In 1953, Ottavio “Tai” (1921–2013) and Rosita (b. 1931) Missoni opened a small knitwear shop in Gallarate, Italy, paving the way for what would become an iconic style of colorful chevron knit.
Missoni began with a tracksuit, which featured zippers down the legs because, as Rosita recalls it, “Tai was too lazy to take off his shoes when putting them on.” The couple’s fashion really took off, though, once they discovered the Raschel knitting machine on a trip to a shawl factory. The machine enabled the Missonis to knit multiple colors in a zigzag pattern, a motif that would go on to become synonymous with the Missoni brand across everything from its alluring vintage day dresses and sweaters to its purses, seating and rugs.
Missoni held its first fashion show in Florence in 1967 and caused a bit of a sensation when the models’ Lurex dresses proved translucent under the lights at the Pitti Palace. Scandal aside, the show went down in history as a hit, and the Missonis soon made their debut in the United States with the help of legendary fashion editor Diana Vreeland, who gave the variegated Missoni stripe the Vogue seal of approval, saying, “Who says a rainbow has seven colors? It has many shades.” (It was also Vreeland who reportedly introduced the Missonis to Neiman Marcus president Stanley Marcus, effectively shepherding the brand to the American market.)
Missoni’s many-shaded rainbow would soon become an emblem of the 1970s fashion scene, earning the brand a permanent place in the fashion canon. In 1973, the New York Times proclaimed: “Missoni’s weaved garments have ended up universal materialistic trifles, as Vuitton sacks and Gucci shoes.”
The brand branched into the home market in 1983, with Rosita overseeing this new venture, which included furniture, textiles and accessories. Daughter Angela succeeded her mother at the helm of the brand, where she still serves as president and creative director today; her brother Luca is CEO, while her daughter Margherita is creative director of offshoot M Missoni.
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