Bold Patterns and Colors: Memphis Style

Memphis Style
image source artnews.com

If you are a fan of the 80s and particularly its bold colors and shapes, then Memphis Style is just right for you. This postmodern aesthetic that prioritizes form over function is a real eye-catcher and is going to inject new life into any room or even your wardrobe. But to fully understand and adopt this style we need to cover all the angles and properly explain what the Memphis Style is all about.

How did Memphis Style come to be?

The Memphis origin story starts in the 1980s, specifically in 1981 when Italian designer Ettore Sottsass founded a group of artists and designers under the name of Memphis. Named after the Bob Dylan song the Memphis Group had one priority in their designs, to completely subvert the minimalist trends that had dominated the design market in the past few decades.

the striking Ashoka Lamp
Designed by Memphis Group founder Ettore Sottsass in 1981, the striking Ashoka Lamp is made from lacquered metal. the image source artnews.com

The Memphis Group went on to design with a postmodern style that combined influences from Art Deco, Pop Art, and Kitsch. With bold colors and geometrical shape designs that prioritized aesthetics over comfort, the initial reaction to Memphis Style was not positive. However, that bold and energetic style eventually came to be the hallmark of the 80s, and while the original Memphis Group didn’t see much success, the Memphis Style itself proved to be enduring and has become one of the most iconic looks of its generation.

Defining the Memphis Style

The Memphis design characteristics are all about colors, shapes, and patterns, and every single one of these is as bold as they can be. When it comes to colors Memphis mainly employs neon colors, pastel colors, and the three primary colors. This results in a look that is aggressively “sweet” and appropriately “bubblegum”. Color is the first thing you’ll notice on the Memphis style, and since there are no earth tones or other transitional colors the Memphis Style is bright, eye-catching, and often clashes with its surroundings.

Geometric shapes are another favorite of Memphis, and they are prevalent in both its furniture, fashion, and advertisements. Bold askew rectangles, angled shelves, and geometric shapes are prevalent in Memphis, and only help to further enhance the effect of the bold colors. Last but not least Memphis loves repetition on its patterns. If there’s a grid present expect it to overpower all other design elements, if there’s a circle motif expect it to see repeated all over the place. Memphis is loud bright and energetic, and it exudes boldness in every aspect of its design.

Memphis-inspired style cushions
the image source artnews.com

Practical applications of the Memphis Style

As we just saw Memphis is a bold and eye-catching style, and it only takes a simple look at its color palette to understand that anything using Memphis colors is going to stand out.

However, that’s where the charm and applications of Memphis lies. The color selection is bold yet cohesive, meaning that Memphis designs are bound to turn heads anywhere you go.

A Memphis Style print is a simple but exciting way to add impact to simple dresses and outfits. The large shapes and bold colors will make your clothes pop, while it keeps the actual outfit simple. Its combination of simplicity with vibrant shapes allows you to dress casually without sacrificing your visual impact.

Memphis might be bold by definition, but it doesn’t have to always be large. Accessories are another area where you can use Memphis Style to add visual impact but without making it the center of your outfit. Simple shapes are at the core of Memphis, and by using circles and rectangles you can easily make your own charms and add some more impact to your look. A necklace or bracelet allows you to add some fresh colors to your ensemble without overpowering everything else.

Memphis Style Outfit
Katy Perry wore Christian Dior Memphis-style outfit to an MTV awards on 2011. the image source artnews.com

While Memphis originally prioritized form over function nothing is preventing you from combining both in your look. Whether you use a tote bag for practical reasons or aesthetic value, the Memphis Style sensibilities can add a lot of appeal to your bag. Basic shapes will contrast against the traditionally blank design of tote bags, and those colors will simply pop. You can use your bag to contrast against a more muted outfit, or make Memphis style your own and bring color to everything you wear. Regardless of your pick your bag can work as a complement to your fashion choices and become more than just a bag to carry groceries.

Memphis Bag
image source edinburghart.com
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