Mel­bourne in­te­ri­ors wun­derkind David Flack meets Ari­anna Lelli Mami and Chiara Di Pinto, the cre­ative di­rec­tors of Mi­lan-based Studiopepe.

VOGUE Living Australia - - IN VOGUE - Visit; clubun­ VL

The pas­tel-hued sur­rounds of Club Un­seen, Studiopepe’s in­stal­la­tion at Fuorisa­lone, are every­thing you’d ex­pect of a dis­creet, in­vi­ta­tion-only club. The com­pany’s cre­ative di­rec­tors, Ari­anna Lelli Mami and Chiara Di Pinto, drew their in­spi­ra­tion from the lat­ter works of Ital­ian ar­chi­tect Gio Ponti, and com­prised their own be­spoke de­signs cre­ated in col­lab­o­ra­tion with brands such as French-Ital­ian rug com­pany CC Tapis, Italy’s Agape and LA’s Ate­lier de Troupe, styled with art­works and clas­sics from the likes of Tac­chini and Cassina.

Cen­tral to the 19th-cen­tury for­mer ware­house space was a glow­ing, back­lit bar counter, where only the white-gloved hands of the bar­tenders mix­ing cock­tails were vis­i­ble. The mes­meris­ing, the­atre-like ef­fect served to el­e­vate cock­tail cre­ation to a whole new level of per­for­mance art.

David Flack: It’s won­der­ful to meet you, Ari­anna and Chiara. Vogue Liv­ing asked me who I would like to in­ter­view for its Mi­lan is­sue and you were both on top of my list. What was the ini­tial con­cept for Club Un­seen?

Ari­anna Lelli Mami: The start­ing point for us is al­ways the same — things we per­son­ally love. This year we wanted to create a place where peo­ple can sit to­gether and re­lax. Chiara Di Pinto: We wanted some­where away from the hec­tic life of Salone del Mo­bile. We wanted some­where calm but where we could lis­ten to mu­sic…

Mami: A place where we could meet nice peo­ple. That’s why we de­cided on a club. It’s a se­cret club be­cause in the be­gin­ning, we re­ally wanted to just in­vite friends and peo­ple we like. We re­ally don’t want it chang­ing into a party — that’s not our idea. From a style point of view this year, we have been fas­ci­nated by the Rad­i­cal De­sign move­ment in ar­chi­tec­ture from the 1970s.

Flack: Such as Gio Ponti?

Mami: Yes. Last year, our in­stal­la­tion felt al­most mid­dle class, with min­i­mal­ist ma­te­ri­als mixed with high-end vel­vet cur­tains and brass de­tails. This year we wanted to ref­er­ence some­thing more con­tem­po­rary, so we looked back to the utopias of the 1970s. The glass bar with the neon light is very [Ital­ian de­signer and artist] Nanda Vigo — we ad­mire her work. We’ve used sub­tle colour but with a hint of a strong ac­cent like a blue neon light — things that re­mind you of the ’70s and early ’80s but with a mod­ern twist. Even the cock­tails are a rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of clas­sic ’70s cock­tails. Flack: How does your cre­ative process evolve?

Di Pinto: We al­ways start with an at­mos­phere that we would love to create, and then we find dif­fer­ent things that work to­gether. One of the first ideas for Club Un­seen was the counter for the bar. We don’t like the fact that, in clubs, peo­ple should be in front of the counter to or­der, to have to queue, and get pissed off about hav­ing to wait.

Mami: We wanted to turn the wait­ing time into some­thing pleas­ant, some­thing that is a real ex­pe­ri­ence.

Flack: In other words, an ex­pe­ri­ence of de­sign rather than an ex­pe­ri­ence of hordes of peo­ple.

Mami: Yes, that is cor­rect. And some­times peo­ple for­get they are wait­ing for some­thing, when it is just beau­ti­ful to watch and they stay there.

Di Pinto: We wanted to put the fo­cus on the move­ment of the [gloved] hands. We thought about the the­atre that’s cre­ated when this hap­pens. It’s one of the most im­por­tant things in the whole pro­ject be­cause it’s about fo­cus­ing at­ten­tion on qual­ity, on the hand­made. Hands are the ba­sis of many of our de­signs.

Flack: When did you start plan­ning and first work­ing on the con­cept for Club Un­seen?

Mami: The first real idea for it came from a visit to Mon­treal a year ago, where we found a se­cret bar where you had to knock on the door to en­ter. In­side, the at­mos­phere was amaz­ing, but it was very 1920s with vel­vet cush­ions. We loved the mood but the style was too old for us. We wanted some­thing dif­fer­ent, but we both very much liked the idea of a se­cret bar — a speakeasy with a twist.

Flack: There are so many facets to cre­at­ing th­ese sort of spa­ces. The lovely thing about you both is your ap­proach — you ref­er­ence his­tory but are also so con­tem­po­rary.

Di Pinto: We are very much the clash between the old and new, the fine and rough. It’s very lay­ered.

Flack: What does Mi­lan De­sign Week mean to you? Mami: We love it. Ever since we were stu­dents, we’ve been go­ing. It’s al­ways a nice time to dis­cover our city and, apart from see­ing the de­signs, meet­ing new peo­ple.

Flack: And there’s also some­thing re­ally elec­tric about the at­mos­phere sur­round­ing the event…

Mami: Yes. It’s spring time, with the sun­light, when you dis­cover a hid­den court­yard, and the wis­te­ria is blos­som­ing. So it’s a beau­ti­ful time for the city.

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