Missoni

Contemporary collection
Contemporary Missoni at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

Since it was established in 1953, the Missoni company has been associated with expertly produced, lightweight, delicate knit separates. The company quickly established its image by combining innovative and fractured stripes, plaids, patchworks, ethnic effects, mosaics, zigzags, and flame stitch patterns in vivid and striking color combinations.

Birth of a Label

Young Ottavio (Tai) Missoni, a former athletic sprinter, and Rosita Jelmini, a language student, first conceived the company in 1953. Tai's workshop initially produced track suits. Through Rosita's family of manufacturers, knitting machines became available at a time when patterns were knitted only in horizontal and vertical stitches. The pair had the machines reconfigured for more modern alternatives. After the couple married, Rosita chose to become the firm's business manager. With his extraordinary eye for color, Tai focused his efforts on arranging color palettes.

Designs that Attract Attention

Beginning with their first runway presentation in 1967, at the Pitti Palace, in Florence, the Missonis attracted attention. Fashion writers and arbiters of style such as Diana Vreeland and Bernardine Morris were the first to publicize the Missoni style. By the 1970s the rust-brown Missoni cloth label was recognized worldwide as a status symbol. Along with their artisanal approach and spirited color combinations, the Missonis developed their expertise in striping, scalloping, waves, prints, and jacquard dots. They used as many as twenty different materials, combining wool, cotton, linen, rayon, and silk in forty color selections.

The Next Generation

In the mid-1990s Angela Missoni initiated a reinterpretation of the company's image, making her mark on her parents' label. Her intent was to update the Missoni line by creating redefined and edited collections of bright and sporty garments. Since 1998 Angela has held the position of design director, responsible for developing advertising campaigns with Mario Testino, the noted fashion photographer, in addition to retail sales and the interior design of retail stores. Her revised approach to marketing the brand emphasizes promoting the image of a more youthful, urban clientele. Her daughter, Margherita, serves as her assistant. Her brothers also are active in the family company: Vittorio is responsible for marketing and sales, and Luca directs research in fabric developments and computer technology. In 2003 he was made responsible for the development of the men's wear collection.

In the early 2000s the company employed about 250 craftspeople and technicians, designers, and administration staff at its Sumirago, Italy, enclave outside Milan. Displays of experimental knitting methods and scraps of fabric and yarn lie in a profusion of color on the factory floor. New materials and ideas are posted on the studio walls. The Missonis describe themselves as a working team of artisans and nurture that image.

Design Motifs

The Missoni firm is identified with their collaging of unusual color combinations, patterns, and weights of sumptuous yarns. Layered knit patterns emerge from modern, computerized jacquard looms. Early in the twenty-first century the firm was producing about 150 new textiles and designs every year. The Missoni name can also be found on original collections of home furnishings, accessories, swimwear, cosmetics, and perfume.

Partnerships and Licensing

The company owns more than twenty licensing agreements for men's wear, women's wear, accessories, children's apparel, linens, and furnishings, but the owners have been cautious about extending licensing agreements too far. The firm has ventured into fabrics for automobile interiors and also into theatrical costuming. Angela Missoni, her brothers, and their children seem eminently poised to proceed with the family love of color and their commitment to the continued success of the Missoni label.

See also Color in Dress; Knitting Machinery.

Bibliography

Arte, Leonard, and Samuele Mazza. Missoni (Made in Italy). Corte Madera, Calif.: Ginko Press, 1997.

Missoni, Ottavio, et al. Ottavio e Rosita Missoni Story. Milan, Italy: Skira, 1995. An exhibition catalog.

Vercelloni, Isa Tutino, ed. Missonologia: The World of Missoni. New York: Abbeville, 1995. An exhibition catalog

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Missoni