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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Italian Fashion: The History of Missoni

Spring 2009 Missoni Ad photographed by Steven Meisel

"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."- Rosita Missoni, New York Post, 1978

She’s vibrant, sensual, fun, cool, laid back yet magnetic. She is the Missoni woman, the product of a brand that for over 60 years has used colorful knits to carve out their place in the global fashion industry. Italian fashion designers and companies have in my opinion done the best job of having a perfect balance between the aesthetics and the business of fashion and Missoni is no exception. From their Target collaboration that was one of the most successful high-low collaborations to date to their home collection and their diffusion line M Missoni they have figured out how to stay relevant in all tiers and categories of the retail industry. The story of Missoni all started with a beautiful love story that launched a fashion empire.

Ottavio and Rosita Missoni

In 1953 Rosita Jelmini married Ottavio Missoni after they met at the 1948 Olympics in London where Ottavio was running in the 400m-hurdle race, and Rosita was in London to perfect her knowledge of the English language. Prior to their meeting Ottavio had started a knitwear business with a friend, and they had created the wool tracksuits worn by the Italian Olympic team that year. Rosita’s family had a business creating shawls that she was becoming more and more involved in, but after they were married they turned their focus to using the knitwear business Ottavio had to create the foundation of the Missoni brand we experience today. The Missoni’s started by selling their knitwear in La Rinascente, the storied Italian department store, but it was the sixties that served as the real launching pad for the success of the brand starting with a knitwear collection created in collaboration with French designer Emmanuelle Kahn. This collection helped to put the couple into the fashion spotlight and into the international fashion business.

“I like comparing color to music: only seven notes and yet innumerable melodies have been composed.” – Ottavio Missoni

In the latter half of the sixties decade the Missoni’s began to show their collection in Paris and then New York which brought them more publicity and exposure in the public eye. In the seventies they hit their stride. As the jet set and party era began the colorful knits of Missoni resonated with the industry and the public alike. Bloomingdales created an in-store boutique for Missoni, all of the top photographers of the time began shooting their collections, and fashion editors were singing the brand’s praises. It was one of those moments when a brand has the right product at the right time, everything Missoni stood for and represented was very in line with the seventies culture.

The eighties is when Missoni began to evolve their empire and branch out into other products to give their consumers more diversity than the colorful zigzag patterns they were known for. During this decade they introduced fragrances, their Home collection, swimwear, etc. Because boardroom dressing and power suits dominated fashion during the eighties, and rather than try to conform Missoni decided to expand. The creation of new categories helped to broaden their consumer base and set the foundation for Rosita and Ottavio’s children to takeover the operations of the company. In the mid nineties their only daughter Angela Missoni took over the creative responsibilities for the brand in order to usher the company into a new era. Missoni today is still driven by their colorful knits and the history of what they represented during the seventies glamour and boho chic era resonates through the brand today.

Missoni is such a powerful brand because a label doesn’t define what it is. You can tell a garment is Missoni just by looking at the chevron and kaleidoscope patterns it’s as though the patterns are the label. This has allowed the brand to set itself a part for many decades because the essence of their brand is literally woven in the fabrics, it’s not an idea or a feeling it’s real. 

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  1. Great post! I remember when Missoni designed for Target (do they still?)

    Erin | Erin and Katherine Talk Beauty

  2. I love the vibrant colours used in these designs!

    P.s have you seen my Inks box? See details here:


  3. Hey Erin! The collection for Target was a limited time only thing. I know Missoni did another collaboration with Target Australia last year, but I'm sure that's sold out by now too. It really was one of the best brand collabs Target has ever done!

  4. Me too! Missoni is so unique in the way they can make knits so colorful and vibrant :-)


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