Nordstrom recently welcomed Memphis Milano, an exhibition and pop-up shop featuring a specially curated collection, including original furniture and decor pieces from the likes of Memphis icons Ettore Sottsass and Michele De Lucchi, alongside a curated gift shop. The exhibit is the brainchild of Olivia Kim, Nordstrom Vice President of Creative Projects.
Circa 1980: A group of like-minded young designers and architects gathered in a little Milanese apartment and founded Memphis. The design movement is still going strong in the 21st century and is more relevant than over. The collection, curated by Olivia Kim, with its stand-out pieces is really pertinent in today’s day and age because everything around us looks so homogenous: all polished wood, matte leather couches, exposed brick walls and muted chrome counters. Enter the famous Memphis Bel Air chair designed by Peter Shire. Color-blocked and asymmetrical, the chair, like everything in the Memphis collection makes a strong case for loud colors and quirky designs of the 80s.
The exhibit has both vintage pieces dating back to the 80s and recent pieces designed by Du Pasquier just last year. Through a partnership with leading Memphis-dealer Keith Johnson, Kim acquired original pieces including chairs, mirrors, lamps, vases and even scarves The collection is characterized by bright candy colors, crazy prints, and bold, geometrical shapes.
L.A. based designer and Memphis founding member, Peter Shire, consulted on the in-store design direction and created a limited art print especially for the exhibit. Shire talks about the unique collaboration, “Memphis Milano was launched in 1981 in Milan, Italy and has been shown around the world in museums, galleries, and various design venues. The presentation at Nordstrom’s Flagship in Seattle is a real boost because it is a beautiful store with great history that’s attached to elegance and quality.”
Shire loves the Seattle vibe, as he tells us “Seattle has got the smell of water, which is an intangible thing. Anything that confuses or mystifies me, excites and inspires, becoming an elusive image that I might be able to capture one day and express. It feels like I’m in Venice, Italy, but with the energy and pulse of America.”
Fashion, design, and art intersect in this unique pop-up where everyone is invited (no purchase required!). Kim talks about her fascination with Memphis and working with a larger-than-life figure like Shire, “I have been a huge fan of Memphis since I was 8 or 9 years old and have always admired Peter’s work. Creating an exhibit on Memphis Milano for Nordstrom and having the opportunity to collaborate with one of the collective’s founding members been a dream come true. This project has definitely become one of my career highlights.”
One of the best-known fashion buyers in the country, Kim talks about her personal favorites from the Memphis Milano collection, “I love Peter Shire’s Brazil Desk which is currently in my office, Peter actually signed the bottom of my desk after our launch event so now it is truly personalized! The iconic Ultrafragola mirror by Ettore Sottsass has also been a long time favorite, I put it in all of our Nordstrom SPACE boutiques where we house emerging and advanced designer collections, it is a piece that always makes everyone stop and looks.”
Want to spruce up your living room with a highly conversational piece? Or want a piece of art you can curl up in and enjoy a good book? This is your big chance, but spoiler alert: it comes with a big price tag. Fret not, while the original art pieces might break the bank, you can definitely buy one of the eye-catching Memphis-inspired items such as books, stationery, and jewelry from brands like Volta, Bash, Cofield and many others. A Memphis-inspired toothbrush, anyone?
You can explore the vibrant pop-up shop at the Nordstrom flagship in downtown Seattle through October 28. The gift shop will also be shoppable through the Memphis Milano online experience at Nordstrom.com/memphismilano.