View Slideshow

NEW YORK — Several Bergdorf Goodman shoppers swivel-necked their way past Rosita Missoni on Wednesday morning as she casually inspected the new Missoni Home shop on the store’s seventh floor.

This story first appeared in the March 26, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Jet-lag-free and stylishly dressed head-to-handbag in Missoni, she preferred to be interviewed walking leisurely through the vivid space. Pausing to pick up a colorful drinking glass or to brush the customized gray Reunion fabric that had been applied to the store’s walls, Missoni’s 20-year-plus commitment to the home business is far from rehearsed. Aside from having multiple homes where her expansive, design-minded family is welcome at any hour, she literally supports Missoni Home, which is licensed to T&J Vestor, a company started by her own parents. Stopping at a tableware display, she said, with a laugh, “I bought a few of these because I like them very much, as a gift for a friend” (which explained the shopping bag and receipt that had been handed to her earlier). “For me, there has to be a tactile reaction with all the senses.”

“For me, [Missoni] Home is my life. I don’t feel the pressure of work. It’s something I do with great passion. It keeps me alive,” she said. “In fashion, as soon as you have made a collection, it’s already old. You have to start again. Now it’s overlapping, it’s many collections, it’s a nightmare. That’s why 20 years ago I stepped back and said, ‘No, please, I cannot.’”

After “trying to play the grandma” handling school runs, she decided nice as that was, life could not only be that. “It was the early Nineties and I felt the home was becoming fashion with all the magazines starting to write about fashionable homes and the daily papers were four times a year,” she said. Her late husband and cofounder Ottavio, who “could have been an artist with his fantastic sense of color,” suggested speaking with her relatives at T&J Vestor first. She said with a laugh, “because when I do something, I am tough. It’s not just a matter of having a license and you just approve some patterns and drawings. I really care and want to work on it. And of course, I want to put it in my home.”

There are generally 10 to 15 Missoni Home concept shops open at any given time, which generate nearly $55 million in retail sales, excluding contract work or sublicensing, according to T&J Vestor managing director, and Missoni’s nephew, Carlo Torrani. Between 15 and 17 percent of that figure stems from digital sales. While not involved with the contract business day-in and day-out, Missoni provides the impetus for the design ideas for that sector where the brand has developed the technical components to outfit any home — outdoor, indoor, public or private, as well as those for lounges, restaurants, condos, travel destinations, planes and yachts.

With an assortment of home goods, textiles, china, pillows and select clothing, her new home, so to speak, at Bergdorf’s occupies prime real estate just off the “up” escalator and right around the corner from the Kelly Wearstler-designed cafe. The collection was also used exclusively for the now-shuttered Hotel Missonis in Edinburgh and Kuwait. Missoni’s partnership with the Rezidor Hotel Group was to showcase its Home collection, but attempted shortcuts such as using non-Missoni bedsheets did not measure up with the designer. “I think it was badly handled even though we had a fantastic manager in Edinburgh,” she said, shaking her head disappointingly. “Kuwait was impossible to control. They were taking patterns and giving them out to somebody else to copy.”

While Missoni would like nothing more than to return to the hotel business, she has no immediate plans to do so and other pursuits await. Still energized from attending last month’s South Africa’s Design Indaba (at Li Edelkoort’s urging), Missoni could not get over how, at age 83, she was one of two speakers to get a standing ovation from the 1,300-person crowd. (A 35-year-old filmmaker who demonstrated how viewers will have the option to change the content of films they are viewing was the other.) With Salone Internazionale del Mobile and Milan Expo nearing, she said, “It’s an endless game. But that’s because you believe in what you do.”