27 giugno 2023
by Rita Lofano

undertone, intensity, contrast, color value


Elly Schlein reveals in an interview with Vogue that she chooses her outfits with an armocromia expert. For many it sounds like a new thing, a new fad of trendy politicians. Armocromia (color harmony) is no stranger to Rossella Migliaccio, who has created a career and written a bestseller on the art of choosing colors that suit the individual and their personality. Migliaccio is among the most famous image experts, so much so that she now teaches it and is founder and Ceo of the Alien Image Institute.

"Born at the foot of Vesuvius and raised in the shadow of the Madonnina" (reads her bio) and thus with the elegance of Neapolitan tailoring part of her DNA, reinforced with the principles of economics studied at Bocconi University.

Origins, the principle of color: "Yes, I'm Neapolitan by origin and then I moved to Milan for university and stayed here. I started working and discovered the world of image consulting, which is thriving and has a long tradition, especially in English-speaking countries".

This was where it all started; what did the future supreme expert in armocromia have in mind as a young woman? Rossella travels through her memories: "I took a somewhat peculiar path because I have a degree in marketing from Bocconi, and I immediately started working in fashion publishing and advertising. So working from the beginning with clients in the fashion and beauty industry was a valuable background for me, fundamental to what happened next. After this experience in advertising, I moved to London and there I discovered the world of image consulting. It was like a bolt of lightning".

"I decided to leave everything behind - she says proudly - and to devote myself to this profession, I took an international diploma to become an image consultant. At the time–we're talking now almost 15 years ago–everyone told me, “No, but you"re mad! Don't quit your job, you have a degree from Bocconi. Why do you want to do this? It will never work in Italy.”

Instead, I really believed in it because I think it's a natural thing for men and women of all ages to want to find out which colors and shapes suit us best. "One person, one set of colors. Rossella (Scarlett) is like O'Hara from Gone with the Wind, with a strong character. Is bright scarlet red also her color or maybe I am exaggerating? ‘Nomen omen, so evidently it was written in my destiny and so, after I got my diploma as an image consultant, I started working with private clients and then teaching it about 15 years ago; my institute was the first in Italy dedicated to image consulting". But there were already consultants even in Italy.... "Of course, stylists existed before, however, the image consultant as we understand it today did not, nor did the subject of armocromia. "How did you achieve your success? ‘As is often the case, it came with social media; talking about it, particularly on Instagram, led to the big explosion and the great thing is that it has become a popular trend".

They say it is an indulgence of the radical-chic. "So, it's a bit elitist, of course. In America, it started in the 1930s in the movies: in old Hollywood, the costume designers studied color palettes for the stars and so it was extremely elitist; and even in Italy, it was always seen as something for the few, instead the fact of popularizing these subjects, in a simple way, with simple examples, has engaged a wide audience. Social networks and books: the new strolling hand-in-hand with the traditional. The book came out in 2019 and it opened up a whole new world; it became a bestseller". The book is very interesting and entertaining; to summarize, how would you define armocromia? "It is the first step of an image consultation, which helps us to understand the color palette that suits us best and that we can use in make-up, clothing, hair coloring and in all the colors around us."

An armocromia session is usually done in person without makeup, in natural light precisely to analyze the person's colors, passing a series of colored drapes under the face in a certain order and in a certain way. This helps us understand the characteristics in terms of undertone, color intensity, contrast, color value, because armocromia works by repetition.

How can you tell which colors are "friends” and which are “enemies”? Is there a technique? "An armocromia session is usually done in person without makeup, in natural light precisely to analyze the person's colors, passing a series of colored drapes under the face in a certain order and in a certain way. This helps us understand the characteristics in terms of undertone, color intensity, contrast, color value, because armocromia works by repetition. I suit colors that have the same color characteristics as me. For example, if I have warm colors, I will suit warm colors, if I have very contrasting colors in my skin-eyes-hair color mix I will suit other contrasts." So, it's not an “I like this and I wear it” kind of choice. "No, but it is also true that many times, merely on the basis of experience, we already have our elected favorite colors that we use with pleasure or that maybe sometimes our mother used to have us wear when we were little. There is a part in the book where it says that whatever your palette is, Mom knows. It happens so often during an armocromia analysis that people say “this is the color my mom used to have me wear”. Result? "Over time, I developed my own theory, that mothers know what our friend colors are".

And who would have thought that from mom we would move on to politics, to Elly Schlein, and some will criticize that after all, there is no need for an armocromia consultant because we all know what colors look good on us, because our grandmothers, moms, even aunts teach us. Why do you think there is so much hype? After all, political figures are among those who naturally rely on image consultants.

 Politics made me smile a little bit because honestly, public figures precisely, politicians first of all, but not only, have always used someone to help them improve their image, it is a communication choice. What"s more, in Italy this topic is not new ... already 30 years ago, there was the famous TV duel between Berlusconi and Occhetto and there was great discussion on the subject.

That was a long time ago! "I don't know if you remember the color of the jackets of the two contenders: Berlusconi in blue, Occhetto in brown.... Berlusconi was the first in Italy place a lot of emphasis on image: he was always very American in this respect". But Elly is on the Left... "I think that's more the news, the criticism, even a little malicious". I remember a famous TV debate, Nixon versus Kennedy; it is said that Kennedy won the election partly because in that debate Nixon appeared tired and sweaty. In short, a tarnished image. Is there also a bias against Schlein because she is a woman? "Low-level humor, for sure, but it also targeted the subject itself, armocromia. I was a bit sorry to see it described as a frivolous female thing, implying the whole “there are more important things in the world” notion.  Actually, studying your own image for the purpose of political communication is a very normal thing, it has always been done, I see nothing wrong with it. It is a very serious job, it's business, and it is part of the life of public figures. I was sorry to see such irony and sarcasm".

But there is always a silver lining. The “Schlein case” put her book, which was ahead of its time, back in the spotlight; a handbook on personal colors. "It is a comprehensive guide for those who want to learn more, for those who want to discover their personal colors, full of curious facts. It became a long seller, I was astonished by the journalists, who should be up-to-date on current events, social phenomena. A phenomenon that is anything but frivolous. Not only has armocromia exploded in recent years, but it has created a veritable industry, because lots of people are doing it as a full-time job". Numbers? "My institute trains more than 1,500 consultants a year, who are working and thriving".

How do you choose an image and color consultant? "First of all, you have to find out if and where they studied, how many years of experience they have. And then, as in all professions, it is not just a matter of courses and qualifications, because it is a job that requires updating, a culture of fashion, design". Do the colors that suit us change over time? "Our palette does not change over the course of our lives, so if we belong to a macro color group, it will always be the same. However, it is also true that, especially as the years go by, we tend to get a little cooler, so the colors become a little colder, the color intensity is lowered, there are small adjustments. But after the first armocromia session, the result is forever, you don't have to repeat it every year". Great, all it takes is a touch-up. Let's look back again: we mentioned cinema in the 1930s, but even in animated films–Disney in particular–colors have always played an important role.

Are there good colors and bad colors? ‘Yes, absolutely, especially Disney, for obvious reasons, has always worked a lot with colors. Disney's early cartoons required the main characters to wear primary colors: red, yellow and blue. Think of Pinocchio, Snow White: they wear primary colors. That is why the villains, the antagonists, usually always wear secondary colors. And in fact, the Disney villains are all in purple, the secondary color becomes the color antagonist to the primary color, and purple by its nature and history is a color associated with mystery, ambiguity

Does the rule also apply to furniture, design? Or is it more closely related to clothes? "Armocromia began as a study to enhance personal colors–skin, eyes and hair–so, yes, it should be applied mainly to clothing and beauty. Having said that, usually those who have a reference palette then become attached to it and tend to use it in the home as well; armocromia gives you a set of indications for pairings that can be carried over to interiors as well".

Can you tell if a consultant is behind a person's color choices? "Let's say that you can tell when there is someone behind it, there is a common theme that is not a coincidence. So you can tell, for example in many movie stars, but also among royalty or political figures". Can you give some examples? "There was talk about Zelensky's army-green T-shirts, including again an article in Vogue with photographs of him with his wife, let's not forget that he is also a man who worked in communications. Details that are not random". Others?

"Emmanuel Macron is famous for his tie collections, including the Marinella collections, which are in fact made by Neapolitan tailors; in this case, again, there is a studied use of accessories, of details". And then there is the world of the stars, the movies. "There are so many celebrities who use very good color consultants: Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Chastain always have perfect looks, also Kate Middleton".

My chat with Rossella Migliaccio ends here. There is only one thing left for me to do: I'm off to find out which colors are for me; the adventure of armocromia has just begun.

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