The Missoni label is a unique brand in ready-to-wear Italian fashion. What started off as a tiny workshop belonging to a newly wed couple has become a leading trendsetter for Italian knitwear, their multicolor and geometrical weaves seen on the streets of every city in the world.
The Italian fashion house was founded in 1953 by Ottavio “Tai” Missoni and his wife Rosita Jelmini. The couple had met in 1948, at the Olympic Games in London, where Ottavio ran in the hurdles and Rosita was in the crowd. It was love at first sight and from that moment on they never parted.
Rosita was born near Varese, to a family who worked in fabric production. From her northern Italian town she went to London to improve her English and it was there that she met her future husband. He owned a little workshop with his friend Giorgio Oberweger producing woolen sportswear. After their marriage, the couple started up a little knitwear shop, and in 1958 “Milano Simpathy”, their first collection, was presented in Milan.
The couple’s breakthrough came in 1964 when they met the French designer Emmanuelle Kahn and decided to do a knitwear collection together, which they showed in Milan two years later. The French-Italian collaboration brought the Italian designers success which was helped by the controversy created during the presentation of their collection at Palazzo Pitti in 1967. Missoni’s models had to walk down the runway bra-less, Rosita’s idea as she thought that their underwear didn’t go with the dresses. The public and critics didn’t like the transparent effect but the ensuing publicity helped introduce the Missoni name to a wider public.
Magazines from all over the world featured the ‘scandal’ and began comparing the Italian label to Chanel. Meanwhile the Italian fashion house held shows in Milan, Paris and other capitals. They started getting accolades and prizes, from the “Moda mare” award in 1969, to the Neiman Marcus Fashion award in 1973. Missoni began spreading the “made-in-Italy”concept to every continent, opening boutiques in Italy, New York (in the Bloomingdale centre), Japan, Paris and the Middle East.
To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Missoni featured its creations against the suggestive backdrop of the Rotonda della Besana in Milan, and later in the Whitney Museum of American Art of New York. “Missonologia”, a show that told the history of the Italian brand, followed in 1994, then two exhibitions in Japan. Now some of the Missoni label’s designs can be seen in the world’s most prestigious international fashion museums.
Missoni has several different lines. There is Missoni, the main ready-to- wear label for men and women. Missoni Sport for sportswear and underwear, Missoni Kids for children, and M-Missoni, dedicated exclusively to women. The collections include accessories, eyewear and sunglasses and special lines of perfumes.
In 2003, to mark their 50th anniversary, the Italian fashion house got together with car manufacturer Mazda and produced a cool new design, the Mazda MX-5.
Since 1997 the Missoni group has been run by the couple’s children. Angela Missoni is the creative director, while Vittorio is the sales manager and Luca the director of the engineering department. Missoni’s turnover amounts to between 150 and 160 million Euros. This family business is now one of the most important Italian fashion houses in the world.