City in a Suitcase: Artist Camille Walala Gives Us a Peek into London’s Culture

Our City in a Suitcase series takes a closer look at the art, design and architecture through the eyes of four international cities and creatives who live and work in them. Each will pack a TUMI 19 Degree suitcase full of items that they feel best represents their city’s culture. Take a look:

12.08.16 | By
City in a Suitcase: Artist Camille Walala Gives Us a Peek into London’s Culture

East London has always been full of a diverse mix of creative people. Often the first settling place for immigrants fleeing religious persecution or coming to seek their fortune on streets ‘paved with gold,’ it received influxes of French Huguenots in the 17th century, Ashkenazi Jews en route to America in the 19th century, and people from all over the world into the 20th and the 21st centuries, making it one of the most vibrant, multicultural and dynamic parts of London. One of its latest arrivals is French-born Camille Walala who is (literally) painting East London her own inimitable brand of colorful. Describing herself as a “purveyor of powerfully positive print,” she graduated in textile design from the University of Brighton and established her eponymous brand in 2009. Inspired by the Memphis Movement, the Ndebele tribe and Optical Art master Vasarely, she also says much of her work is driven by a simple desire to make people smile. Over the past 17 years she’s been putting smiles on faces everywhere from pop-up restaurants to canal boats and for clients including Nintendo, XOYO, Koppaberg, Bompas&Parr, Darkroom, Barbican Festival and Land of King.




We visited Camille in her East London home to talk about her favorite East End haunts and what inspires her about this corner of the capital…

Since we can’t all hang out in London’s hottest ‘hood, we asked Camille to choose a range of items to represent the city she loves. Her selection includes work from local up-and-coming designers – a sure sign of the close-knit creative community in this part of town – objects that inspire her, and a good dollop of the color and pattern with which she’s made her name. The rug in the background of all the shots is by Congo – Camille’s own design for Floor Story.

Here’s a list of Camille’s selections, where she bought them, and why:


Fluoro red necklace by Eleanor Bolton
Eleanor Bolton is a British designer based in London. I used to share studio with her a few years back and I was always so fascinated to watch her creating her hand-stitched necklaces so effortlessly. I’ve got one in pretty much every color! They are so versatile and go with so many of my favorite outfits.


Hand-knitted scarf by Giannina Capitani
Established very recently, Giannina Capitani is a London-based designer with Italian and Scottish ancestry. What I love about her work is that she draws inspiration from both her historical pasts. Combining Italian designs with Scottish textile tradition. She’s all about bold, colorful graphic patterns – right up my street!


Modernist Estates by Stefi Orazi
I’m absolutely fascinated by the housing estates in London. This amazing book gives a great insight into what some of these remarkable housing estates look like, the impact they have on communities and what it’s like to live in places like these.


East London Food
When I first moved to East London 15 years ago, you were hard pressed to find a half-decent restaurant to eat in. Now this neighborhood has the pick of the bunch, boasting amazing culinary delights from all over the world. I love this book because it presents the best of the best in East London – my home. I’m slowly working my way through it!


Brutal London: Construct Your Own Concrete Capital
The Brutalist movement seems to be having a revival in a huge way of late, and I for one am definitely on the bandwagon! I’m a total fan of this style of architecture. Published by Prestel (one of my favorite publishers), this clever book allows you to replicate your favorite Brutalist structures in 3D using their pre cut and folded buildings – hours of fun whilst learning about these great historical buildings!


Stripy Vase by Ann and Stuart Mercer
I am a big fan of these two! Ann has a history in ceramics, Stuart in architecture. Together they have fused their incredibly different crafts and have created a collection of ceramic pieces based around a post-modernist, asymmetrical and symmetrical architectural forms. They decorate each piece with patterns found in the urban landscape. I absolutely love these objects – they are so incredibly beautiful and clean.


Battersea Power Station in Plaster by Chisel & Mouse
Battersea Power Station was built in 1933 by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott is an absolute icon of the London skyline. Sir Giles Gilbert is one of my absolute favorite architects and is known for some of the most prolific buildings in London. I need to take this replica with me in my case!!


Vivienne Westwood shoes
These iconic shoes were first released in 1985 and are still amazingly cutting-edge today! Ever since these shoes were first released, I have dreamt of owning a pair, but unfortunately I couldn’t afford the price tag – until a few years ago. I love owning a piece of fashion history like this.


Split Shift Tiles by Darkroom, in collaboration with Bert & May
I have been a huge fan of Darkroom for ages – it was in my eyes the best design shop in London, and beautifully curated. They have just launched an incredible tile range that they produced as a collaboration with interiors shop Bert & May of East London. They’re pretty heavy, but I need the whole suitcase full of them!


Jacket from Martina Spetlova
Martina Spetlova has a great story in that she has a background as a Chemistry graduate! The London-based fashion designer originally from Prague, creates incredibly beautiful woven leather garments. I love how she experiments with textiles and creates patterns in the materials she uses.


I keep sketchbooks to inspire my work, so I’m always picking up postcards, paper and ephemera. I recently went to see the brilliant exhibition of Malik Sidibé at Somerset House, so I picked up these postcards to add in my sketchbook.


Plate by Camille Walala for ARIA
I designed this plate for my collaboration with design shop ARIA during the 2015 London Design Festival entitled Walala In Da House – it is inspired by Memphis design.


Trunk Vase by Richard Wood
I have very much admired Richard Wood’s design work for a long time, so I was delighted when he produced his first collection of vases for Danish brand Hay, featuring his typical colored woodgrain imagery.


Where are some of your favorite places to shop for local art and design in London?

PSST… Check our our London Travel Guide!

This post is in partnership with TUMI. Our partners are hand-picked by the Design Milk team because they represent the best in design.

Katie Treggiden is a purpose-driven journalist, author and, podcaster championing a circular approach to design – because Planet Earth needs better stories. She is also the founder and director of Making Design Circular, a program and membership community for designer-makers who want to join the circular economy. With 20 years' experience in the creative industries, she regularly contributes to publications such as The Guardian, Crafts Magazine and Monocle24 – as well as being Editor at Large for Design Milk. She is currently exploring the question ‘can craft save the world?’ through an emerging body of work that includes her fifth book, Wasted: When Trash Becomes Treasure (Ludion, 2020), and a podcast, Circular with Katie Treggiden.