The Italian design house, Missoni, is
known worldwide for their trend-setting, ready-to-wear knit classics,
but the house actually started out as a tiny workshop producing
athletic track suits for the Italian Olympic team belonging to a
Rosita Jelmini Missoni and Ottavio Missoni. The couple’s first big
break came in 1964 when they met fellow designer Emmanuelle Kahn
and decided to collaborate in designing a knitwear collection together
which they showed in Milano two years later. They soon became world-famous,
or, rather, infamous, when Rosita, making a last-minute decision,
told the models to take off their bras because they ruined the lines
of the black silk jersey dresses they were to model on the catwalk.
Ms Missoni didn't realize then that under the hot, blazing lights
the tops of the dresses would become transparent, and the fashion
world was suitably shocked, and they made headlines around the world.
Ottavio and Rosita Missoni prefer to be known
as artisans, and not designers, because their business was firmly
grounded in their ability to dream up colourful designs, initially
mostly influenced by folk art. They started with stripes, and later
incorporated other design influences, thus creating a style of design
that is easily recognizable the world over.
Today, the Missoni design house employs around
200 people at their Sumirago headquarters in the province of Varese,
where they use up to twenty different fabrics, including wool, cotton,
linen, rayon and silk and some 40 different colours for each of
their respective collections. Their clothes range from sweaters
to skirts, dresses and jackets, and Ottavio Missoni has also diversified
from clothes to tapestries and carpets. And throughout all this
rapid expansion over the years, they managed to hold fast to their
traditional ideas and maintained quality an important priority.
All the Missoni children now work for their parents within the company,
and the house continues to strive.
The Missoni 50th anniversary retrospective runway
show featured significant creations from the house’s archives, incorporating
both men’s and women’s designs.
‘When Angela [Missoni, daughter and current head
designer of the line] asked me, I was not entranced because I am
still at an age when I look forward, not back,’ said Rosita Missoni,
72, told fashion journalist par excellence, Suzy Menkes of the International
Herald-Tribune. ‘But I am the historical memory of the house
and I became enthusiastic.’
The design house, under the strong leadership of Ms
Missoni, continues to be a force to be reckoned with on the world
fashion stage, and I foresee even greater success down the road.
Phillip D. Johnson is features editor
The Fashion Design Council of Canada (FDCC)
is located at 55 Avenue Road, Suite 2350, Toronto, Ontario M5R 3L2,
Canada, and can be reached by telephone at 1 416 922-FDCC (1 416
922-3322), by fax at 1 416 922-4292 or online at www.torontofashionweek.ca.