Meet Camiel, The architect behind our first unisex bag

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The Brussels-based architect Camiel van Noten launched a capsule collection with Lies Mertens. In this first collab in a series of partnerships with other creatives, he created a set of objects complementing the unisex CAMIEL bag Lies designed.

Just like Lies, Camiel highly values interdisciplinarity. His work surpasses the borders of architecture and investigates the relationship between architecture, scenography and art. Lies and Camiel have known each other personally for years, but their professional paths crossed at the University of Antwerp. Here, Camiel administered a workshop, “The Question of Cladding”, designing and producing tiles with the attending students. 

The University of Antwerp is not the only educational institution he’s linked to, Camiel is also responsible for a design studio in Kingston School of Arts (London) and contributes to schools like the London Metropolitan University and the Architectural Association School of Architecture. 

largeThe tiles Camiel created during his workshops at the UA consist of the same material as the objects he designed for this limited edition. The creation process also followed a similar logic.  

“Jean Arp focused on chance and arbitrariness in “According to the Laws of Chance”, dropping painted pieces of paper on the surface of his work. I’m inspired by this painting and try to incorporate chance in my artistic process as well. I believe artists should pay more attention to the unpredictable nature of experimenting, letting go of control. All my objects are handmade. The material we use never reacts in the exact same way, giving every object a unique texture and original colour sequence.” 

“As a student, I already felt that there often is a disconnection between designing and creating. In school, ideas are contrived and executed behind a computer. Best case scenario, the designer creates a scale model. That’s a pity because it can be very inspiring to start working on something right away, laying the foundations for a design as you move forwards. I’ve created both my objects and tiles based on this idea.”

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He performed these experiments in collaboration with Angel Solanellas Terés. Together with Lies, the trio investigated how they could merge this process with a bag design. Lies chose to incorporate the objects’ pattern in the lining of her handbag. 

Camiel is enthusiastic about the bag carrying his name. “I use it often, especially when travelling. The bag is easy to adjust, there’s space for my laptop and I can put it on top of my trolley. It’s very simple and practical.”

He’s not only fascinated by creative processes but also has a weak spot for the role of ornaments in contemporary culture. “How can architecture represent symbolism and cultural values? I recently visited Wales and was enchanted by the historical houses and gardens. Admiring the country houses, you get the chance to learn more about the stories and symbolism behind the things you see.”

Camiel appreciates the functionality and conscious decisions in the work of Lies Mertens. “I’ve known Lies for a long time and I saw her brand evolve. Starting with the leather processing workshops she attended and the very first designs, to the label she owns now. It’s admirable how successful she became.”

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