Weav­ing Jagged Magic

THE PAIN OF BE­REAVE­MENT HAS STRENGTH­ENED THE MIS­SONI DY­NASTY’S PAS­SION FOR FASH­ION AND FAM­ILY. Madeleine Ross MEETS TWO OF THE ITAL­IAN BRAND’S FRESH­EST FACES AS THEY TAKE ON ASIA

Hong Kong Tatler - - Spotlight -

Last year was a pe­riod of heart­break and read­just­ment for the Mis­soni fam­ily. The 58-year-old CEO of the fam­ily’s epony­mous fash­ion brand, Vit­to­rio Mis­soni, the el­dest son of founders Ot­tavio and Rosita, dis­ap­peared in Jan­uary when a light air­craft car­ry­ing him and his wife dis­ap­peared off the coast of Venezuela. A few months later, while au­thor­i­ties were still search­ing for the wreck­age, 92-year-old Ot­tavio died, leav­ing the fam­ily and the fash­ion house bereft of their two lead­ing men.

The sub­se­quent griev­ing process, as with any scru­ti­nised by the me­dia, was par­tic­u­larly painful—es­pe­cially for Vit­to­rio’s three chil­dren. But the sib­lings found so­lace in the strength of

fam­ily bonds, which re­main as closely wo­ven as Mis­soni’s sig­na­ture knitwear more than 60 years after the brand’s gen­e­sis.

“We re­acted as a fam­ily—all to­gether,” says Ot­tavio Jr, the 30-year-old son of the late CEO, who works on all facets of the brand, from sales and mar­ket­ing to store con­cept de­sign and brand de­vel­op­ment. “Of course, ev­ery sin­gle per­son re­acts in his own way and it takes time to face the prob­lem. But hav­ing a fam­ily like this was very help­ful; we spend a lot of time to­gether.”

We meet Ot­tavio in Hong Kong with his 26-year-old cousin, Teresa Mac­ca­pani Mis­soni, daugh­ter of the brand’s de­signer and cre­ative di­rec­tor, An­gela Mis­soni. Both are bright and nat­u­ral, Ot­tavio self-as­sured but softly spo­ken and Teresa warm, spir­ited and sen­ti­men­tal, her rich, husky voice am­pli­fy­ing when the con­ver­sa­tion turns to fam­ily. The fresh-faced heirs have come to the city to cel­e­brate the one-year an­niver­sary of the open­ing of Mis­soni’s first Hong Kong bou­tique—and to launch a sec­ond lo­ca­tion on Cen­tral’s On Lan Street.

The cousins grew up im­mersed in the world of their grand­par­ents’ brand, mak­ing merry

“WHEN I WAS A KID, IT WASN’T A JOB FOR ME. IT WAS LIKE A MAGIC WORLD”

among the mul­ti­coloured yarns and silken threads in the fac­to­ries that have crafted its sig­na­ture zigzagged tex­tiles for six decades. While the brand has its head­quar­ters in Mi­lan, its fab­rics are still made in the town of Varese, 65 kilo­me­tres north of the city.

“While we were play­ing, the peo­ple work­ing there would teach us how to do things. That’s how we learned—as a game. When I was a kid, it wasn’t a job for me; it was like a magic world,” re­calls Teresa, who knows ev­ery one of the fac­tory’s 300 em­ploy­ees by name.

When asked what it was like grow­ing up with a fa­mous name, Teresa says she and

“IT’S ABOUT KEEP­ING THE FAM­ILY DNA BUT AL­WAYS, AL­WAYS PRO­GRESS­ING” her sib­lings were bliss­fully un­aware of its sig­nif­i­cance for most of their youth. “We’re not a gos­sipy fam­ily and we’re very lucky that ev­ery­one loves us, which is re­ally im­por­tant. We don’t have en­e­mies,” she says. “In Mi­lan it’s kind of nat­u­ral; ev­ery­one is in fash­ion, so it’s not so weird that you’re part of a fash­ion fam­ily. Ev­ery­where you go, one way or another, ev­ery­one is part of a fash­ion fam­ily. It’s nice.”

The brand, which is still wholly owned by the fam­ily, is renowned for its colour­ful pat­terned knitwear. In 1962 the de­sign­ers hit upon the cel­e­brated zigzag mo­tif and, by the ’70s, the la­bel had ar­rived as a global fash­ion force, with Mis­soni widely cred­ited for putting Mi­lan on the map as one of the world’s fash­ion cap­i­tals.

Since then the brand has ex­panded into swimwear, fra­grances and ac­ces­sories, ex­per­i­mented with new ma­te­ri­als and broad­ened its pat­terns to in­clude stripes, geo­met­rics and ab­stract flo­rals. In re­cent years it has adopted a strik­ingly youth­ful edge and in­tro­duced Margherita Mis­soni, An­gela’s first daugh­ter, as the face of the brand.

For a fash­ion house with such a dis­tinc­tive aes­thetic, how­ever, mod­erni­sa­tion is a del­i­cate bal­anc­ing act. “My mother says her par­ents cre­ated the vo­cab­u­lary and she’s up­dat­ing the

lex­i­con,” says Teresa. “You have to re­mem­ber where you come from and what has been done. Keep in mind your ori­gins, but al­ways re­new. The world is chang­ing; peo­ple are chang­ing. It’s im­por­tant to keep mov­ing on and try­ing dif­fer­ent things. It’s about keep­ing the fam­ily DNA but al­ways, al­ways pro­gress­ing,” she says.

Progress is at the fore­front of both am­bas­sadors’ minds when we meet. Fash­ion gi­ants such as Louis Vuit­ton and Gucci have been tar­get­ing Main­land China for years, now boast­ing mul­ti­ple stores across the coun­try. But Mis­soni has held back.

“Com­pared to other brands, we’ve been very slow to en­ter the Chi­nese mar­ket and the Asian mar­ket in gen­eral,” says Ot­tavio. “The rea­son for this is that we’re a fam­ily business and we don’t have the big group be­hind us to push the money. We need to be very de­tailed when we invest. We need to be sure of the risks we’re tak­ing. We can­not do any­thing wrong, be­cause we just have one chance.” Teresa adds, “It’s a big name, but it’s a small business com­pared to how big the name is.”

In this sense, the com­mit­ment to be­ing fam­ily owned and op­er­ated is both a bless­ing and a con­straint. There’s no ques­tion the cousins wouldn’t have it any other way, though.

“Our strength is that our cus­tomers want to buy us be­cause they feel like part of our fam­ily,” says Teresa. “What we do makes them feel fash­ion­able but also cosy, be­cause they know it’s a spe­cial prod­uct that only we make and there is a strong sense of fam­ily.”

Since 2010, the brand has done a num­ber of fam­ily-fo­cused cam­paigns with fash­ion pho­tog­ra­pher Jür­gen Teller. The ad­ver­tise­ments fea­ture can­did and play­ful shots of the Mis­soni ma­tri­archs, pa­tri­archs and third-gen­er­a­tion beau­ties re­lax­ing at home. “Most of the com­ments on the cam­paign were, ‘I want to be part of this fam­ily,’” says Teresa. “Most of our best cus­tomers in the world, they feel this—when they buy, they feel part of this fam­ily. Our world is re­ally magic. It’s some­thing spe­cial, and we want cus­tomers to feel it and to share our way of liv­ing.”

Mis­soni is now look­ing for the right part­ner to take it into the world’s sec­ond-largest econ­omy. “It’s time to bring the brand to another level,” says Ot­tavio. “We faced dif­fi­cult mo­ments last year. It was a hard time. But this made all of us want to work harder and make the peo­ple we have lost proud of what we are do­ing. This is the best way to hon­our what they did.”

STYLISH GENES FROM LEFT: TERESA MAC­CA­PANI MIS­SONI AND OT­TAVIO MIS­SONI JR; LOOKS FROM THE SPRING/ SUM­MER 2014 COL­LEC­TION; FOUNDERS OT­TAVIO SR AND ROSITA; AN­GELA MIS­SONI WITH DAUGH­TERS TERESA AND MARGHERITA

LIFE IN COLOUR FROM TOP: TERESA AND OT­TAVIO JR IN THEIR EL­E­MENTS STORE IN HONG KONG; VIT­TO­RIO’S THREE SONS IN THE 2010 AD­VER­TIS­ING CAM­PAIGN FO­CUSED ON THE FAM­ILY; TERESA AND HER GRAND­FA­THER, OT­TAVIO SR, ALSO FROM THE CAM­PAIGN; A LOOK FROM THE SPRING/ SUM­MER 2014 COL­LEC­TION

STITCH IN TIME A LOOK FROM THE SPRING/ SUM­MER 2014 COL­LEC­TION EX­EM­PLI­FIES THE LA­BEL’S EVO­LU­TION FROM ITS SIG­NA­TURE ZIGZAGS FAM­ILY TIES THREE GEN­ER­A­TIONS OF MIS­SO­NIS POSE FOR A FAM­ILY POR­TRAIT IN 1992, BE­FORE THE LOSS OF OT­TAVIO SR ( CEN­TRE RIGHT) AND VIT­TO­RIO ( TOP RIGHT)

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