ZIGZAG PATH TO SUCCESS
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.