MISSONI: A FAMILY AFFAIR
Byline: Lisa Arbetter
NEW YORK — Most people do not find the notion of working with family members alluring, but Ottavio (Tai) and Rosita Missoni say that working together actually reduces the stress in their relationship. “For us, in a certain way, it helps,” explained Rosita. “It is a battleground in which we fight…Since we fight at work, we fight less at home.”
Though creative differences are the cause of the workplace tiffs, the Missonis are usually as compatible creatively as they are personally. Their continued success after 40 years of marriage provides strong evidence, but proof of their similar sensibilities showed itself during a visit last fall to the Guggenheim Museum here.
The Missonis were there to attend “The Italian Metamorphosis: 1943-1968,” an exhibit examining the surge of creativity that took place in Italy during the 25 years following the fall of the Fascist regime. It features three Missoni ensembles. During the opening, the couple visited the museum’s gift shop to purchase postcards. Separately, they approached the display, which includes 400 different cards, and, separately, they selected the same three card designs.
The Missoni outfits contained in the exhibit all came from the spring-summer collection of 1968. Rosita says it was this look that was reworked for their 1995 spring collection. “It is a group of very nice clothes,” she noted. “It came out well.”
Apparently buyers agreed. According to Diane Levbarg, executive vice president of Missoni in the U.S., the collection has been oversold. Among the stores that bought are Neiman Marcus, Missoni’s biggest customer in the U.S., Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom.
The Missonis are included in “The Italian Metamorphosis” exhibit because of their contribution to Italy’s growth as a fashion center. “[They were] fully a part of the process that was to become Italian fashion,” said Gaspare Asaro, deputy trade commissioner for the Italian Trade Commission and director of the Moda Made in Italy project, which sponsored the exhibit. “The Italian Metamorphosis” shows in New York until Jan. 22 and then travels to Italy and Germany.
The Missonis were approached for inclusion in the Guggenheim exhibit while they were working on “Missonologia,” a retrospective of their 40 years in business. Together they have put their own spin on stripes, created the space-dyeing technique and presented the world with innovative and colorful knits. But the Missonis do not dwell exclusively on pattern and color; a discussion of their work inevitably becomes a discussion of their family.
Their three children have become integral parts of the family business. Each handles a specific aspect: Vittorio is in charge of commercial direction; Luca works on both the technical and creative fronts, and Angela is in charge of licenses and has her own line. Although, as Tai said, there are moments of discussion, generally they get along well.
Now that the family has expanded, Rosita, the grandmother of eight, savors seeing her grandchildren, who range in age from two to 11, play with the fabrics at the factory.
Their company, which had humble beginnings, today does a volume of approximately $153.7 million (250 billion lire) per year, said Tai. What started as a small knitwear business Tai set up with a friend, Tai and Rosita have built into a large company with 22 licenses that bring in $110.7 million (180 billion lire) per year. The remaining $43 million (70 billion lire) is generated from the company’s factory in Sumirago.
Missoni knits are sold in the couple’s four wholly owned boutiques, 17 leased boutiques and more than 100 in-store boutiques throughout the U.S. and Japan. Almost 250 other locations carry Missoni merchandise.
All this success comes despite the couple’s belief that work is not everything. Although their schedule is demanding, Rosita said they try to keep their weekends free. And the couple has a similarly mild view of the future. Asked about their plans for the business, Tai said simply: “I hope that I have a good day tomorrow.”