Knitted zig-zags. It’s what pops into everyone’s mind when they hear the word Missoni. It used to be the defining term for me too until last Wednesday at the Academy of Art University’s fashion symposium. The symposium featured the three generations of the Missoni family- Rosita, Angela, and Margerita in discussion with Galdys Perint Palmer-fashion illustrator and head of the Academy of Art’s fashion program and Suzy Menkes- Internation Vogue Editor. Their immediate charm and warmth brought the heart of the Missoni brand to San Francisco.
Rosita, the eldest Missoni started out by telling the story of how Missoni was founded. After her husband Tai left athletics, they started making knitwear on a small scale basis. Rosita liked to knit and she used her families’ embroidery machines to create knitwear. Starting in 1953, she founded the Missoni brand. Rosita and Tai did what no one has done before in the fashion business, they cut knits and created knitwear fabrics. The 60s and 70s was when the brand really took off, and early on Maria Callas and other celebrities were wearing their clothes. Quickly they were gaining international acclaim. Rosia went on in her flowing Italian accented English explaining this, mixed in with stories about her rose gardens and her cooking. Rosita was so passionate that every so often the microphone would drift away, so Margherita would adorably nudge her grandma’s elbow up. The ideas of hard work, and making your work what you love shined through.
The Missoni’s have pioneered in the fashion industry. They said how they don’t really have competitors in their unique field except for the Nepalese, “The Nepalese have been copying us for 2000 years!”
Did you know that Missoni was responsible for moving Italian Fashion week from Florence to Milan? Rosita’s clear thinking was–the airport is in Milan, so shouldn’t an international fashion week be there too?
Rosita’s cooking has played a forming role in Missoni. When the brand first started, Rosita would cook for all of fashion week’s 150 people. She passed on the talent of cooking to her daughter Angela, but those skills didn’t quite reach Margerita. Angela explained how she cooked with her daughter when she was little. Angela tells the story of the “one time when she was 15, she asked me- Is there milk in mayonnaise?” and they all laughed at Margerita’s admitted lack of the cooking gene.
One of the most important lessons that I learned from Rosita is paraphrased something like this, “There’s no point in making a lot of money if you never have time to spend it.”
The two most important aspects of life are family, and their hometown of Sumirago, Italy, and family. They live close to where they work and love the community there. Their relaxed jokes and laughter shows how well this works for them. But it’s not like they don’t fight. When asked about this, Rosita put it perfectly, “Life is a fight.” and Margerita went on to explain how she had slammed and broken a glass door that had been there forty years. Her mom then explained, that it was the same door she had slammed when she was younger.
I don’t think it’s possible to explain through writing how lovely of a family they all are. I love how honest and close they are. They have this undefinable relaxed grace that shows their confidence in themselves and each other. Listening to them talk to each other, I couldn’t stop myself from breaking into a huge smile. There’s just so much character in the Missoni’s that can’t help but show up in their clothes. They’re authentic. They’re Italian. They are Missoni.
Marherita, Rosita, and Angela
Gladys Perint Palmer, Margerita, Rosita, Angela, and Suzy Menkes
Angela with her two daughters in a Missoni ad, Theresa-left, and Margerita-right
Vintage Missoni ad
Christy Turlington in the SS14 ad campain
Margerita Missoni and Eugenie Niachro (both in Missoni) at the 2014 met gala “Charles James: Beyond Fashion”
Just a few nights before the AAU symposium, she told of the unexpected twist of the glamorous Met Gala night- trying to help friends with huge dresses fit into their chairs. Eventually a stool had to be brought out, and she realized how our modern society so rarely wears dresses so elaborate that we aren’t prepared.
Kate Moss in a Missoni ad
Currently Angela is the Creative Director, and Margherita designs accessories and is her mom’s muse.