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In a pale-pink living and dining room at creative director Duncan Campbell’s apartment in London’s leafy Camden Square, the dapper Scotsman and his equally elegant Swedish business partner, Charlotte Rey, are putting the finishing touches on their first cohosted dinner party. The pair, having previously worked together as coeditors of Acne Paper, the magazine from the Swedish fashion brand, founded their consultancy, Campbell-Rey, just four years ago. The two have already completed ambitious projects for companies like Bentley and Baccarat and design commissions for 1stdibs and the London Edition hotel. More recently, they’ve started to design furniture and glassware under their own label.
Campbell and Rey, both 31, make the preparations for their fete look effortless. It’s their way: quietly efficient, convivial, and upbeat. The dining table, which is covered in a hand-painted tablecloth by Campbell’s partner, the artist and designer Luke Edward Hall, for Summerill & Bishop, is overlaid with vases of flowers and eucalyptus, while a clashing mix of Murano glassware, which they designed, mixes well with the Svenskt Tenn place mats. “We’re fascinated with this idea of how an object, like a letter holder, or a material, like glass, can tell a story,” explains Rey. “Things in history that have altered how people act in a social sphere. So we go for quite grown-up brands with heritage.” Campbell nods in agreement as he places Lobmeyr wineglasses next to Wedgwood dishes. “I think that’s what we’re about: putting things in a new context and making them relevant again,” he says.
With the relaxing sounds of bossa nova playing, chef Brett Redman, co-founder of Neptune, a new, modern British restaurant in Bloomsbury, prepares a spring feasting menu. Campbell takes care of the drinks, pouring sparkling wine for his chatty guests. Just as one might expect from these bright young things, their friends are all a part of the city’s art and fashion scenes. “We’re drawn to people who are not necessarily doing the same kind of work as we are, but share the same spirit of enthusiasm and grabbing things by the horns,” Campbell says.
The Campbell-Rey style of entertaining? Informal, lots of seat hopping, and plenty of drinks. As French fashion photographer Billal Taright serves himself a generous helping of a carrot and hazelnut salad, he explains: “Every time I’m feeling down, I come over. It always has a great feeling here, not forced.”
Raven Smith, a freelance creative director, concurs as he stabs a large piece of chilled lobster with his fork. “Taste is hard to put into words, but they definitely have it,” he says. “I believe the house is a reflection of your personality, so I can learn about you through your stuff. From what I know of Duncan and Luke, this feels like them.”
It’s a festive bunch. The glamorous New Yorker Paola Fendi, niece of the Fendi sisters and a specialist in postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s in London, talks industry gossip on the sofa with curator and gallerist Tayah Leigh Barrs. “We’re a generation that really supports each other,” says Barrs, who worked for Mario Testino before opening her own gallery, Studio Leigh, in Shoreditch in 2015. Proof of comradeship, she notes, is the fact that she and Rey are wearing their friend Haeni Kim’s designs from her new fashion label, Kitri, which launched last March. Rose Mann, the owner of the fashionable Farm Girl cafés, is a Kitri fan too and thrilled to meet Kim at tonight’s dinner.
As the party turns to dessert—a decadently layered Pavlova—Barrs comments, “Did you know there’s a WhatsApp group for my generation of London gallerists? It’s about sharing and helping each other. Friendly competition.” Sitting close by is her industry colleague, the suited and booted Italian-Austrian Leopold Thun, son of designer and Memphis cofounder Matteo Thun, who opened his contemporary gallery Emalin in Bethnal Green 18 months ago. His thoughts on what makes a good party? “New people mixed with old friends and plenty of drinks,” he says.
As Rey brings more drinks to the table, she muses over the ambience she and Campbell have tried to create and how a soiree in her own home might differ. “The more people feel at home, the better,” she concludes. “To make everyone feel like they can make the space their own, to talk to whomever they want and to do whatever they want. Duncan and Luke have dinner parties. I’d probably have a dawn-reaching boogie at mine.”