10 Things You Should Know About the Memphis Group


1. Despite it’s name, the Memphis Group was founded in Milan, Italy by the Italian designer Ettore Sottsass. Bob Dylan’s “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” was playing during the group’s inaugural meeting, and the name “Memphis”…stuck. The group was active from 1981 to 1987

2. After their first meeting, the Group decided that they would meet again in February 1981. Members brought over one hundred drawings, outlining designs that were inspired by Art Deco and Pop Art to create bold, colorful designs.

3. The Group’s most iconic design is the “Carlton” room divider, designed in 1981 and still available for purchase from the manufacturer for about 12,000EUR. The “Carlton” divider can be found in the collection of many museums, and also frequently appears on the secondary market.

zendroudi Image: Carlton Room Divider (Source: Memphis Design Store)

4. Characteristics of the Group’s design include the use of bold, often clashing colors, seemingly haphazard arrangements of geometric forms, and the use of plastic laminate. These qualities have often made the Group an object of ridicule.

5 However, there seems to be renewed interest in the Group’s aesthetic. In March 2015 the Wall Street Journal declared that “for many postmillennial designers around the globe…Memphis is a major source of inspiration.” A 2014 article on the topic in Wallpaper was titled “Memphis Revival: the 1980s design movement gains fresh momentum with new shows and fashion collections.”

6. Nathalie du Pasquier, an original member of the Group, designed a Memphis-inspired line for American Apparel in 2014.

7. The original Apple Watch, created back in 1995 as a freebie for anyone who purchased Mac System 7.5, was a quartz watch with Memphis style minute, second, and hour hands.

zendroudi Image: Google Images

8. The design critic Barbara Radice met Ettore Sottsass in 1976, and it was in Radice’s apartment that the Group was formed. The two eventually married and Radice helped oversee the production of Phaidon’s monograph on the designer, published in 2014.

9. Memphis designs have acted as the inspiration for many high fashion lines, including Christian Dior, Missoni, and Karl Lagerfeld.

10. For the Memphis Group, their designs weren’t meant to be timeless and appreciated by everyone. They were meant to create a break from the rigid, dark designs that lacked personality which were so prevalent during the 1970s, and they did just that.