Studiopepe, Stylists and Set Designers

When describing their sensibility, Arianna Lelli Mami and Chiara Di Pinto of the Milan-based Studiopepe invoke the versatility of classic white shirt: “You can wear it anytime, to go to the supermarket or to a soirée. The same is for design. Good design — whether a masterpiece or anonymous — goes with everything.” Their evocative aesthetic, though, is anything but simple. “Eclecticism and curiosity” are important starting points for them, and their output is rich with visual references, ranging from the harmony of classical forms to the glamour of Italian cinema in the ‘60s. But they don’t merely quote their source material, they transform it.

Di Pinto and Lelli Mami met as students at the Politecnico di Milano, where they both majored in design. It wasn’t until they encountered each other by chance on a beach vacation in Mexico — “where there wasn’t really anything but the hammocks” — that they bonded and decided to collaborate, opening Studiopepe in 2006. Their first joint project “was commissioned by Casa da Abitare, a beautiful magazine that doesn’t exist anymore. The story was a very iconographic shoot on the theme of Surrealism and nonsense and was chosen for the cover. Not bad for two beginners!” More editorial styling gigs followed, for various international editions of Elle Décor, and T Magazine, among others. And they began consulting for design and fashion brands, as well as doing interiors, installations, and eventually, their own product design. (We remain obsessed with their Kora vase from a few years ago). It’s a satisfying mix: they can go dreamlike and mysterious in print and then puzzle out the practicalities necessary to make lasting, functional objects. They’ve expanded their team and this year they plan to open a new branch of the studio dedicated to interior architecture. Though they’re growing, Lelli Mami and Di Pinto continue to provide the “strong creative direction.”

“Being part of a duo, it’s always like a dialogue where we each add a little piece in the creative process and the result is like 1+1=3!” Adding up to more than the sum of its parts, their method results in striking work that is also conversational, inviting, human. “We don’t like an ambiance full of iconic pieces but without a story between them.” They’re more about placing objects in relation to one another so that “a design masterpiece can talk with a flea market chair.” Their eye is as inclusive as it is refined, and when it comes to influences, we suspect these multi-talented women had a hard time narrowing it down to just eight. So consider this a start.