When Amina Mucciolo noticed Jessica Alba staring at her outside the Lombardi House in Hollywood, she froze. In a role reversal straight out of a movie fan’s wildest fantasies, Alba stopped Amina and asked her for a photo.
“She was like, ‘I have to meet you because you look like a mermaid, and if I didn’t meet you and take a picture with you, my daughter would never forgive me,’” Mucciolo recalls. “It was such a sweet moment.”
Alba’s mermaid comparison is not lost on Mucciolo, who often calls her followers “mermaids.” The fashionista and founder of Studio Mucci — a design studio that crafts handmade tassel garlands, balloons, piñatas and more — wears long, pastel-colored braids that tumble past her waist. She often dons tutu skirts, bright eyeshadow, rainbow patterns and glittering nails. Her playful look brings to mind other childhood obsessions like the unicorn (she once called her braided bun a “unicorn bun”) and the fairy (her YouTube channel is called Tasselfairy).
Studio Mucci’s products have a similar whimsy. The popular tassel garlands come in lengths of 6 or 10 feet, with names like Candy Corn Sparkle, Holly Golightly and Pastel Mermaid. The brand’s growing popularity has led to collaborations with companies like Urban Outfitters and celebrities such as Kacey Musgraves.
But the colorful personality that her followers admire — Mucciolo has 86,000 followers on Instagram alone — didn’t fully emerge until she got closer to her 30s. Growing up in Rancho Cucamonga as the youngest child in a family with high expectations, Mucciolo struggled to find her place. At the age of 12, her parents got a divorce and a series of other personal challenges led to the beginning of her long battle with bulimia.
She hoped to become a writer but struggled to finish high school and only took a few junior college classes. At 18, she left home with $20 and all her belongings to move to Florida with her then-boyfriend. Eventually, she came back to Los Angeles, where her brother wisely advised her to use Craigslist to find a roommate.
“I started finding everything on Craigslist,” Mucciolo says. “And I thought, well, hell, I found a couch, I found a roommate, maybe I can find some friends.”
She wrote a post that focused on the negative parts of her personality — “I talked about how bossy I am” — and dealt with a few creepy personalities before meeting Salvatore Mucciolo. The last person to message her, he’s now her husband and the director of operations at the studio.
The couple live together in a loft in downtown Los Angeles that houses both their personal and studio space. Work tables are covered in colorful rows of washi tape, sparkling piñatas hang from the ceiling, and a kitchen area (also filled with rainbow strips of tape) contains bowls in pastel shades. Worf and Princess Leia, the couple’s dogs, sprint around the space with an infectious energy.
The road to this light, color-filled space proved extremely difficult. Mucciolo attempted suicide in her 20s; with the encouragement of Salvatore and her brother, she finally checked into treatment for her bulimia. In a recent YouTube video she said, “I think the day that I did not die is the day that I started to live.” Her willingness to share this experience has helped her build a supportive community.
“I decided that I was always going to talk about it. Because that was the thing that kept me from falling backwards,” Mucciolo says. “That was the thing that kept me being really honest about who I was. It was like being born again, in a way. I was not really me until I was free of this.”
Mucciolo and Salvatore spent a few years in Oklahoma while he finished his Ph.D. She spent most of her time experimenting with paper. With Salvatore in school and Mucciolo in treatment, the couple struggled financially.
“To be honest, yes, I was inspired to start Studio Mucci because I was in a place where I really wanted to do something that made me happy and where I could give that happy to someone,” Mucciolo says. “That’s one of the big reasons — but another reason is because we were dead broke.”
Studio Mucci began as an Etsy shop before expanding to a small team that works from the couple’s space. But it wasn’t until Mucciolo started sharing both her colorful personality and her difficult journey that the brand really took off.
She now hopes to reach people who struggle internally with issues like eating disorders, even while their lives appear stable on the outside.
“I want to talk about the people who don’t know what the fuck to do with themselves,” Mucciolo says. “There’s so many of us who are like that, who came from an OK family and things were fine — but just couldn’t figure it out.”
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For all its rainbow colors and sparkly items, Studio Mucci is still a business with many challenges. Mucciolo remembers “just kind of making things up” at the beginning, but she now juggles a burgeoning business with a growing social media presence.
“I still get a lot of people that say, 'Your life looks so perfect and things look so easy,' and so I really wanna make sure everyone knows that I still have days when I might not want to get out of bed."
The fashion and blogging spheres can be critical spaces, but that doesn’t faze Mucciolo, who's happy to add a little more mermaid magic to the mix.
“There need to be more people who represent more people,” Mucciolo says. “Everybody can’t look the same, everyone can’t afford the same ridiculously priced clothes or whatever. And why would you want to? That’s so boring.”