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The Italian fashion designer Ottavio Missoni Rosita Missions (Rosita Jelmini) and his wife sitting on the lawn of their mansion. Sumirago (Varese), Italy, July 1975
The Italian fashion designer Ottavio Missoni Rosita Missions (Rosita Jelmini) and his wife sitting on the lawn of their mansion. Sumirago (Varese), Italy, July 1975 | © Sergio del Grande (Mondadori Publishers) / WikiCommons
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The Style Guide To Missoni, Knitwear Revolutionaries

Picture of Culture Trip
Updated: 22 August 2016
The Missoni success story can be defined with one word: close-knit. The Italian brand made its name through their tightly woven zigzag pattern, but the real achievement lies in the brand remaining a true family business. Angela Missoni, the brand’s creative director, tells The Guardian that “we have all grown up within the company. […] Missoni is part of us, not something we have to study to understand”. The Culture Trip has put together a guide to Italy’s most fashionable family.

How do you identify a Missoni design?

Zigzag

Inarguably the brand’s signature motif, the Missoni zigzag is recognisable on any item, from winter scarves and summer bikinis to the walls of the Missoni Hotels around the world. When the Italian brand collaborated with Target, lending their luxurious pattern to high street items, the discount retailer’s website crashed, with the items selling out in under 24 hours.

New Knitwear

Unlike the heavy lambswool jumpers before them, Missoni revolutionized knitwear by introducing slinky sweaters and crochet tracksuits. Originally using lines, the Missoni family discovered a way to make the emblematic chevron pattern by using Raschel knitting machines. The new technique allowed the fashion house to use knits to create any shape of garment, allowing them to cut and sew material without loosening the threads. Anna Piagi comments on the family’s legacy, claiming that “they really started a knitwear revolution.”

Rainbow Colours

“I cannot stay away from colour!” exclaims Rosita, the brand’s matriarchal founder. The bright and cheerful aesthetic perpetuates every Missoni collection, weaving together bold shades through a range of geometrical shapes and lines. Rosita’s passion for the kaleidoscopic possibilities of colour are reflected in her late-husband’s autobiography; Ottavio wrote “Colour? What can I say? I like comparing colour to music: only seven notes and yet innumerable melodies have been composed.”

Missoni family biography: Your questions answered

How did the Missoni brand begin? Ottavio and Rosita Missoni met in 1948 during the London Olympics, where Ottavio was competing as a hurdler and sprinter; “For me it was love at first sight”, Rosita explains. In 1953, the newly weds started a small knitwear company, marking the beginning of the Missoni fashion house.

When was the Missoni zigzag born? The famous zigzag was created in 1962.

Who is the Missoni brand made up of today? Three generations of the Missoni family are currently involved in the brand. Rosita shifted her primary focus from womenswear to Missoni Home in 1998, with her daughter Angela stepping in as creative director. Angela’s daughter, Margherita, currently balances being in charge of Missoni accessories with a career in modeling.

Where are Missoni products manufactured? The Missoni factory is located in the Countryside outside Sumirago, close to the Italian Alps. It is part of the Missoni compound, where all the children were married and the first fashion shows were held. Rosita explains the ethos behind the Missoni community, stating that ‘Tai said we should work where we would like to spend the weekends.”

Missoni quotes to commit to memory

For me luxury is time to spend for myself, people and the things I like – Rosita

My parents (…) invented something and they didn’t want it to be like a business. We never wanted to expand, which is why it’s such a small brand with a big name – Angela

Missoni’s aesthetic is inside me, part of me. My mother, grandmother and I all have different styles, but we share the same taste – Margherita

Shop: Missoni