strategist investigates

How Did This Become Everyone’s Favorite Selfie Mirror?

It’s flattering, it’s $10,000, and Bella Hadid just bought one.

The mirror can be purchased at 1stdibs. Photo: Courtesy of retailer
The mirror can be purchased at 1stdibs. Photo: Courtesy of retailer
The mirror can be purchased at 1stdibs. Photo: Courtesy of retailer

Where Did It Come From?

Photo: The History Collection/Alamy/Credit: The History Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

Italian architect Ettore Sottsass designed the wavy-edged, six-foot-tall, pink-neon-lighted Ultrafragola mirror (a take on traditional mirrors made of gilded wood) in 1970; it debuted at the Eurodomus 3 in Milan later that year. The piece, which is still produced in Florence from its original mold, has become emblematic of the 1980s Memphis design movement, which in recent years has had a major resurgence. Keith Johnson, the president and director of Urban Architecture (the first authorized Memphis furniture distributor in the U.S.), says he believes Sottsass designed the Ultrafragola as an homage to women and femininity. “Ultrafragola translates to ‘ultimate strawberry’ in Italian,” he says. “And if you mention a woman’s ‘strawberry’ in Italy, everyone knows what you’re talking about.”

Why It’s So Appealing

“It’s a really good cheer-you-up mirror because the soft-pink light it emits flushes your skin out in a flattering way. It’s fabulous.” —Alex Eagle, designer and creative director

“It’s a piece of art that also functions as a mirror, which means it mixes well with contemporary spaces as well as traditional.” —Elizabeth Bauer Watt, interior designer

“It’s like a cooler version of that LuMee case for iPhones that Kim Kardashian uses.” —Sasha Bikoff, interior designer

“For years, most people’s homes were very Scandinavian inspired: modern, clean, a little vanilla. So now, I think, people are looking for something that conflicts with that: arches, curves, shapes, neon, and color. ” —Elizabeth Roberts, architect and designer

A Wiggly Mirror’s Unlikely Journey

1983: The artist Cinzia Ruggeri is photographed with the Ultrafragola in her studio for Domus magazine.

1986: Karl Lagerfeld acquires the mirror for his home from French interior designer Andrée Putman.

1990: James Mansour, then the head of store design and planning at the Limited, buys several of the mirrors to install in outposts of the clothing retailer.

Alex Eagle Studio Photo: OSCAR PICCOLO

2012: Designer Alex Eagle finds the mirror at an antiques market while on a buying trip, and purchases it for her store in London’s upscale Chelsea neighborhood.

2012:  The apartment of Louis Vuitton creative director Nicolas Ghesquière, which features an Ultrafragola, is depicted in the December issue of World of Interiors.

2014: Opening Ceremony’s Heather Neuburger purchases an Ultrafragola for the store; it quickly becomes a popular place for shoppers to take pictures. Soon after, Olivia Kim, an O.C. alum and now VP of creative projects at Nordstrom, brings it into ten Nordstrom stores.

2015: London-based fashion investor Eiesha Bharti Pasricha, who has 11,500 Instagram followers, buys the mirror for her Notting Hill home and begins posting selfies taken in it. “Alex Eagle and I are the only two in London who have it and post pictures of it regularly,” she says.

2015: Boutique hotel Le Pigalle opens in Paris’s Ninth Arrondissement with an Ultrafragola at the entrance. A year later, hotelier André Saraiva opens Hôtel Grand Amour in the Tenth Arrondissement with an Ultrafragola in one of the rooms. It was so popular that the hotel added a second this past spring. (Clients often specifically ask for a room with a Sottsass mirror, a receptionist tells us.)

2017: The stylist Laurel Pantin debuts her Ultrafragola, a gift from her husband, on her Instagram.

Raquel Cayre’s apartment Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

2018: Raquel Cayre, who runs a Memphis-focused Instagram account and works as an adviser to artists and celebrities interested in purchasing the pieces, sells an Ultrafragola to Bella Hadid. “She came over, saw the mirror, and gave her credit card to me, like, that second,” Cayre says.

Photo: BLONDED/INSTAGRAM

2018: Frank Ocean takes a selfie in front of his Ultrafragola.

2019Molly Howard, CEO of striped-clothing line La Ligne, puts her Ultrafragola in the dressing room of the brand’s first brick and mortar on Madison Avenue. Howard first heard of the Ultrafragola in 2002 from her “extremely sophisticated” childhood friend, the actress Annabelle Dexter-Jones.

Photo: DEVONLEECARLSON/INSTAGRAM

2019Influencer Devon Lee Carlson posts a mirror selfie with the Ultrafragola, captioned “nothing gets between me & my queen” (and gets over 67,000 likes).

2019: Lena Dunham is photographed with her Ultrafragola for the cover of the fall issue of Domino.

Three Designers on What Comes Next

Photo: COURTESY OF VINCENZO DE COTIIS

“The DC 1826C mirror by Vincenzo de Cotiis is made of cast brass, recycled fiberglass, and silver-plated brass. I’m now seeing these types of warmer metals frequently.” —Jamie Bush, interior designer

“At a restaurant I’m working on, we used a piece of polished, unlacquered brass in the place of a mirror. Brass is popular right now, and it’s a softer reflection for places where you don’t necessarily want to catch a full glimpse of yourself.” —E.R.

Photo: COURTESY OF WRIGHT

“I’m seeing a lot of mirrors lately in the style of Wharton Esherick and JB Blunk, who created rustic-looking mid-century American craft furniture. That aesthetic is on the radar.” —Charles de Lisle, interior designer

And If You’d Rather Something Cheaper

Here are some Strategist-approved picks: 

Marra Mirror
Photo: Courtesy of Vendor
Seletti Wears Toiletpaper Mirror
Photo: Courtesy of Vendor
Seletti Wears Toiletpaper Mirror
Mansi Shah UO Exclusive Waves Hand Mirror
Photo: Courtesy of Vendor
Mansi Shah UO Exclusive Waves Hand Mirror
Arc Wall Mirror
Photo: Courtesy of Vendor
Frameless Surf Wall Mirror

*This article appears in the August 19, 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

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How Did This Become Everyone’s Favorite Selfie Mirror?