In the documentary Why a Film about Michele De Lucchi? directed by Alessio Bozzer, the Italian architect, designer and member of the Memphis Milano movement remembers about the early days of the design group: "We drew objects, architecture, furniture. And drawing these objects, these pieces of furniture we imagined them made, we imagined how strange and unexpected could they be if exposed during the Salone del Mobile of Milan."
According to De Lucchi this was a sort of war declaration "to International Style and to those things that were no longer able to communicate and convey modernity", it was a way to reject all notions of good taste, while privileging ideas over functionality. As he highlights, provocation for the designers behind the Memphis Milano collective was made of "patterns, colors, strange shapes, a new figurative language" that had nothing to do with what had preceded them.
It is only natural then that, while looking for bright and bold inspirations, fashion constantly returned to the postmodernist chaos of the Memphis Milano group, a chaos inspired by Art Deco, Pop Art, African and Far Eastern cultures, punk, cartoons, toys, and 1950s kitsch.
As seen in previous posts, the work of the collective reappeared in Dior's Autumn/Winter 2011-12 Haute Couture collection, and in Sergio Rossi's Spring/Summer 2013 footwear, followed by Prada's A/W 2015 designs, with their pastel shades that looked entirely lifted from Michele De Lucchi's Girmi prototypes,while Arthur Arbesser's Resort 2016 collection borrowed quite a few ideas from Ettore Sottsass's works.
The inspiration will come back for the S/S 2017 season: check out Chistian Louboutin sandals and you will spot the unmistakable graphic black and white stripes broken by colourful elements, a recurring theme in Michele De Lucchi's "Flamingo" and "Polar" tables and "Oceanic" lamp (not to mention his 1980s drawings for TV sets, portable recorders and stereos).
The sandals seem to be the result of one of those experimental combination of contrasting patterns, pastels, primary and neon colors, crazy graphics, and illogical geometries that characterised Memphis Milano's interior design pieces and furniture made with Abet laminates.
Memphis was a reaction to years of rationalism, and a way to get on the establishment's nerves by rejecting the possibility of solving design problems by favouring cartoonish and playful pieces.
As we live in very complicated times, Memphis Milano's radical chaos and confusion seem to be a great refuge, as proved also by the exhibition "Masterpieces & Curiosities: Memphis Does Hanukkah" (until 12th February 2017) at the Jewish Museum in New York.
Organized by Kelly Taxter, Associate Curator, the event attempts to make connections between the Los Angeles aesthetic and the Memphis Milano philosophy, via photographs, shelving and pedestals covered in Abet laminates and objects by Memphis Milano and by Peter Shire. Invited by Sottsass to join the group since they shared an affinity, Shire contributed to the design collective with pieces every year until the group disbanded in 1988.
Shire's Menorah #7 (1986), in painted steel, anodized aluminum and chromium is a great example of a very modern piece that pays homage to tradition in a unique way and, bizarrelly enough, it seems to have some similarities with the color scheme of Louboutin's S/S 17 sandals.