It will be the light-colored herringbone parquet, the framed quotations, the white tiled walls or the mirrored glazed-glass doors, but when I walked in their space, I breathed a Parisian atmosphere … And yet I was in the very center of Milan, in the welcoming and multifaceted studio by Arianna Lelli Mami and Chiara Di Pinto.
Two young women, many objets trouvés (especially Arianna!) and a fabulous story to tell. From here it began my interview with the girls of Studiopepe.
Studiopepe, this is how the two designers have called their reality from international approach, it seems a beautiful Pinterest moodboard. Everywhere in their space you can breath an air in the making, where inspiration could come from every corner and every object. Two young women, many objets trouvés (especially Arianna!) and a fabulous story to tell. From here it began my interview with the girls of Studiopepe.
How did the Studiopepe adventure start? What created the spark between you two?
Arianna: «All thanks what is called synchronicity or serendipity… We were both in Mexico, but separately. I didn’t know that Chiara was on holiday in the same place. One day in a beach with very few people, in an unknown and remote place, I see this red hair from far away and I think “I can’t believe it, this is Chiara!”. And it really was her! We met at the University, both graduating at the Milan Politecnico, with the same mentor. We knew each other, we were close at the University, but we didn’t go out at night together, we were more coffee-break colleagues”.
Chiara: «In those years we both created photographic sets, working as assistants. At the time we had several points of contact between us».
Arianna: «After the trip, we met in Milan and then the fate just got in the way. The first service we did together was for “Case da abitare”, a famous magazine that is unfortunately no longer there but which we looked at with great admiration. We created an interior project that was a sort of three-dimensional puzzle. In the end, the idea was very appreciated and in fact we’ve been given the cover».
Well, this isn’t a bad start!
Chiara: «Yes, it was an important baptism. So that’s how it all started. Involuntarily we started from the top».
Was there a moment when you realized that your dream was becoming a reality?
Arianna: «Surely after finding the right space for our studio. Among other things, this studio in which we are right now was the first we have seen. At first we had only taken one room. After a few years, the architects studio close to us moved in another office and finally we have been able to expanding our spaces».
A studio gives you a more entrepreneurial mindset, otherwise it's as if you did not believe it enough or did not want to try it all the way
How was to open your studio? Did you have opinions in favor and opinions against?
Chiara: «A lot of people told us” Why are you going to open a studio?!? They are all outgoing money!”. But a studio gives you a more entrepreneurial mindset, otherwise it’s as if you did not believe it enough or did not want to try it all the way. Having a physical place is important, also because we take care of physical places».
Instead how good is it to be in two?
Arianna: «I think it is important because the creativity resides in dialectics. Ours is a work of comparison. In adversity it is important to be in two, because we assist one another. Not just because we have different skills, but because it makes you an armored unit».
The color, the chromatic combination of the materials, is definitely our strength and a bit our constant
In your multidisciplinary approach to projects is there a graphic, aesthetic, color, design or functional component that prevails over something else?
Chiara: «It depends on the project, but let’s say that the color, the chromatic combination of the materials, is definitely our strength and a bit our constant. However, it depends, if there are projects in which the color is less preponderant or in any case there is an accurate but more subdued colors choice, sometimes a graphic approach prevails, sometimes a more sculptural and installative one. We have a very eclectic and multifaceted approach».
Arianna: «There is certainly a common thread that connects our work, at least that’s what people tell us. From our point of view, however, all the projects seem very different from each other. Probably it is also a temporal question: since we started we have done so many things, and so different from each other, that some now correspond to us less».
What are your main characteristics?
Arianna: «I really love interiors, interior design, all that is the combination, not only of color, but also the domesticity of an environment. I really like the relationship between objects. I’m always looking for the harmony of things».
What if you notice something out of place, does this bother you?
Arianna: «When I go to a hotel, I change, I remove, I move everything, otherwise I’m sick. It’s really a need, I can not do anything about it ».
* general laugh *
Chiara, instead, your main characteristic?
Chiara: «In my opinion, even if I do not know how to explain it, it is the stroke of genius».
Arianna: «Yes, that idea that maybe initially is unrealizable and that then slowly takes shape. Chiara has intuitions, absurd visions, I understand them and I try to make them concrete and elegant. This is the starting point, but then there is a great work of meeting, clashing and modeling ».
Chiara: «We work much better when we are two because this is the mechanism that gives us strength».
And then there’s the serendipity …
Chiara: «Serendipity is really our concept».
Do you also find it in your works?
Chiara: «Yes, absolutely».
Give us some examples
Arianna: “The inspiration of many services comes from some journeys we’ve had”.
Chiara: «There are also cases in which the limits of a project are transformed into the peculiarity of the project itself. Or sometimes it’s all about synchronicity. As for “Out of the blue”, our work at the Salone del Mobile of two years ago. I found this laboratory that managed ancient photographic techniques, including cyanotype. A technique that I loved right away. From there it came out the idea of setting a three-dimensional light, that is the characteristic and the main theme of all the work exhibited at the Salone del Mobile. This project was like putting many pieces together».
It is a transferring of life into design, into the project …
Chiara: «Yes, let me tell you another example. Last year we were in Canada and we were in a recommended restaurant. Arriving there the place was busy, but they tell us to go in a speakeasy just around the corner. When we entered this place, we discovered a very 40s space, a sort of secret bar. And immediately we decided to create something like that at the Salone del Mobile, but with other aesthetic codes. From there the intuition for the bar of “Club Unseen” was born».
The bar of “Club Unseen”, which is a part of the project of the last Fuorisalone, really impressed me. I had the feeling that there was a strong suggestion coming from the theater. It’s correct?
Arianna: «Yes, we wanted to theorize the concept of waiting, which is something that in a bar we never like to do. Nobody likes waiting for the cocktails, but we made the wait a strong point. Here is what Chiara meant a little while ago when she spoke of “making a limit a peculiarity”».
Did the creation of “Club Unseen” come from a partnership?
Arianna: «No, the realization has been entrusted to a very good craftsman who works with glass».
Chiara: “Many of the projects at the “Club Unseen” have had a touch of handmade. I think especially of ceramics, for example. Because for us dexterity is a fundamental thing, just as the attention to details is part of our DNA ».
From where the passion for design is born, going backwards?
Arianna: «The passion for design is very old. I remember that already at school I cut out from the magazines the objects I liked to make some collages. As a child I read the magazines of my grandfather who was an interior designer. I always liked it “.
Do you have a favorite design product?
Arianna: “This question puts me in a crisis, because I do not have a favorite, but a thousand! A product that I really like is the Superleggera by Giò Ponti, because it is part of my domesticity, but in reality I do not have a favorite product. I would tell you one that changes every month, every year or every day.
Chiara: «I do not have a particular product either. My love for design was more a fascination. I tried to work in fashion but I realized it wasn’t my story. Then there was another episode of serendipity, which I want to tell you.
I was at the University for a couple of months and my father asked me to meet one of his design clients. “His name is Bruno Munari”, he told me. The name did not tell me anything, so I went to the library to look for information and I understood that he was an important designer. I went to the meeting with Munari without knowing well his work. I will never forget this delicate but dense and very playful person. He understood perfectly that I did not know anything about him and in spite of that, he showed me all his drawers in the studio, with all the exhibits. If I could go there now, I would feel much more than a privileged one. But I went to the meeting with a carefree soul, a bit naive. When I rang the doorbell, no one answered and I thought he had forgotten the appointment. Then I saw this little man arrive with the shopping bags and I asked “are you?”. And he looked at me saying “and you are you?”. It was a nice moment».
Milan has always been your base. Here you have studied and here you have decided to open your own studio. How and how much Milan affects your projects?
Chiara: “It undoubtedly influences a lot, we recently thought about a project for Amsterdam where we brought a bit of Milan soul”.
Arianna: «Milan in these years is acquiring more awareness of itself. It is a less flashy city, more hidden than many others. It has so much history, but it is a working city that does not lose itself in telling itself ».
Your future plans?
Chiara: «We are working on new retail spaces, including a flagship store in Bangkok for a well-known Thai brand. By 2019 we will complete a hotel in Paris. We also have some very important private projects and we are collaborating with the Milan Fashion Week ».
Arianna: «Apart from other publishing projects, we are finishing two new catalogs, one for Agape and one for Fendi, which will be released at the end of the year».