That’s right. I haven’t discussed it yet, but I can’t ignore the so called elephant in the room any longer. You couldn’t miss it in Milan: Memphis is making a comeback. It is a kind of After Party post Milan, I am still fascinated by everything that is being written and said about the fair. I read blogs and newspaper inserts, I check out summaries on websites and search on Pinterest and Instagram. All to make sure we’ve seen it all, to see if we spotted the same things or to see if we’ve missed something….

“One thing I didn’t miss…. Memphis”

Even though I was still in denial in Milan, I now have to admit that there is one thing I didn’t miss. The comeback of Memphis. Are you familiar with it?  Memphis is an art and design trend from the 80’s which for the last few years would carefully pop up here and there, but now in Milan I was faced with this larger than life trend. Accent colours being red, blue and yellow are crying out and the stacked shapes are dazzling. Oh boy…. Memphis is back.

To refresh the memory. Memphis is a design trend from the 80’s. Out of dissatisfaction with serial and easily mass produced products the Italian architect Ettore Sottsass (1917 ) founded a group in 1981 under the name ‘Memphis’. This name originates from the Egyptian city Memphis. The city where the god ‘Ptah’, protector of artists, lived in the ancient times. There are also some more romantic stories going around about how the name came to life. For example that they were sitting in a bar when an Elvis song about Memphis was playing, right when they were in a heated discussion about form.   

The Memphis group wanted to rebel against the simplicity of the trendy furniture at the time. No simple table tops with legs, but products with a lot of colour, extreme forms, emotion and ambiance. To sit comfortably was no longer a must, a bookcase could be crooked and a table didn’t need to have four legs: As long as the consumer could establish an emotional connection with the piece of furniture involved. That was what it was all about.

Memphis didn’t just want to create contemporary objects but also wanted to bring back memories of trends past. They found inspiration in many different ways: Pop Art and totem poles from America, colourful patterned fabrics from Africa, Art Deco elements from France, Biedermeier frills from Austria and influences from the Dutch trend ‘De Stijl’ (1917-1930). The result of all these different influences was a range of interior products consisting of a vibrant collection of eccentric shapes and bright colours. The group ceased to exist in 1987 due to “too much success”. So they say… A great example of a typical interior piece of this particular era is the cabinet by Ettore Sottsass, see photo. 

Photo I took in Milan – Ettore Sottsass – Dior sandals

“I am not sure…. Memphis is not my cup of tea”

Well, and so this is making a comeback. But I am not so sure about Memphis. It’s flashy and those bright colours. It is not my cup of tea. What is extremely fascinating to me is the big question: Why is Memphis coming back? Mostly because I myself am not a big fan of it I wonder: Why now? Do we crave eccentric, non-mass produced items? Or do we feel the need for colours to show how well we are doing? Or is it the everlasting wave movement of a trend: that will come around every 30 years? Is it an ode to Sottsass who passed away in 2007? Or does it just come from fashion? They seem to get their inspiration from the 80’s again. Or is it a simple chain reaction of the graphic patterns and geometric shapes we consider modern and trendy nowadays? Who knows…

As soon as I find the answer, I’ll let you know! But for now I will not ask my design team to get started with Memphis. We just got started with the soft muddy clay colours and that is much more appealing to me. Graphic patterns and letters, I immediately say “Yes” to. But stacking shapes, crooked cabinets and loud yellow, blue and red colour combinations in a cabinet? No …. I’m sorry, not just yet at Zuiver. But that is quite a risky decision to make of course. Who knows, I could be completely off and miss the boat on this one.

I am curious. But my instinct tells me not to get involved and that is good enough for me. What do you think? Let me know!!

“This is what we are working on.”

P.S. Did you see the Artis commercial? All of a sudden I see Memphis pop-up everywhere. Although my colleagues declare me insane. Time to call it quits. Driving yourself crazy doesn’t do anyone any good 😉 This is what we are working on: 

Zuiver – Artis commercial – Zuiver