MISSONI'S

ZIGZAG PATH TO SUC­CESS

Collective Hub - - FRONT PAGE - WORDS MARIELA V. DEMETRIOU

Star­ring Gigi Ha­did

They’re the re­vival­ists of knitwear who zigzagged into the hearts of pat­tern lovers ev­ery­where. And this year, iconic Ital­ian lux­ury life­style la­bel Missoni cel­e­brates its 65th an­niver­sary. More re­cently, An­gela Missoni – part-owner, pres­i­dent and am­bas­sador for all things Missoni – cel­e­brated 20 years as the brand’s cre­ative di­rec­tor.

Luck­ily for us, one of the busiest women in fash­ion took time out to share the brand’s evo­lu­tion story with Col­lec­tive Hub. Want to talk about pro­duc­tiv­ity? In the past two decades, An­gela has con­sis­tently wowed the fash­ion world ev­ery year, with Missoni’s fall 2017 col­lec­tion – worn by our cover star, Gigi Ha­did – de­clared stun­ning and com­mu­ni­cat­ing a sense of fem­i­nin­ity by Women’s Wear Daily.

To­day the Missoni brand has ex­panded into 25 sub-lines, in­clud­ing M Missoni (a lower-priced line owned by the Valentino

My FA­THER started do­ing KNITWEAR be­cause he was MAK­ING track­suits for his SPORTS.

Fash­ion Group); Missoni Home; a men’s line; fra­grances; and Missoni Ho­tels. They also started build­ing the first Missoni res­i­den­tial build­ing in Mi­ami – Missoni Baia. A pri­vately owned com­pany, in 2016 Missoni re­ported rev­enues of $140 mil­lion, $61 mil­lion through Missoni Spa, and a to­tal of $8 mil­lion prof­its.

It was the ge­nius of her par­ents, Rosita and Ot­tavio Missoni, who evolved the tra­di­tional craft­ing of knitwear into an in­ter­na­tional pow­er­house. “My par­ents were never fol­low­ers,” says An­gela. “They just led by their own pas­sion, ex­per­i­ment­ing and be­ing very cu­ri­ous.”

Rosita (who’s still very much in­volved in the busi­ness) first laid eyes on her late hus­band, Ot­tavio (Tai), at the Lon­don Olympics in 1948, where he was com­pet­ing as an ath­lete for Italy.

“My fa­ther started do­ing knitwear be­cause he was mak­ing track­suits for his sports,” says An­gela. “My mother’s fam­ily owned a fabric and em­broi­dery com­pany, so [she] grew up with fash­ion mag­a­zines and in that en­vi­ron­ment.” >

They had a sim­ple mo­ti­va­tion: “This was a job sim­ply for them both to live,” ex­plains An­gela. “They de­cided they were go­ing to have a fam­ily and make a liv­ing out of this.”

It wasn’t un­til they se­cured their first spot in a win­dow in Mi­lan’s trendi­est depart­ment store of the time, La Ri­nascente – home to the world’s best lux­ury Ital­ian and in­ter­na­tional brands – that Missoni be­gan to garner some se­ri­ous at­ten­tion.

The US mar­ket was also soon hooked, in large part thanks to then-ed­i­tor of Amer­i­can Vogue, Diana Vree­land, who was a ma­jor fash­ion icon in the late ’60s and a fan of the Missoni vest.

They de­cided to build a fac­tory in the mid­dle of the coun­try, up on a hill in the prov­ince of Varese, Lom­bardy, with a beau­ti­ful view of the moun­tains.

“Every­body was ask­ing, ‘But why do you build this?’” re­calls An­gela. “And my fa­ther would say, ‘You know what, as much as I have to work, I’d pre­fer to work in a place that I would like to spend my week­ends.’”

Their daugh­ter An­gela in­her­ited their way of think­ing. “They were al­ways think­ing with their own mind,” she says. “This is the qual­ity of life they in­stilled in us – the bal­ance – that I can never thank my par­ents enough for giv­ing us.”

At the time, it was con­sid­ered quite phe­nom­e­nal to cre­ate ver­ti­cal stripes on a reg­u­lar knit­ting ma­chine, and de­spite many ad­vances in pro­duc­tion tech­niques since then, that unique process has been re­tained, with An­gela ex­plain­ing that “60 per cent of the knitwear Missoni pro­duces is still fash­ion-sewn.”

Missoni in­au­gu­rated an un­mis­tak­able way of dress­ing and liv­ing. With their sig­na­ture zigzag mo­tifs, stripes, waves and slub yarns in a colour­ful patch­work of geo­met­ric and flo­ral jacquard, their pro­duc­tion num­bers re­main, to this day, quite ar­ti­sanal.

“I keep say­ing to my peo­ple that I think we should num­ber ev­ery piece that comes out of this pro­duc­tion, as you will not find more than 300 pieces of the same gar­ment all over the world.”

With An­gela, the con­ver­sa­tion al­ways comes back to fam­ily. “My mum is 100 per cent cu­ri­ous and has al­ways been pas­sion­ate about fash­ion,” she says. “My par­ents were able to trans­mit this pas­sion to the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion and, at the same time, they gave my brothers and I a lot of free­dom.” The sec­ond gen­er­a­tion – An­gela and her sib­lings – were also given the free­dom to ex­plore.

I wasn’t a good STU­DENT… oth­er­wise I would have stud­ied PSY­CHOL­OGY or I would have BE­COME a VET.

“We were not boxed into the fam­ily busi­ness,” she says. “It wasn’t un­til later, when I was do­ing my own thing, that my mum asked me to do the col­lec­tion.”

Tak­ing the reins of the fam­ily busi­ness was not ex­pected. She ad­mits, “I wasn’t a good stu­dent, be­cause oth­er­wise I would have stud­ied psy­chol­ogy or I would have be­come a vet. I knew that I wanted to be in­de­pen­dent. I al­ways knew that I was go­ing to work for a liv­ing, be­cause free­dom for women comes through work. I think maybe I’m the fourth gen­er­a­tion of work­ing women [in my fam­ily], which is huge in Italia.”

In 1997, the prover­bial ball of yarn was passed on to the next gen­er­a­tion of cre­atives, and it was then that An­gela took charge of the ready-to-wear col­lec­tions. As she cel­e­brated her 20th year as cre­ative di­rec­tor in 2017, she was awarded the Life­time Achieve­ment in Fash­ion Award.

“I was over­whelmed by the af­fec­tion and by the re­spect there is for the la­bel [and for] the re­spect I have been shown for my work,” she says.

To­gether with her brother and nephew, she owns the com­pany. “At the mo­ment I’m also the pres­i­dent of the com­pany so I’m tak­ing care of many, many as­pects which are not re­lated to the col­lec­tion it­self, but they are re­lated to busi­ness, re­lated to num­bers, re­lated to so much else which re­quires a lot of cre­ativ­ity to­day!” she says, laugh­ing. “I know I’m a per­son who is great at find­ing so­lu­tions! That’s one of my spe­cial­ties!” Her son Francesco calls her MacGyver, af­ter the TV se­ries from the ’80s, as she can sup­pos­edly fix any­thing.

An­gela has three grownup chil­dren: Francesco, Teresa and the most fa­mous of the three, Margherita. She’s of­ten cham­pi­oned as Missoni’s am­bas­sador, with her strik­ing model looks and im­pec­ca­ble sar­to­rial choices copied the world over, of­ten fea­tur­ing in the Missoni cam­paigns.

In a home where strong women rule the roost, Margherita has un­equiv­o­cally forged her own zigzag path, liv­ing and study­ing in New York, Paris and Rome. She joined the de­sign team for Missoni Ac­ces­sories be­fore over­see­ing the li­censed Missoni ranges – ev­ery­thing from shoes to swimwear – in Mi­lan. >

FREE­DOM for women comes through work. I THINK maybe I’m the fourth gen­er­a­tion OF work­ing women [in my FAM­ILY].

Since then, Margherita has re­moved her­self pro­fes­sion­ally from the brand, cu­rat­ing her own line of kids cloth­ing among other col­lab­o­ra­tions; a sim­i­lar tune to her mother An­gela, who also took a back­seat to the fam­ily busi­ness to raise her three chil­dren (and or­ganic chick­ens) un­til her youngest was ready to start school.

“They’re very nor­mal kids in the sense that they’re all so grounded,” ex­plains An­gela, whose daugh­ters have moved within a five-minute ra­dius from their mum in the Ital­ian coun­try­side.

The fam­ily hol­i­day at their Sar­dinian home in Au­gust, where An­gela en­joys the lux­ury of time with her fam­ily and grand­chil­dren, all dressed in chic tur­bans and adorned in the most out­ra­geous ac­ces­sories. She trav­els to Seville for Easter, New York for per­sonal rea­sons, Mi­ami for art shows, and Venice for the film fes­ti­val, and com­mutes be­tween her coun­try home and the of­fices of Mi­lan al­most ev­ery other week.

Her tips on run­ning a su­per suc­cess­ful fash­ion and life­style dy­nasty?

“I think that, first of all, you need at­ten­tion to de­tail, which can be tir­ing,” she says. “You need to be very, very pas­sion­ate. You have to own your own vi­sion, right? As my mother said to me when I started, ‘You have to do fash­ion when you’re pas­sion­ate and you must have the strength to bat­tle with the com­mer­cial part of the busi­ness.’”

To­day, the fash­ion in­dus­try is more com­pli­cated than ever, she ad­mits.

“You have to bat­tle for your idea,” she says, “You have to be­lieve in what you’re do­ing, and you also have to have a lot of luck. The dig­i­tal world can help a lot of [up-and-com­ers] be seen. If you have something spe­cial to say, you have the chance of be­ing seen and be­ing scouted to­day.”

De­spite an in­cred­i­ble amount of ap­pre­ci­a­tion for her ca­reer, An­gela is hon­est about the down­sides of her work.

“I know I’m a very lucky per­son and I have an amaz­ing job and fam­ily,” she says. “But some­times I think, ‘Oh my god, it would be nice if I could be off dur­ing the year; to have a dif­fer­ent sched­ule.’ Maybe it’s ask­ing too much!”

She fan­ta­sises about sim­pli­fy­ing. “Maybe one day I’m go­ing to take care of the Home col­lec­tion, or Missoni ‘Gar­den­ing’, or maybe something else.” What­ever it is, we have a hunch it will be noth­ing short of fab­u­lous with the con­tin­ued Mi­das Missoni touch.

You HAVE to bat­tle for your idea. You have to BE­LIEVE in WHAT you’re do­ing, and you ALSO have to have a lot of LUCK.

A young An­gela with her mother, Rosita

Missoni Es­tate 2018 col­lec­tion

From left: Rosita, Tai and Margherita

The founders of Missoni, Rosita and Tai (cen­tre right), their chil­dren (An­gela’s on the left) and grand­chil­dren.

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