Radiant bursts of bright, luminous color are always a treat. But in a month dominated by grey skies and chilly temperatures—and that’s before you start reading the news—a shot of kaleidoscopic sunshine courtesy of Studio Mucci is more necessary than ever. Studio Mucci is the name of the brand and creative multimedia design studio created by Amina Mucciolo, a Los Angeles-based creative whose Instagram profile describes her as a “human rainbow” as well as a visual artist and designer. Her creativity spans a number of mediums—illustration, interior design, fashion—and Mucciolo is an artist who lives her art, taking every aspect of her life and using it as an opportunity to create. Her signature palette can range from pastel to neon, but always swirls together bright shades—she’s especially fond of pink and purple—into a joyful eruption of positivity and color.
Her work is sunny, but Mucciolo’s journey hasn’t been an easy one. Mucciolo has been upfront about the difficulties she’s faced as a Black, queer person with autism on social media, as well as in her art. Although her art still radiates positivity: One of her prints features a frowning strawberry against a neon pink background with the caption, “It’s okay to be afraid, just don’t let fear have the last word.” As she told Buzzfeed News last summer, “I basically just want everybody to feel welcomed, loved, and accepted. And I try to use my social media platforms to serve that purpose.”
If only corporations felt the same way. Mucciolo has had her designs—and, even more appallingly, her image and identity—shamelessly appropriated more than once during her career, first when Mucciolo called out Lisa Frank for its “Lisa Frank Flat” in 2017. That space bore an eyebrow-raising resemblance to Mucciolo’s DTLA loft, which she called “Cloudland” and was profiled in Apartment Therapy as “the most colorful apartment in the world.” Then, in 2019, people started messaging Mucciolo about a doll made by toy company LOL Surprise that looked exactly like her. A fan petition, along with visual evidence of the parallels between Mucciolo’s likeness and the doll, were dismissed by the company’s CEO, and legal proceedings are still ongoing.
The A.V. Club asked Mucciolo to tell us a little bit more about her personal aesthetic, creative process, and pop cultural inspirations. This interview came together over several months, so she may be rocking a different playlist these days—but, as she makes clear, her commitment to color never wavers.
The A.V. Club: Has your aesthetic stayed the same throughout your life?
Amina Mucciolo: I think I developed my personal style when I was [about] 9, and I kept the same style until I was about 13. And then from high school until I think the age of 28, I didn’t have a personal style or aesthetic. Expressing myself was a low priority because I wanted to be liked. It was like I was an alien from another planet—my only goal was to please the other humans enough to at least just blend in. But even through all of this I still gravitated towards color. I couldn’t deny how good it made me feel. Eventually my focus shifted back to self expression, and I slowly started reverting back to my childhood aesthetic.
AVC: When did you first begin to experiment with color?
AM: When I was a child. I did a lot of crafts and they were always centered around colorful materials and objects. I remember being 5 or 6, playing around with different color patterns and stripes with a small plastic loom that had nylon loops. I also spent many hours as a child arranging things around our house in complicated color patterns and groupings. I feel like I came out of the womb obsessed with color.
AVC: Do you have a favorite color or color palette?
AM: Picking favorites feels impossible, but I definitely have colors that I gravitate to the most. I tend to use a lot of pink and purple in everything I do. I use color as a form of communication, so it really just depends on what I’m trying to say. But if I were forced to pick I’d have to say neon rainbow, but that’s only how I’m feeling today. If you ask me tomorrow, I’ll likely give you a different answer.
AVC: What mediums do you like to work in the most? Most of what I’ve seen has been fashion and interior design.
AM: I’ve been creative my whole life, but in a lot of ways it feels like I’m just getting started. That likely has something to do with the whole “learning I’m autistic at 35” thing. There’s still so much I want to learn and explore: pottery, various types of fiber art and textile design—just to name a couple. But I basically use whatever is around me or what I have access to. That’s how I’ve always created.
Right now my favorite thing to do is digital illustration, because of the lack of limitations. It’s something I’ve been practicing for a couple of years. But I still really love painting in real life, especially on walls. If I had to pick my two favorite things, [they] would be digital illustration, because of the possibilities, and painting on walls, because you can do all kinds of weird shit to completely transform your reality.
AVC: I’m curious about your process.When you’re working on an outfit or a room, do you sketch out your idea first? How do you go from a concept to a design scheme?
AM: Sometimes, it really just depends on the size and scope of the project. If it’s especially large with lots of moving parts, I sketch or draw it out to keep everything organized. I don’t do that with fashion or makeup. It’s all based around how I feel, so it’s intuitive. I usually just figure it out that day. But with things that I do frequently I develop little formulas or templates… things that usually don’t make sense if I try to explain them to others, LOL. Sal, my life/business partner, says it’s like living with a mad scientist sometimes.
AVC: Do you find inspiration in movies, music, and/or TV shows?
AM: I’m obsessed with nature documentaries and stuff like Cosmos. I always get inspired and take away something new every time I watch. Steven Universe, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and movies from the ’80s and ’90s are [also] in constant rotation. Some older movies and shows I like to watch are: Moana, The Princess And The Frog, Beauty And The Beast, Saved By The Bell, B.I.G., Mac And Me, E.T., and all John Singleton and Spike Lee movies.
But music is the big one for me, because the first art I ever really noticed was album cover art. My father had a huge record collection, and we would spend hours looking at them and listening to them. I probably remember all the Stevie Wonder album art the most because he was my favorite as a kid, but the whole experience was pretty foundational to who I am as a human. Music goes hand in hand with color for me, and it’s an endless source of creative inspiration.
These artists are currently in heavy rotation, but this changes drastically and frequently: Alice Coltrane, RAMP, Pharaoh Sanders, Miles, Billy Idol, Janet Jackson, Sade, Talking Heads, The Smiths, Brandy, Joy Division, Solange, No Doubt (2000 and earlier), Mint Condition, Fiona Apple, Speedy Ortiz, Cree Summer, and Yazmin Lacey.
To learn more about Amina Mucciolo and her world of fun, color, and artistic inspiration, you can start by following @studiomucci on Instagram. From there, you can support Studio Mucci on Patreon, donate to the GoFundMe to cover Mucciolo’s legal fees in her fight against Lisa Frank and LOL Surprise, and peruse the collections of stickers, prints, face masks, phone cases, and shirts at her online store, A Rainbow In Your Cloud.