Bald guys. An electrical outlet masquerading as a space alien. It's not the kind of artwork you'd expect to see in an upscale store in San Francisco's Union Square. But for Camper, the Spanish shoemaker with a global reach, it's a way to connect with customers and address hard business realities. The still-under-construction store, dubbed a ''Walk in Progress'' by designer Martí Guixé, opened last December. "We opened with the least amount of investment and the highest level of creativity," explains Dalia Saliamonas, Camper's export director.
The small Majorcan company couldn't see the point of not selling its products while it paid rent. So Guixé had the idea of allowing customers to use Camper-red ink to draw and scribble whatever they want on the walls of an empty store — save for the shoes displayed on cheap plywood laid over dozens of shoe boxes. Once the store's permanent look is ready, the Walk in Progress will be dismantled. What's the most popular message from customers? According to Saliamonas, it's "Keep the store just the way it is."
A version of this article appeared in the May 2002 issue of Fast Company magazine.