Door 7: Memphis Group

A regular question regarding interior design is, where one draws the line between kitsch and classy or even timeless. Often the impact of design is only seen in the long run, but what should one think of a design collective stylistically described as a shotgun wedding between Bauhaus and Fisher-Price. Of course we are talking about the Memphis Group.

The story of the design group is strongly linked to the Italian designer Ettore Sottsass, who was before already involved in Studio Alchemia. Following similar principles, he founded the Memphis Group in 1981 to break with the rules of good design at that time and the credo Form Follows Function. To do so, Ettore, at the time already in his 60s, surrounded himself with younger designers. Next to its founder, the collective comprised Alessandro Mendini, Martine Bedin, Andrea Branzi, Aldo Cibic, Michele de Lucchi, Nathalie du Pasquier, Michael Graves, Hans Hollein, Arata Isozaki, Shiro Kuromata, Matteo Thun, Javier Mariscal, George Sowden, Marco Zanini, and the journalist Barbara Radice.

The name of the group stems from the Bob Dylan song Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, which was on repeat at the group's initial meeting. Design-wise, they took their inspiration from Art Deco and Pop Art, and contrary to their zeitgeist wanted to bring in colors and patterns. Additionally they moved away from traditional materials and made a blend of high and low culture with their use of materials, colors and patterns. The collective disbanded in 1987.

The impact of the Memphis Group can be seen today, as it inspired a lot designers of other fields such as Christian Dior's Fall/Winter 2011 Haute Couture Collection or adidas sneakers. For example, Karl Lagerfeld once was a big collector and furnished his entire apartment in Monaco with Memphis pieces.