Colombia-born, Queens-raised and Brooklyn-based designer Alexander Campaz recently debuted his brand-new capsule collection in our Fashion Shop. Here, he discusses his childhood working side by side with his father, and how the work they produced together—and the environment surrounding them—directly influenced his current line.
Your pieces seem to be strongly influenced by athletic uniforms. Did sports figure prominently in your childhood?
My father played professional soccer for a time, then went on to make soccer uniforms. I have worked with him since I was a child—I was basically raised in his studio, and now in his old age he accompanies me in my studio. When we left Colombia and came to the United States we continued to make uniforms, producing pieces for DOS, one of the only companies making soccer uniforms in the States. (They made the original uniform for the Cosmos when Pelé came to town.)
This is one of the first designs I ever made—it was for our last game of the season and the uniform we won the tournament in! I think I was 12. (That’s me in the bottom row, first on the left. My brother is kneeling, second from the right. And, yes, that’s my dad!)
So you actually collaborated with your dad as a young boy?
When I was around ten, I started designing soccer uniforms for my father and also developing the typography and layouts of the artwork for the local soccer teams we were producing for. I taught myself how to screen print and continued to develop designs well into my teens. By then I was designing concept uniforms for a great deal of the teams that played all across the city, from Astoria to Flushing Meadow Park to the Bronx and Brooklyn.
I was a teenager when I made these uniforms. I taught myself a special dying process and made these for the local Ecuadorian team. They’re inspired by the German jerseys of that same era.
These days, those ideas still inform my work. Soccer uniforms, comic book art and classic salsa music from the ’60s and ’70s that my parents listened have been the most influential.
Classic salsa from the ’60s and ’70s can only mean one thing: Fania.
Exactly. Some of the songs I remember would play as I worked with my father in his studio while the T.V. showed soccer matches (with the sound off, of course). I particularly remember playing Ray Barretto’s Acid and the Fania All-Stars’ Bamboleo and Super Salsa Singers late into the night as I worked alongside my dad. Acid and Bamboleo were played on repeat: Acid has a lot of instrumentals and Ray Barretto on the congas; it’s a fusion of afro-Cuban and jazz rhythms with so much funk and soul all over it. And the typography and layout is just amazing!
Bamboleo was another record that fused many different styles—it even covers Sade’s “Smooth Operator” and the Gypsy Kings—but its design is the opposite: strong colors that remind me of the sharp color blocks I love to see in sports uniforms.
Super Salsa Singers was a compilation of songs by the full roster of the Fania label, and the artwork portrays many of the artists as superheroes: Hector Laveo as Aqua Man, Ismael Miranda as Robin, Cheo Feliciano as Batman, Celia Rivera as Wonder Woman and Ismael Rivera as The Flash. I mean, come on—that’s hot stuff!
My love of superhero outfits and their emblems also made their way into my work. This idea in particular is something I have always loved and wanted to revisit as an adult. I think you can see all of this coming together in this collection.
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