Milan 2015: nine furniture and homeware items by Italian designer and protagonist of the Memphis movement Ettore Sottsass have been put into production for the first time by Kartell (+ slideshow).
The Ettore Sottsass collection for Italian brand Kartell comprises six vases, two stools and a lamp. The brightly coloured and sculptural pieces were designed by Sottsass for the company just three years before his death in 2007, but never mass produced because the technology needed wasn't available at the time.
"Technology enables us to realise Sottsass' designs with a quality and sophistication that would have been impossible ten years ago," said Kartell president Claudio Luti. "I am convinced that the maestro would have been enthusiastic as to how we have given life to his objects, that are one of a kind, unmistakeable, some of which will be projected towards a totally industrial and international future."
Originally trained as an architect, Sotsass first found success as a designer for Italian office equipment company Olivetti in the 1950s, but is best known for his role in founding the Postmodernist Memphis Group of designers in the 1980s. The group's influential work was typified by bright colours and graphic patterns, producing furniture with bold, often asymmetric, silhouettes.
The distinctive style of the Memphis designers has recently been enjoying a revival of interest, which was strongly evident at last year's Milan design week and continued this year.
One of its key members, artist Nathalie du Pasquier, has also recently contributed patterns to collections by Danish furniture company Hay as well as a fashion range by American Apparel, among others.
To celebrate the launch of the Ettore Sottsass collection, Kartell has paid homage to the designer with a Memphis-themed exhibition at its flagship store in Milan. In honour of the occasion, chairs in the brand's collection by designers including Philippe Starck and Patricia Urquiola have been upholstered with fabric designed by Sottsass' contemporaries.
The brightly coloured and patterned materials in shades ranging from acid green to hot pink were designed by core members of the Memphis Group: Michele de Lucchi, Nathalie du Pasquier, and George Sowden, as well as Sottsass.
"In this sense the tribute to their creator will be even more long lasting, achieving the return to the factory Ettore Sottsass wished for," said Luti.
The six stools and two vases in the Ettore Sottsass collection are totem-like in structure, made from conjoined bulging or angular forms that give the pieces curving or ribbed profiles.
The final design is a lamp named Daisy, which features pieces of coloured plastic suspended from a black ring.
The rectangular pieces of translucent plastic in tones of red, pink, blue and yellow hang from small holes around the edge of the black plastic hoop.
Items from the collection are presented at the Kartell flagship store in Milan, where all ten windows in the curving shopfront have been framed with colourful and printed decals that echo the Memphis designs within.
"Today Ettore Sottsass lives again with his extraordinary creativity thanks to some original projects designed for Kartell in 2004 hitherto unproduced," said a statement from Kartell. "Thus Kartell has once again brought Sottsass and Memphis together in a triumph of signs and colour."
Glossy red, purple and black stools and vases by Sotsass are presented on tiered plinths patterned with horizontal and diagonal stripes in the windows, while soft furnishings updated with Memphis fabrics are positioned against an arrangement of colourful columns dotted around the shop floor.
"I find this cooperation with Kartell highly interesting. Kartell will allow us to enter, to make ourselves known and appreciated in millions of homes where otherwise we could never have been," said Alberto Bianchi Albrici, who is sole administrator of Memphis srl – the official company that produces designs under the Memphis brand. "This is a good thing for all," he added.
The exhibition continues at the Kartell flagship store on Via Turati until 19 April.