The various channels of fashion and design media have been recently awash in Memphis references. The New York Times, W, Wallpaper, even Fast Company have reported on contemporary designers under the influence of the '80s-era Memphis Group.
If a Memphis revival is, in fact, underway, we thought it would be interesting to see how Memphis-Milano—the torch (and license) bearer for the original Memphis designs—feels about it. We reached out to Dr. Alberto Bianchi Albrici, the dedicated owner of the Memphis brand since the mid-1990s, who's had a front row seat to the fortune and failures of these storied pieces, which, by the way, have remained in continuous production for nearly 35 years. Here's what he had to say:
WC: Do you believe we’re in the midst of a Memphis revival? Have you noticed many young designers who seem influenced by Memphis?
Alberto Bianchi Albrici: If I consider all the applications I’ve received over the years from young designers who want to work for us—because they say they share the same spirit and feeling as us—then in my opinion it is difficult to use the word “revival.” Maybe I am a bit biased, but I have always seen a lot of interest in and curiosity about Memphis. It has never stopped. For example, if you consider the world of fashion, which is maybe the most trendy world, Sergio Rossi designed a collection inspired by Memphis in 2013, and only a few months ago Adidas, one of the most popular brands in the world, editioned three pairs of shoes called ZX Memphis. These examples are just a few of the most recent; it’s clear to me that the Memphis myth is still influencing our taste.
WC: What do you think is Memphis’s greatest legacy?
ABA: In general you speak about legacy after the end of something, but Memphis is still hale and hearty. Probably the most important lesson of Memphis is to learn to be free without being influenced by what surrounds you.
WC: What have you found to be the most popular Memphis object over the years?
ABA: The revolution created by Memphis in the design field comes from finding the right mix of unusual shapes, colors, serigraph patterns, and materials. Products such as Carlton, Casablanca, Kristal, Beverly, and Ashoka all represent very well the Memphis philosophy. Maybe for this reason, they are still the most iconic and popular objects.
We wholeheartedly believe that the world of collectible design would not exist as we know it today were it not for the radical designers of 1970s and ‘80s Italy!
*All photos courtesy of Memphis-Milano.
Wava CarpenterAfter studying Design History, Wava has worn many hats in support of design culture: teaching design studies, curating exhibitions, overseeing commissions, organizing talks, writing articles—all of which informs her work now as Pamono’s Editor-in-Chief.
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Porcelain Model Kariba Fruit Bowl by Matteo Thun for Memphis, 1982
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Italian Gloucester Chair by George Sowden for Memphis Milano, 1980s
Kristal Side Table by Michele De Lucchi for Memphis, 1981
Ashhoka Lamp by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis Milano, 1981
Beverly Unit by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis, 1981
Carlton Shelving Unit by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis Milano, 1980s
Park Lane Coffee Table by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis Milano
Ginza Robot Cabinet by Masanori Umeda for Memphis, 1982
Max Bookcase by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis Milano, 1987
Schwarzenberg Side Table by Hans Hollein for Memphis, 1981
Kyoto Table by Shiro Kuramata for Memphis Milano, 1983
Grand Floorlamp by Michele de Lucchi for Memphis, 1983
Polar Side Table by Michele De Lucchi for Memphis, 1984
Nara Coffee Table by Shiro Kuramata for Memphis Milano, 1983
Tahiti Lamp by Ettore Sottsass for the Memphis Group, 1980s
Memphis-Style Dining Table, 1980s
Memphis Style Leather Daybed, 1980s
Treetops Lamp by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis Milano, 1980s
Painted Wood Memphis Style Coat Hangers from Robert Jean Chapuis, Set of 3
First Chair by Michele De Lucchi for Memphis Milano, 1990s, Set of 2
Magnolia Shelving Unit by Andrea Branzi for Memphis, 1985
Italian Bookshelf by Andrea Branzi for Memphis, 1980s
Madison Floor Lamp by Aldo Cibic for Memphis Group
Vintage Chair by Michele de Lucchi for Memphis Milano
Hyatt Side Table by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis Milano, 1980s
Italian Armchair, 1980s, Set of 2
Malabar Shelf by Ettore Sottsass for Memphis, 1982