Saint Laurent’s new Memphis collaboration harnesses the bizarre magic of Italian design

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The new collaboration between Yves Saint Laurent and the radical design and architecture collective Memphis Milano seems at first glance a strange couple. Launched for Memphis ’40th anniversary, the partnership – crepe de chine shirts, ceramic and glass vases, ties, ashtrays, fruit bowls, even denim – claims to tie Memphis’ conflicting maximalism to the sometimes tight-fitting, always burnished genre. from Saint Laurent. Design.

Memphis, which was dissolved in 1987 but has seen a major resurgence in recent years among people who love large pastel mirrors or hate mid-modern furniture, has always had a foothold in fashion – Missoni and Dior built their models – but Saint Laurent, known for his skinny black suit, isn’t the first name that would come to mind in a partnership. But while the designs of Creative Director Anthony Vaccarrello have always been sharp and straightforward, his spring 2021 menswear collection is, as Rachel Tashjian noted, “something else,” a departure from her old tight-fitting clothes and a leap forward. compared to the aesthetics of the pencil tie. The collaboration hints at a lot: Vaccarrello’s evolution as a designer, Memphis’s deep influence in just about everything, the weird and alluring ways furniture and fashion interact.

A party shirt from the new capsule.

Saint Laurent

Memphis, centered on Italian designer Ettore Sottsass and named after a lyric by Bob Dylan, was launched 40 years ago to rebuke modernism. The group’s creations are about the farthest thing imaginable from a black suit. Their innovations – bright color shocks, distinctly unusable shapes, punchy ornate details, terrazzo – were almost cartoony. The most immediately recognizable pieces (the explosive and ornate Carlton bookcase and the Tawaraya bed, the size and shape of a boxing ring) were less furniture than reproaches, arguments against function and utility.

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The shine and color also stand out in the capsule collection. Two hoodies in contrasting colors, based on the Tahiti lamp by Sottsass, give an unusually luxurious touch to TikTok homewear. Others shine. A Tawaraya bed shaped ashtray is probably the only way to get this design in your home; a few perfect ties are affordable entries into the look. The vases, even the one constructed much like a toilet brush, are all well thought out: they are uncluttered, play on the group’s sculptures, smooth and easy like good capsule collector’s items. There’s a pretty much perfect tote bag, a shirt that plays superbly with Sottsass’s old Bacterio scribbles, and a few pairs of strong, wavy sneakers that sit somewhere between the brand’s SL24 and the old troops. . Shoes might not win the hearts of hypebeasts, but these are Memphis’ purest encapsulations of design risks: is this stuff good or is it bad?

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