It may only have lasted six years, but it is still being feted today for its undisputed originality and orthodoxy compared with the contemporary scene. Memphis, the irreverent collective shaped by the postmodernist scene, a mix of popular culture and advertising aesthetics. It emerged in 1981. Its distinctive hallmarks were bold colours and bizarre geometries. Garish and formal crazy patterns, in unexpected pairings. Yellows, oranges. Reds, blues, turquoises and greens, with just a few pastel shades, informed improbable shapes, seemingly plucked from the pages of a comic book.
Memphis was conceived one evening in December 1980, when Ettore Sottsass invited some of his designer and architect friends to his home in Milan to explore new ways of developing innovative forms of expression and contrasting conformist minimalism, as well as the dreary solemnity of the reigning colours, total black first and foremost. Attracted by breakaway vocabularies such as Art Deco, Futurism, ‘50s kitsch and Pop Art, those present on that momentous evening dreamt of creating a revolutionary collection of objects, which took shape not long after through the designs of Ettore Sottsass, Aldo Cibic, Matteo Thun, Marco Zanini, Martine Bedin, Nathalie Du Pasquier, George Sowden and Michele De Lucchi, with whom Sottsass had already explored an experimental approach to industrial design at Studio Alchimia.