When I was 15 years old, i spent a weekend with my father in switzerland. On a shopping trip he took me to a missoni boutique and bought me a blazer, cardigan and scarf. I immediately fell in love with their knitwear designs. There is no doubt in my mind that this first encounter, over 30 years ago, has greatly influenced my use and views on colour, patterns and generally the way i look at fashion, interiors and design. It certainly left an everlasting imprint on me.
This is the cardigan i bought over 30 years ago. I last wore it about a week ago. It hasn’t dated right?
Breathtaking patterns and imagery on knitwear.
Does this look like a scarf bought in the early 80’s? Could be the latest season’s design?
The story of rosita and ottavio (tai) missoni began at the 1948 london olympics. Ottavio, a member of the italian olympic team, designed the uniforms for his team mates that year. Rosita, who was born into an italian family of shawl and embroidered fabric producers saw him run the 400m hurdle race. They fell in love and started the missoni dynasty in 1953, the same year they got married.
Their humble beginnings consisted of a small workshop where they created art; the only possible way to describe their early knitwear designs. Taking much of their inspiration from folk art, the missonis were primarily known for their innovative use of knits and patterns. Most recognisable among these is the missoni zigzag but the label also plays with stripes, geometrics and abstract florals. Missoni uses a myriad of colours in their fabrics but avoids any jarring notes by using similar tones. The company is also known for its intelligent use of a variety of different fabrics such as rayon, silk, cotton and wool and for its innovative knitting techniques.
The missonis used great imagination for their creations, separating them apart from the old-fashioned ways of traditional hand knitted items and the often blandness of machine knitted products. Their biggest asset is their supremacy of design, mixing traditional italian skills with modern technology. Missoni still has its own factory in italy where they create their signature knits. It takes around 2-3 hours to make one meter of fabric which can contain over 20 different colours in each design.
Missoni does not rely on fashion trends but instead uses their natural talent for italian flair and style. They have been quoted saying: ‘our philosophy since we went into business has been that a piece of clothing should be like a work of art. It should not be bought for a special occasion or because it’s in fashion, but because a woman likes it…..and feels she could wear it forever.’
In 1997, after over 40 years, rosita missoni stepped down as head of the knitwear line. Being a family run business, the three children of the founders have taken reign of the business. Angela missoni is creative director of the woman’s wear collection. Luca missoni is responsible for the design of the menswear collection and vittorio missoni is marketing director. Recently, margherita missoni, angela’s daughter, has joined the business and is hailed as angela’s next successor.
In 2003, the missoni phenomenon celebrated 50 years in business with a catwalk event at the v&a in london, as part of their fashion in motion series. I was lucky to have obtained a ticket for this much sought after event. They were showing their key pieces for each year since their inception in 1953. Honestly, not one outfit had dated and all would be fashionable today. Total magic and utter genius!
In 2004 rosita missoni, not one for retirement, launched the missoni homeware collection which has been a massive hit. In 2009 rosita oversaw the opening of the first hotel missoni, in edinburgh. I was ecstatic that this coincided with my trip to the edingburgh festival and so celebrated my birthday in missoni heaven. A second hotel, in kuwait, is due to open in March, and she has three more luxury boutique hotels—in oman, brazil and turkey—in the planning. Not bad for a 79 year old lady!
I love going to art galleries and exhibitions. Sometimes i am left speechless and one such time was when visiting the incredible: workshop missoni – daring to be different at the estorick collection of modern italian art back in 2009. Curated by luca missoni, rather than focusing on finished products, the exhibition took the viewer ‘behind the scenes’ of missoni, exploring the technical working processes involved in the production of their fabrics and clothing and revealing their underlying sources of inspiration – including the fine arts.
Here are some pages from my own copy, but you can still buy it from here
I want to leave you with snippets of my own home project. Here below, in my living room, i’ve used the missoni fabric range: neuchatel. When it came to doing the bathroom i wanted to paint stripes, so decided to take a sample of the missoni fabric and ask the nice people of oliver paint in portobello to hand mix me the colours. They did an incredible job but unfortunately they are no longer in business.
Meanwhile, I spent a few days on the computer working out colour dimensions, proportions and how it would work best in that space.
This is a section of the finished bathroom. Who has spotted the missoni bath mat?
My dream came true when on 27 january 2012 i was in the audience in the v&a auditorium, as part of the peroni collaborazioni talks, listening to angela missoni in conversation with renowned fashion journalist gianluca long. Angela allowed a rare insight into what it’s like working for such an iconic family firm. The talk addressed her forecast for the future of italian fashion and her thoughts on the new designers and fashion houses that might shape that future.
My highlight was to be able to go up to angela afterwards and tell her of my longstanding love affair with missoni and thank her for the continued inspiration. Grazie mille!