What Can Supreme Teach You About Italian Design?

More than you might think. The brand's new collection features one of its most high-profile collaborators to date—Italian design icon Alessandro Mendini. Here's everything you need to know about him.

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Mendini Skateboards by Supreme.
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Whenever Supreme drops a collection, there's some sort of commotion, often in the form of lines blocking foot traffic in downtown New York City. The same will be true for its latest range—which releases online today. But this time, the excitement has been spawned by something much more than your run of the mill streetwear hype: it's all about Alessandro Mendini.

Alessandro Mendini.
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If the name has you scratching your camp hat, here's the rundown: the 84-year-old Italian creative is not only one of the most decorated architects of his time, but also one of the most renowned thinkers across furniture design and magazine editing. The man has pieces in more than a dozen permanent museum collections—and, somehow, the guys at Supreme convinced him to design clothes for them, too.

Mendini Hooded Sweatshirt by Supreme.

Mendini was born in Milan in 1931, and has spent his entire life there. He originally studied architecture at the prestigious Milan Polytechnic, but soon picked up other forms of art. He began designing objects during his time as an editor for Casabella, a progressive Italian architecture and design magazine.

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A little background here: Mendini's first objects were inspired by a movement called Arte Povera, which was concerned with the idea of using organic, even impractical materials. He wanted to challenge the function-first mentality that Modernism established in the years beforehand (and did so for the rest of his career).

Mendini's Proust chair from 1978.

One prime example of his modus operandi would be his oversized, wooden Lassú chair from 1974—which he set on fire outside of the Casabella office. Through the rest of the '70s, Mendini continued his creative hot streak, although less literally. He co-founded Studio Alchimia with his friends in 1976, which was a collective that championed bright, conflicting shapes and colors in design.

It laid the foundation for the Memphis Group, the oft-imitated (and innovative) Italian creative collective of the '80s. In 1978, Mendini designed what is likely his most famous work, the Proust chair: an ornate piece of furniture painted with small, meticulously-placed dots, playfully mimicking the pointillist painting style of artists like Van Gogh and Seraut.

In 2010, Mendini revamped the exterior of Groninger Museum in The Netherlands.

Over the course of his career, Mendini has put his spin on a long list of projects: he designed a majority of the Groninger Museum in The Netherlands; a mall in Lorrach, Germany; and enough objects to fill both to capacity. They're all distinctly Mendini-esque—tied together by bold color palettes and graphic shapes.

Ceramic Mendini Tray by Supreme.

For this new project, Mendini revisited two of his past works, one named "Senza Titolo," and the other from a collection called "Set for Man: Shoes, Gun, Hat" applying the patterns to a range of hoodies, T-shirts, jackets, and accessories.

The more you know about the artist's work, the more his collaboration with Supreme makes sense. It goes deeper than both parties having cheeky, challenging designs. Through his bright, complex, concept-heavy work, Mendini influenced a new wave of designers to transition to a new way of thinking about design: his work was radical, anti-structural, anti-establishment; ultimately very punk rock. All things Supreme knows extremely well.

Pick up the new collection starting today at supremenewyork.com. Prices will be announced upon release. 

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