- The Origin
- Missoni Style
- The Next Generation
- Brand Expansion
- Missoni Celebrates 50 Years
The company was founded by Ottavio (Tai) Missoni (1921) and his wife Rosita Jelmini (1931) in 1953, also the year they got married. They met in London during the 1948 Olympics. Ottavio was the Italian 400-meter running champion in 1938, world student champion in Vienna, and a finalist in the 400 meter hurdles. He also had a small firm in Trieste that produced tracksuits. The tiny Rosita, was young, but determined, and came with fashion experience gained. She gained this experience from her family’s firm, which produced shawls and linens for the home. The couple began with a small workshop in the basement of their home in Gallarate.
Their first client was the Biki boutique in Milan and then, in 1958, La Rinascente. Anna Piaggi was the first person to cite them in the press (Arianna, 1965), which also gave them their first cover in 1967. The first runway show, a collaboration with Emmanuelle Khanh, came in 1966. In 1967, they debuted at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, with a preview of the nude look. In 1969, they built the factory at Sumirago, with their house attached. Although, it was still a house and workshop, their success was by then worldwide. In 1970, Bloomingdale’s opened a Missoni corner in their New York headquarters.
The same year marked the invention of the “put-together” look, a free casual mixture and juxtaposition of stitches and designs. This became the distinctive feature of the Missoni style. Also, mixed with patchwork, colored stripes, and the black-and-white and rainbow “flame motif.” These were followed by Greek key motifs, grids, Scottish checks, folklore designs, and especially abstract African designs.
Materials included knitwear, furs, felts, tweeds, and elasticized fabrics. The variable thickness, textures, technical inventions, and color combinations of the yearn link to abstract and informal art. Decorative elements were taken from Anglo-Saxon applied art, a careful evolution of forms, and above all freedom and joyful creativity. These are the elements that have turned Missoni into a way of life, and their garments loved objects. All their garments are flattering in shape, color, and substance.
Womens Wear Daily listed them among their top 20 Fashion Powers, and Vogue America among the top 10 European designers with the greatest influence on international clothing trends. In 1972, The New York Times wrote:
“Missoni makes the best knitwear in the world and, according to some people, the most beautiful fashions in the world.”
In 1973, Missoni was awarded the Neiman Marcus Award. It was the first in a long series of recognitions: The Tony Award in 1976; the Premio Italia in 1986; and the Pitti Immagine in 1994. Rosita received the International Design Award in New York; Ottavio was made a Cavaliere del Lavoro in 1993, received the Pitti Immagine award in 1994, followed by the Honorary Royal Designer for Industry honor in 1997 in London. Towards the mid-1970s, they added furnishing fabrics and household linen to their collections of knitwear, accessories and jewelry. Ottavio began to display his tapestries in art galleries, first in Venice and then throughout the rest of the world.
In 1976, the first boutique was opened in Milan: 5 more followed in Italy, 2 in Paris, 3 in Germany, 3 in Japan, another 5 in the Far East, and 1 in New York.
Ottavio, who always wears a sweater, is listed among the ten most elegant men in the world. Also, a flower and a star were named after Rosita. They were a highly viewed couple in the fashion world.
25 years of their work was celebrated, in 1978, at the Rotanda della Besana in Milan, with a retrospective that moved to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York two years later. In 1994, in Florence and later in Milan, the Missoni world was described in the exhibition, Missonologia. In 1995, Gallarate celebrated with the exhibition, The Ottavio and Rosita Story. In 1996, there were two exhibitions in Japan: at the Sazon Museum of Art and at the Nagoya City Museum. Missoni creations feature in the permanent collections of the MoMA in New York, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Museum of Costume in Bath. The Missoni pair have also designed costumes for the opera (Lucia di Lammermoor at La Scala in Milan, 1983) and for ballet (David Parsons Dance Company, 1994).
In 1997, the first all-fabric collection was created, produced and distributed by Staff International. In 1998, Missoni M was presented for men and women, in collaboration with the Marzotto Group. In the same year, the Missoni company acquired a new headquarters, a 6-storey building in Via Durini, Milan. Rosita and Tai moved there with their children, to whom they passed on the firm in 1997, at the peak of a series of new successes, feted by the press and consumers for their exemplary faithfulness to their own style.
Angela (1958) became art director, responsible for style; Vittorio (1954) commercial director; and Luca (1954) technical director. Nine grandchildren make up the Missoni tribe, guaranteeing the future of the firm. And so the tradition continues, with strong family connotations and an artistic-artisanal character, which, despite its vast expansion and international success, has made the name of Missoni so loved, and not just in the worlds of fashion and culture.
In 2000 Luca Missoni presented his first menswear collection for winter 2001-2002. Knitwear is reinterpreted with superimposed graphics, stripes, zigzags that look like brushstrokes, and flame motifs. It was the fruit of continual research into textiles, stitches, weaves, and patterns that has always been a part of the history of Missoni and of fashion itself. The collection played on the contrast between dry, plain fabrics, and soft silks and luminous knits. For Spring-Summer 2002, faded colors, pierced cotton piquet, very light cashmeres.
Later, in December of 2001, the Missoni Sport shoe collection would officially be produced and distributed by Big Time. The license is worth more than €13 million. As for the rest of the production, Missoni announced,
“We will not create any more licenses. From 2002, we will produce and distribute the Missoni Sport line ourselves.”
Powerful investments were made in a 2,500 square-meter space near Samirago, dedicated entirely to the Sport line. The shops and corner spaces were also restructured. Within the brand, the search for new types of fabric and knitting techniques continued. The white, beige, and gray flame motif remained popular.
In January 2003, after approximately 20 years of collaboration with Seibu, the company changed its Japanese distributor for its primary line. It signed a five-year distribution agreement with Kashiyama Onward, one of the largest textile industrials. Japan represents a market worth roughly €15 million and 25% of the brand’s business. The Missoni company closed 2002 with a turnover of about €130 million, which about €62 millions were made from its primary line. Also, new for 2003, celebrations for the company’s fiftieth anniversary, marked by two exhibitions, one in Milan and the other in Tokyo. Also, the opening of a new 70 square-meter boutique inside Harrods in London.
In April 2003 the new showroom was opened in Via Solferino in Milan. The building was an umbrella factory in the late nineteenth century, it is situated at the end of a courtyard in the historic center. Vittorio Missoni explained that the location is perfect, not just to present the different lines but also for shows, exhibitions, and other types of event. The former-factory belonged to distant relatives of Rosita’s grandparents.
In May 2003 Missoni celebrated 50 years in business with a large runway show in the Town Hall square in Vienna, for the opening of the 11th Life Ball, a traditional charity evening held to raise funds to combat HIV/Aids. Later, in June the menswear collection, which represents roughly a third of the company’s turnover, was relaunched, focusing primarily on the development of accessories. In 2002, Missoni made €51 million on direct sales, compared to €48 millions the previous year. Exports (main markets Japan, USA, and Germany) accounted for more than 85% of the entire business. Alongside multi-brand stores, the company owns 12 directly controlled own-brand boutiques and about one hundred franchises.
In June 2003 at Milano Moda Uomo, Luca Missoni presented his collection: knitwear with a thousand colors mixed together, tight, micro polo necks in cotton crêpes printed with lozenges, sweaters in viscose and tulle. Including, cardigans with large, ostentatious zigzags, very light vests in linen thread, in a small net weave, or interspersed with lurex threads, transparent tops that simulate tattoos, and sweater-shirts in silk and lamé for evening wear.
In July 2003 fashion and design for the Japanese car Mazda, the sponsor of the AltaRoma runway shows. After the series of MX-5 sports cars, with exclusive interiors in numbered series, Missoni created the colors and interiors of the latest MX-5, made as a one-off and sold in an online auction to raise funds for AISM (Italian Multiple Sclerosis Association). The fashion house celebrated its first half century.
Through November 2003, the celebrations continued and new Spring-Summer 2004 collection was presented in Tokyo, at the Yoyogi National Stadium. In addition, Tai and Rosita displayed more than a hundred outfits from the retrospective held in Milan the previous month, including the very famous blue tracksuit marked “Italia,” by Ottavio for the national athletics team in 1948, and the first gold Lurex suit from a far-off 1958. Japan, which represents a fifth of the company’s turnover, loves the Italian style and the event attracted 3,000 people.
January 2004, a contract was signed with Pagnossin, the head of the Richard Ginori 1735 group. It created the license for a line of tableware and household objects designed by Rosita, part of the Missoni Home project. Later, in April the third Golden Dame Award is held at the Poldi Pezzoli museum in Milan. “The people who make Milan great” include Ottavio and Rosita Missoni. The license for the production and distribution of the spectacles and sunglasses lines was agreed with Silvio Vecellio Reane (Allison, It. Holding Group), for a five-year period. Later, in September the license linking the company and the Marzotto Group was renewed until 2010. The launch of a women’s perfume signed by Estée Lauder was announced for Spring 2006.
The Universal Expo 2005 is held in Aichi, Japan, and Tai was invited to represent the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. The stand includes the installation “Harmony from Diversity.” The work consists of mannequins “dressed” completely in patchwork knitwear and was the result of collaboration between Ottavio and Luca Missoni (Tai and Rosita’s second son) and the designer Angelo Figus. Later, in March the first Missoni shop in Catania was opened. Also, The Aramis and Designer Fragrances division of Estée Lauder and Missoni create a license that enables the beauty colossus to produce and distribute the perfume line.
In November 2005 Missoni signed a licensing agreement with Rezidor Hotel Group in order to create Missoni Hotel chain. The idea was to open 20 hotels around the world under Missoni trade mark. However, the agreement was terminated in 2014 and the two hotels under Missoni name, one in Edinburg and one in Kuwait, were rebranded and stayed as a property of Carlson Rezidor.
In September 2011 Missoni made a 400-piece collection in collaboration with Target. The collection was sold out in one day. Considering great success of the first collection Missoni collaborated with Target again in 2014, this time with Target Australia. Due to high interest for the collection, Target’s website was down on the day of launch.
2013 was a hard year for the whole Missoni family, Vittorio Missoni, CEO of the brand, died in an airplane accident near the coast of Venezuela. Then, 4 months later his father and creator of the brand, Ottavio Missoni, died in his sleep.
In April of 2015 MA*GA Museum in Gallarate (VA) is dedicating the exhibition MISSONI, L’ARTE, IL COLORE to Ottavio and Rosita Missoni. This exhibition created a dialogue with twentieth-century European art. the exhibition explored the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of a great Italian fashion house. The extraordinary culture and brilliance of its two founders.
Also, in May of 2016 The Fashion and Textile Museum hosted the exhibition MISSONI, ART, COLOUR, in partnership with The Woolmark Company. It explores the influence of 20th-century European art on Missoni’s fashion and textile designs
In 2017 Missoni created a capsule activewear collection for luxury e-commerce site mytheresa.com The collection include six pieces, created by Angela Missoni and the face of the campaign is Jennifer Missoni, Angela’s niece. On the last Fall Winter 2017 collection Angela Missoni gave a speech after the fashion show, reminding people to embrace unity, human rights, and family. She stated that pink is the new black, and walked with her whole family who are key representatives of Missoni’s knit unity.