At first, the hallmarks of Saint Laurent—skinny black suits, sharp tailoring, and a Parisian chicness—seem like a far cry from Memphis Milano’s electric colors and ultra-graphic patterns. While the two indeed make for an odd pairing, the French fashion house’s creative director Anthony Vaccarello has found more common ground in the two than we ever thought imaginable. The label recently unveiled a capsule collection of bold garments, graphic sneakers, and glass vases that melds the fashion house’s Parisian-chic sensibilities with the Italian design group’s clashing maximalism. “I’ve always been attracted by the distinctive non-ordinary forms of Memphis artworks; their colorful and playful design breaks the standard rules,” Vaccarello tells Vogue. “Memphis was ahead of its time. [Its] design mocks its serious ambitions, reversing common preconceptions with irony.”
The radical design collective, which was centered around Ettore Sottsass, first launched four decades ago as an antidote to understated, clean-lined modernism, which had dominated design in the decades prior. The group’s most memorable pieces skewed cartoonish and purposely nonfunctional—the totemic Carlton Bookcase and the boxing ring–shaped Tawaraya Bed being key examples—to elicit an emotional response and carve out new possibilities for how design should look and feel. Though the short-lived group disbanded in 1987, its aesthetics have proven widely influential, even within the fashion realm; Memphis informed both Dior’s 2011-2012 haute couture collection and Missoni’s 2015 ready-to-wear winter collection. And recently, while most of us were confined to our homes during the pandemic, Memphis experienced somewhat of a resurgence among those seeking playful, eccentric alternatives to spice up their lackluster living spaces.