Italian knitwear and fashion house
Founded: in Gallarate, Varese, Italy, 1953, by Ottavio Missoni (born in Dalmatia, 11 February 1921) and Rosita Jelmini Missoni (born in Lombardy, 20 November 1931). Company History: First collection produced for Rinascente Stores, 1954; Missoni label introduced, from 1958; first Paris showing, 1967; Missoni SpA workshop and factory established, Sumirago, 1968; first New York showing, 1969; first boutiques opened, Milan and New York, 1976; fragrance line introduced, 1981; Missoni Uomo and Missoni Sport lines introduced, 1985; Angela Missoni collection introduced, 1992; Angela took control of firm, 1997; launched footwear line, 1998; M Missoni debuted, spring-summer 1999; new flagships opened in New York and Paris. Exhibitions: Solo exhibition, Il Naviglio Gallery, Venice, 1975; retrospective, La Rotonda Gallery, Milan, and the Whitney Museum, New York, 1978; solo exhibition, Galleria del Naviglio, Milan, and the University of California, Berkeley, 1981; retrospective, Ridotto/Pergola Theatre, Pitti Immagine Filati, Florence, 1994. Awards: Neiman Marcus award, 1973; Bath Museum of Costume Dress of the Year award, 1974; American Printed Fabric Council Tommy award, 1976; Gold Medal of Civic Merit award, Milan, 1979; Fragrance Foundation award, 1982; Tai Missoni given Arancia award, 1986; Rosita Missoni named Commendatore al
Mulassano, Adriana, The Who's Who of Italian Fashion, Florence,1979.
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Missoni exemplifies success in a specific fashion area, knitwear for men and women. In the knitwear business since 1953, the business begun by Ottavio (Tai) and Rosita Missoni took off with recognition by Anna Piaggi in 1965 and was one of the landmark enterprises of the Italian renaissance in postwar fashion products through the 1960s and 1970s. In 1968 and 1969, Missoni garnered worldwide attention for knit dresses, coats, and sweaters that revived the sensational appeal of knits in the 1920s. From a start in producing the finest knits, the Missoni repertory came to include pullovers, long coats, chemises, trousers, and skirts. Even more, in the 1970s, the Missonis' deliberate allegiance to Milan heralded that city's eminence as a fashion center and helped create Milan fashion week.
Primarily creators of exceptional knitwear, Missoni has been noted as an art as much as a business. Technology provides a range of fluid knits and special effects, but the identifying and indescribable aspect of the Missoni knits is color, the affinity to art. Most importantly, Missoni brought a vivid sense of imagination to knits, rescuing them from the heirlooms and old-fashioned aspects of handknits and from the conventional sameness of many machine-knitted products. Like many Italian products of the postwar period, the value of the product was not in its handwork, but in the unquestionable supremacy of design attained through machine. Today computers and sophisticated
Tai Missoni's introduction to the knitwear business was as an athlete. Knitwear was for active sports, but by 1958 a striped Missoni knit shirtdress was produced and the crossover from sports to casual living was underway. The sports heritage remains in some graphic boldness, including stripes and zig-zags and even patchwork. What enhances Missoni for daywear and even for evening (especially with Lurex) are the subtleties within. Rosita told Elsa Klensch, writing for the New York Post (24 May 1978), "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."
Little the Missonis have produced ever depended upon fashion. Instead, their knits seem perennial: a Missoni design might be worn with a favored color one season and still be compatible with other colors in other seasons. Bernadine Morris of the New York Times (26 March, 1979) believed the Missonis "elevated knitted clothes to a form of art," and as such they were recognized as visible status symbols in the 1970s and 1980s. By the middle 1990s the Missoni name graced a sexier style of apparel, brought about by Angela Missoni, who had begun designing her own signature collection in 1992. Celebrities flocked to buy the sensual knitwear, the new enthusiasts including Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lopez, Ashley Judd, and Julia Roberts.
In 1997 Angela took the reins of the company and over the next few years increased brand awareness through a wide range of licensing, from rugs to footwear. New flagships in New York and Paris were opened, while a new bridge line, M Missoni, was introduced for spring-summer 1999. By the early 2000s, Missoni was more than a vital force in knitwear; the firm had gone far beyond its founders' original vision to encompass Missoni designs for an entire lifestyle.
updated by Owen James