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2011 September 26

From The Daily Milan: The Missoni Moment

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Missonis at home, from left to right: Angela, Francesco, Margherita, Tai, Rosita, Teresa, Vittorio and Marco Missonis at home, from left to right: Angela, Francesco, Margherita, Tai, Rosita, Teresa, Vittorio and Marco
Gilles Bensimon
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(MILAN) Who knew that obsession over the Italian knitwear phenomenon founded by Ottavio and Rosita Missoni would end up crashing the website of one of America’s largest retailers? But such was the case when the Missoni for Target collection launched on September 13th. What began as a knit shop in Sumirago in 1953 evolved into one of fashion’s most dynamic lifestyle brands. With new ventures in home décor, hotel and residential developments, and the next generation assuming critical roles in the company, the Missoni clan proves that genius really does run in the family.

Angela Missoni: The Visionary
How do you explain Missoni’s buoyancy and renaissance?
I was playing it safe for awhile, and all of a sudden, about two years ago, I realized I was an old designer, and if I wanted to still say something, I had to try to push it forward. I really tried to make Missoni directional again. I think I did it!

That’s a very brave position to take in the middle of a recession.
Yes, but that’s what you do in a recession—you take risks. There is no point in making something that people already have in their wardrobes. Thank God I know the Missoni archive by heart. I never have to go back and look at what I’ve done years ago.

What did it feel like to take over the 
design of the collection in 1997?
At the time, I was doing a little bit of design for the company, and my mother was my biggest fan. She asked me if I ever thought of doing the main collection, and I told her I hadn’t. She said, ‘I think you should. What you are doing now is what I want Missoni to be today. You have to do fashion when you are young and passionate!’ So I said okay!

What was one of the first things you did in your new role?
I started editing and cleaning up the collection. Before, if a garment had less than 15 or 20 colors, it wasn’t considered Missoni!

What does Missoni stand for today?
Aesthetically, it’s about color, and being close to nature. It brings together basic instincts like love and friendship.

Under your leadership, the Missoni business has grown exponentially. How have you developed as a businesswoman? 
I’m not only the creative director, but I am a partner, too. It’s very difficult to be the only designer, because I have to deal with business and factory issues on a daily basis.

What are your biggest challenges as an 
There are always things to fix. Margherita has a lot of talent, and in a few years, she might want a bigger part of this company, which I’d be more than happy to give. I just don’t want to leave my children with the burden of the company’s issues.

How does the family divide responsibilities?
My mother opens the hotels and works on the home collection. My father is still involved with the fashion and fabric side. He says, ‘I’m at your service, Angela. Whenever you need anything, I’ll be there for you.’ I give him homework sometimes! My brother, Vittorio, takes care of the commercial side; he has an institutional role as well. He is the VP of Camera Nazionale della Moda. Luca takes care of the production techniques; he is also responsible for the archives and the events. Margherita’s career began, little by little, with accessories—the eyeglasses and the shoes. She’s working on the bathing suit collection and the accessories for the shows now. She also played a big part in the Target project.

She’s done a fantastic job as a global brand ambassador.
She’s a natural. She has a lot of charisma and has attracted a lot of attention to the clothes.

What are some of the happiest memories from your childhood?
My father was born in Croatia, so we spent all our holidays on a very small, simple island with no lights and no water; we used a well. Years later, I realized that this was a privilege. I also loved Easter lunch at my grandparents’ house.

How did you get involved in the business?
I started around 18, during the selling period, just to have some pocket money, but I was always in and out. Having children was my priority then, as it was for many in my generation. By the time I was 23, I already had Margherita. When I was 31, I started to work on my own fashion collection. I never felt like I had to do this job. I was never pushed by my parents in this direction at all. My brothers and I were totally free.

Were you interested in other career options growing up?
I thought about becoming a psychologist or a veterinarian, but I wasn’t very good at studying. Two of my children have been diagnosed with dyslexia. I might have had the same problem, but I wasn’t diagnosed.

What do you love the most about Milan?
I love the countryside and all the lakes around the city. I live outside Milan, but if I want to go to dinner and see my friends at night, it only takes me 40 minutes!

What do you think is the primary advantage of a family-run company?
I don’t know, because I don’t know any other way. Working with your family gives you an extra push to succeed.

Of all of life’s lessons that you’ve learned, which is the most important to you?
Love is the most important thing.

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