The return of Memphis: how the 80s design staple found a new audience

By Janelle Zara

Once derided, the design style that specialized in squiggles and DayGlo colors is the subject of a new series of exhibitions shedding light on a loved, loathed and often misunderstood movement

The Memphis Group’s design style is unmistakable. The output of the short-lived, divisive design collective, which debuted at the Milan furniture fair in 1981 and closed shop six years later, embodied the garish appeal of the decade that style forgot. Their furniture was colorful, kitschy and exaggerated. They stacked slanted rows of cheap plastic laminates and called it a bookshelf. The group – led by founder Ettore Sottsass – decided that geometric shapes made great table legs, and that black-and-white stripes totally worked with lemon-yellow circles.

Related: Ettore Sottsass: the godfather of Italian cool

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