colours, the brand’s co-creative director and co-founder Jon Strassburg talks us through the Meta-verse.
What would you say was the overriding catalyst for Meta Campania Collective?
This brand is a baby that has been a long time in the making. Constanze, Heiko and myself have been working in fashion for almost 20 years and we all wanted to start a brand at some point. Everything went really fast when we started talking about it in July 2020. Our instinct told us that it was the right moment, so I left my previous role at Bottega Veneta to put my full attention on Meta Campania Collective.
That’s a huge life change.
We saw that there was something missing in the market, something we and our friends would wear and get excited about. A brand where you can find the most incredible knitwear, T-shirts, jackets, trousers, bags etc. A destination. Impeccable quality of materials. Made at the best manufacturers in Italy. With fits that look and feel good and that work with our lifestyle. Discreet, no branding, never in your face; just tasteful and nonchalant. Simple but special. It’s about the feeling you have when you wear something you love.
What was on your design moodboard?
Art and artists were, and are, the key inspiration. From the mindset of an artist – the freedom and positivity – to the look. The uniform that somehow many artists have in common.
What inspired the name, Meta Campania Collective?
The name came to me four years ago while travelling to Positano on the Amalfi coast with my boyfriend at the time. You know how you think about names – what would you name your dog, your child, your brand? I was looking at the stunning scenery when we passed the street sign of this village called Meta, right when you arrive on the Amalfi coast after Naples. The name struck me immediately. The simplicity. The four letters. The beautiful 1960s street sign. I knew this was going to be the name of the brand I wanted to create one day.
What would you say is the strongest truth about Meta Campania Collective?
No compromise. Anyone working in the industry knows how you have to cut corners once in a while to reduce costs, or make things apparently more commercial. We wanted to create a brand that doesn’t cut these corners. We believe in a positive chain of energy. It’s not only the surface that counts, but everything that lies beneath matters too. From the fact that we avoid glues or un-natural materials in interlinings to who we work with and how we treat them. Everything is important.
As it launches at LN-CC, how would you describe this collection?
The fast answer is: It’s the artist uniform crossed with 90s surfer wear. Created In the most incredible materials and make.
What is it about artists that most inform your garments?
Apart from the key silhouettes of the workwear jacket and drawstring trousers, it is the nonchalance – the seemingly ‘I don’t give a f... attitude’ – that we find most inspiring. That’s so elegant. It’s about underlining your personality rather than overshadowing it. A look that works in your studio as much as an evening out, an opening, a dinner or party. For this reason, we implemented the tagline ‘Lives and works in’ a stock phrase from every artist bio. For Meta Campania Collective it has a double meaning. It references an artist’s biography by introducing artists and creatives into our cosmos and it refers to the customer who ‘lives and works in’ our products.
This is celebrated in your lookbook, which is a celebration of real artists wearing Meta Campania Collective in a natural way.
Exactly. We shot the lookbook on friends and people that inspire us. Artists, chefs, musicians, athletes, photographers, models, healers etc. It goes back to no compromise. We wanted to create products for artists and creatives or people that like that look- so it was only a natural conclusion to shoot it on them. The most important part for us is to see how everyone responded to the products and the brand. These are people that don’t necessarily like to be in front of the camera and only do this, because they like it and believe in it. They have different body types, genders, racial, sexual and religious backgrounds. They are part of our life and we believe that viewers can find themselves represented.
Now, we've shot James Shaw in the collection at his studio. To what extent were you aware of his practice of interrogating material and challenging the notion of waste?
I didn’t know him before you introduced him to us, but love the work and the thinking behind it the minute I started looking into his work. It’s so good. I really like the texture and colours in his work. It’s very tactile. It makes me smile. The fact that he recreates day to day design objects in this way. I think we are from the same generation more or less- I understand where he is coming from and find the message really powerful. Creating something so beautiful and inspiring out of waste. I look forward to seeing his work and hearing about it from him. James also has an interesting look and I knew the clothes would look good on him.
Finally, what's next for Meta Campania Collective? What excites you most about tomorrow?
Most immediately - the next season, Season 03. That is what I’m flying to Italy for. It’s always really exciting to see prototypes and I can’t wait to see, feel and fit them.
Something more longer term that excites me is seeing how things will evolve and hopefully grow to what we have in mind. And non-brand related, seeing this unnecessary war coming to an end and for these conflicting times to calm down.