The Return of Memphis

The ’80s design phenomenon spearheaded by Ettore Sottsass is taking on a fresh new life

Memphis Milano collector Dennis Zanone's Malabar Room.
Memphis Milano collector Dennis Zanone's Malabar Room.
Courtesy of Dennis Zanone

Heads up, fans of postmodern design: Memphis, the Milan–based movement that burst onto the scene in 1981, is having a major resurgence. Members of the original group included Ettore Sottsass (the founder), Alessandro Mendini, and Michael Graves; their products included furniture, lighting, textiles, and home accessories in colorful asymmetrical shapes and bold, graphic patterns. The group’s signature decorative style—which infiltrated ’80s culture beyond home decor—is making a comeback as contemporary designers, many of whom grew up during the movement’s heyday, debut pieces inspired by the same aesthetic principles.

Reminiscent of Michele de Lucchi’s 1982 design, Kelly Behun’s plastic-laminate table balances on a black-and-white striped cylinder. Ceramist Morgan Peck’s work—which incorporates unexpected geometric shapes much like Aldo Cibic’s 1985 tea set—is stocked in trendsetting boutiques Totokaelo, Mociun, and Dream Collective. Belgian husband-and-wife-duo Muller Van Severen use contrasting color fields on their First chair in the same way that George Sowden did with his Palace chair in 1983. And Nathalie du Pasquier, a founding Memphis member, debuted new textiles—an extension of her original Memphis collection—at this year’s Salone del Mobile. Here, we do a side-by-side comparison. —Catherine Dash



THE TABLE

THEN: <a  target="_blank" href="http://store.memphis-milano.com/furniture/memphis-milano/michele-de-lucchi/fortune">Fortune side table by Michele de Lucchi</a>.
THEN: Fortune side table by Michele de Lucchi.
Courtesy of Studio Azzurro


THE DECORATIVE ACCENT

THEN: Cabbage Pepper Radish teapot, cup, and sugar bowl set by Aldo Cibic.
THEN: Cabbage Pepper Radish teapot, cup, and sugar bowl set by Aldo Cibic.
Courtesy of Roberto Gennari


THE CHAIR

THEN: <a  target="_blank" href="http://store.memphis-milano.com/furniture/memphis-milano/george-sowden/palace">Palace chair by George Sowden</a>.
THEN: Palace chair by George Sowden.
Courtesy of Studio Azzurro


THE TEXTILES

THEN: Cerchio, Mali, and Burundi fabrics by Nathalie Du Pasquier.
THEN: Cerchio, Mali, and Burundi fabrics by Nathalie Du Pasquier.
Courtesy of Studio Azzurro; Aldo Ballo, Guido Cegani, Peter Ogilvie

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