“The passion for fashion comes from the Missoni women.” ~ Angela Missoni
It was the second time I had spent an evening at the 92nd Street Y in NY, in the audience of Fern Mallis’s Fashion Icon Series (the first conversation was an interview with Barney’s Creative Ambassador at Large, Simon Doonan). Last night, I witnessed a warm and wonderful conversation with the two powerhouse women behind the Italian brand, Missoni: matriarch Rosita, and her daughter, Angela. A fashion icon herself, Fern Mallis, knew what to ask of these remarkable women, in order to tell the true story of Missoni. Here is what I now know:
Rosita Missoni is now 84, born under the sign Scorpio. Rosita met Ottavio Missoni when she was just 16 years old (he was 27) in London; he was an Olympic athlete – track and field. Then, and now, Rosita Missoni follows the signs and is somewhat superstitious. When she saw Ottavia’s number (3-3-1) on his track uniform she knew it was a good sign – 7 was her lucky number. She fell in love with him at Picadilly Circus in London, under the Statue of Eros (cupid) and to this day she wears a cupid necklace around her neck. Rosita grew up reading fashion magazines and says she learned a lot about patterns and style from those magazines.
Angela Missoni is 57, the youngest child of Rosita and Ottavio, and the only girl. She was there for the very first Missoni fashion show in 1965 and has been to every fashion show since. She describes herself as late bloomer and a silent observer, and says that it took her a while to find her path. She always knew she wanted to be a mother at a young age, and had her three children: Margherita, Francesco, and Teresa, before she seriously contemplated joining the family business.
The brand Missoni, was founded in Italy in 1953, as a small knitwear workshop and has always been family run. It was legendary Diana Vreeland, who introduced Missoni to fashion influencers and put Missoni on the map in America in the 1970s. It was Diana Vreeland who said, “Who said a rainbow only has 7 colors? There are many shades!”
When Ottavio wanted to move the Missoni factory to a beautiful spot in Northern Italy, where they would both live and work, “it was the best thing we’ve ever done,” says Rosita. Sumirago, Italy, at the foot of the Italian Alps, has been the home of the Missoni family and working factory for years. Rosita feels it is essential to create in an environment surrounded by beauty. The model that the Missoni’s have created is one-of-a-kind and a rare thing in today’s world of fashion design. Says Angela, “It is very unique today to see design from the full process – head to toe. It’s very artisanal.”
Angela Missoni emerged as a designer in her own right in the mid 1990s and took over the reigns of the business. Rosita said that she is so proud of her daughter, and that when she sees Angela in the factory it is clear that she is “very much loved” by the workers. She has successfully sharpened the image of Missoni and modernized its mission and image. Her daughters, Margherita and Teresa have been involved in the business, as well, and though they are building their own families now, Angela says they will always be involved: “The passion for fashion comes from the Missoni women!”