Yes, This $10,000 Mirror Is Stalking You—and Here’s Why
Frank Ocean and Bella Hadid have snapped photos of their reflections in the mirror, and Lena Dunham shared the cover of Domino with it. It’s 2020, and Ettore Sottsass’s Ultrafragola mirror is everywhere.
At first glance, the rise of the Ultrafragola mirror makes no sense: For one thing, why now when it was first designed 50 (!) years ago? For another, it’ll set you back at least $7,800, but more realistically $10,000. So how did such a wild piece of wall art become ubiquitous in the age of the clean and minimal “millennial aesthetic”? We explain.
Most obviously, it begins with the selfie. The light-up frame casts a rosy glow, kind of like how some hotels line the inside of their lampshades with pink silk. You look radiant in it—no selfie ring light necessary.
As for that price? Well, that harkens to a sense of exclusivity (not to mention the effort and materials that go into constructing the 6-foot-4, acrylic-and-neon piece). It’s a status symbol for your home—or your feed, if you’re simply snapping a pic in front of it after spotting it in the wild, like at the La Ligne store in New York or Le Pigalle hotel in Paris.
There’s also the celebrity influence: As much as we’d all like to think celebrities’ tastes don’t influence our own, Kylie Jenner’s billion-dollar lip kit empire and Gwyneth Paltow’s Goop-ification of America and Joanna Gaines’s collabs, well, everywhere all suggest otherwise.
So yeah, the mirror was designed for social media before there even was social media.
There’s also the fact that the mirror sticks out like a sore thumb—and we mean that in the best way. Its wavy, light-up frame seems more in line with an A-ha music video than the neutral-walled, matte-black-accented, fiddle-leaf-fig-speckled interiors HGTV popularized over the past half decade, and it stands out from the sea of carbon-copy interiors we’ve been seeing since Pinterest became our primary source of design inspo. (I love Pinterest, but like anything that’s algorithm-based, it can often become an echo chamber.) And in that landscape of sameness, the Ultrafragola mirror is a refreshing pop of color, personality and design in our social feed.
But when we ask ourselves “why?”—why is the mirror such a welcome departure?—you realize that the mirror, and its magnetic pull on us, might be an equal and opposite reaction to industrial farmhouse (hi, Joanna), mid-century modern (just think about the popularity of Mad Men–inspired pieces over the past ten years) and millennial minimalism (#terrazzo).
After all, the Ultrafragola mirror was designed specifically to push back against the norm.
Ettore Sottsass, the mirror’s creator, is known for leading the Memphis movement in the 1980s, which emerged as a way to push back against the rigidity of mid-century modern furniture with new wiggly shapes and bold, contrasting colors. The philosophy behind the Memphis aesthetic was to disregard what society deemed “good taste” in favor of the outrageous, according to The Strategist. The idea was to embrace the unexpected, which seems all the more fitting today, since the primary criticism of millennial design is that it’s safe. Fun, but not too fun, to paraphrase The Cut—the look of a generation that’s always been told to strive for more, to be ambitious, but absolutely don’t do anything that would upset other people. Maybe a generation that’s been playing it safe since they struggled to find a job post-recession is ready to let loose…just a little?
To that end, it’s all the more fitting that Memphis’s use of the color pink has been credited as a precursor to millennial pink. The rosé-ish shade has become so universally beloved that it, too, has been deemed “safe,” or to put it in circa-2016 slang, basic. What a contradiction we millennials are! We keep pushing the boundaries in small ways, until what’s new is familiar and what’s familiar quickly becomes boring, because in today’s always-on, always-connected world, we get fatigued—fast. Which honestly brings this whole thing full circle: Maybe that’s why those of us born between 1980 and 1994 crave fun-but-not-too-fun spaces—we want the dopamine hit of a surprise-and-delight moment, but we’re so overstimulated that we need our homes to be a little quieter, a little more Zen.
That said, there’s still room to play, and the rise of the Ultrafragola will probably give way to a little more Memphis in our lives: bolder, more saturated colors, punchier prints, Seussian-shaped furniture. Which will eventually—hopefully—trickle down into a price range most of us millennials can actually afford. (We’re already seeing glimmers of it in Anthropologie’s latest launch, a poppy, primary-color-filled collab with Clare V., and in Crate & Barrel’s ultra-mod line with Leanne Ford.)
So really, the Ultrafragola is the cerulean sweater of the home world. Or, OK, the $99 wavy mirror that it eventually inspires is.