Wearable Vintage Memphis Jewelry Taps Into Postmodern Revival

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By Kelsey Keith
A studio jewelry manufacturer founded in the 1980s opens its vault, selling the remaining stock from a trove of brooches, necklaces, and earrings designed by the Memphis Group.

Adrian Olabuenaga and Lesley Bailey founded Acme Studio in 1985 with the launch of a playful, color-drenched, over-the-top jewelry collection designed by artist Peter Shire. Shire, a member of the Memphis Group, introduced the Acme founders to the larger group, and all 14 members (including Andrea Branzi, Michele De Lucchi, Nathalie du Pasquier, and Ettore Sottsass) all contributed designs to the company. (Sottsass also later designed a home for Olabuenaga and Bailey in Maui.) 

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Acme Studio was founded in 1985 by husband-and-wife team Adrian Olabuenaga and Lesley Bailey. The first limited-edition collection was done in collaboration with Los Angeles-based artist and Memphis Group member Peter Shire. Shire's Skyhook brooch is especially kicky: Its two parts connect with a chain.

Well, now Memphis is back, and Acme is rolling out deadstock from the circa-1980s collections to interested buyers. Once the stash is gone, good luck finding them anywhere but eBay. Take a stroll through the Legacy archive and you'll also spot pieces by other postmodern architects, including Richard Meier and Stanley Tigerman, and midcentury greats like Gere Kavanaugh.

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The Euphoria necklace by the father of Memphis, Ettore Sottsass. After the success of Shire's collection for Acme Studio, the owners went to meet Sottsass in Milan along with the rest of the Memphis group. The resulting collection, which comprises over 100 designs, is now once again for sale. All are available only while supplies last, so get 'em before they're gone!

The collection debuted at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in 1986, alongside an exhibition introducing the group to US audiences—the last stop on the Memphis tour before returning to Italy. Fittingly, SHOP Cooper Hewitt—spiffed up following a three-year museum renovation and reopening—is now carrying the collection in its bricks-and-mortar retail space designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Remember, folks: This is dead stock, so it won't be reissued. Once they're sold out, they're gone forever. Happy hunting!

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You can snap up a limited selection of brooches, necklaces, and earrings from the Acme Studio Memphis collection at SHOP Cooper Hewitt, like ceramist Natalie Herrera (aka @fromhighgloss on Instagram) did. Shown here are the Monumento brooch by Ettore Sottsass, left, and Oreliana brooch by Marco Zanini, left.

 

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LIE'S earrings by Nathalie du Pasquier for Acme Studio. More recently, Du Pasquier applied her signature Memphis prints to a line of textiles for the company Wrong for HAY.

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The Loretto brooch by Gerard Taylor for Acme Studio is less overtly Memphis, perhaps a more suitable choice for the trepidatious.

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Michele de Lucchi's Tonka brooch for Acme Studio.

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