Rosita Missoni has covered a lot of ground in the 63 years since she and her husband Ottavio started their namesake brand. And Thursday night, with the help of her daughter Angela, the company’s creative director, she recapped some of the company’s more memorable moments during a Q&A at 92Y with Fern Mallis.
The younger Missoni described the undercurrent that runs through their lives: “Home and the factory were theism.”
Rosita Missoni on seeing her Olympic hurdler husband for the first time at the London Olympics at Wembley Stadium.
R.M.: “At that time, I didn’t know anything about track and field but he ran much better than the others — faster.”
On developing the signature look.
R.M.: “At first we made black and white dresses, and then Tai started to make stripes and zigzags, and then checks and things. It was difficult to have a pattern designed by Tai without purple in it. But in Italy, actors hate purple because it’s not good luck. It’s a superstition. Even when we did costumes for La Scala if there was a gigantic black cape, he didn’t care if there was some purple in it.”
On Tai Missoni’s request to build a factory, but in a place where we would like to go on weekends.
R.M.: “He found out that we could be part of a special law in 1968 to increase work for women if we built the factory in Sumirago. This place had a beautiful view from a hill of the Alps. Building the factory there was the best thing we could have done. We built a beautiful factory with a huge park around it with oak, pine and chestnut trees around it. To do creative work, it’s important to be in a beautiful place. Four years later we built a house.”
On waking up early.
R.M.: “I used to wake up at 7. Not Tai, he said, ‘There’s no point in waking up at 7, if I am only awake at noon.’ He thought it was one thing to wake up and another thing to be awake.”
Angela Missoni on the first fashion show in Milan in 1965 at the age of seven.
A.M.: “Since then, I have witnessed every single show. A year or two later there was one in a swimming pool in Milan for a collection made with Emmanuelle Khanh. They had inflatable chairs designed by her husband that were from one end of the pool to the other. They also had an inflatable house in the middle and all of a sudden the house collapsed. But it was a happening with all of the girls in the water. It became a big party. I was standing by my mom and I remember Anna Piaggi coming in with a dress that was half-black and half-white and saying, ‘Rosita, look at what I’m wearing.’ In 1967, she was wearing a vintage Missoni.”
Trying to line up a deal in Paris with Pierre Cardin.
R.M.: “We were told, ‘You just prepare your collection, when you’re ready call us and we will choose 10 pieces. You allow us to sell them with the Cardin label and then you give us 10 percent.’ Afterwards, I was crying because I was so disappointed…I remembered I had the phone number of Emmanuelle Khanh who I had met in New York and I called her. At the time, the knitwear we were doing was very modern. I was wearing one of our dresses and she said, ‘Oh, that’s very nice. Why don’t we do something together? So we decided in two hours without any lawyers that we would do a collection together. We made four collections together. In 1966, we did a show where Giorgio Armani’s sister was one of the models and Paco Rabanne did the accessories.’”
On Diana Vreeland’s assessment of the Missoni collection.
R.M.: “‘Who says a rainbow only has seven colors? There are many shades.’ When she returned to New York, she kept writing to me to say we needed to come to New York and she would introduce us to all the fashion coordinators at the different stores. When we arrived in New York, we had a little suite in The Plaza and Diana Vreeland came with 14 editors. The entire room was filled with flowers all sent by Vogue. I thought this was the American way to greet everybody. I thought, ‘They are so nice.’”
Angela Missoni on her decision to join the company:
A.M.: “I started by editing the shows. Then I realized there were always new things flourishing in the collection but they were always submerged in the history of Missoni. In the beginning when I was asked what I was doing, I would say, ‘I’m just cleaning.’ I started to pull out the essence of Missoni. In 1995, I hired Mario Testino and Carine Roitfeld to do the campaign. We worked together for seven years.”
Angela Missoni on designing 400 products for Target.
A.M.: “They had come to us two or three years earlier, but I didn’t really trust them much. When I saw how they were treating the label and marketing on such a high level, then I really pushed [the idea] with the family. Not everyone in Italy understood at that time what Target was. It was huge because it was the first time they were doing a full lifestyle [collaboration.] Then I realized how many people in the states love Missoni and that there was a generation that loved it without knowing it was Missoni. We would do it again. We did it a year and half ago with Target Australia. It was very successful.”