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May 12, 2014

Scene and Heard: Missoni Designers

“We’re lucky enough to have a good-looking family,” joked Angela Missoni, creative director of the famed Italian knitwear line that bears her family’s name as she spoke at the Academy of Art University on Wednesday May 7, in San Francisco. Angela was joined by her daughter Margherita Amos—celebrated brand muse—to receive honorary doctorate degrees from the University’s fashion school as part of this year’s graduation events. Missoni matriarch Rosita, who received an honorary degree from the University in 1999, was also on hand, as were Teresa, Francesco, Marco and Jennifer Missoni. Needless to say, one look at the multiple generations confirmed Angela’s offhand observation.

International Vogue Editor Suzy Menkes joined the fashion school’s executive director, fashion illustrator Gladys Perint Palmer, for the graduation festivites. As students gathered to hear the women speak about their history in the fashion industry, Rosita Missoni reflected on the brand’s early beginnings when she and her late husband Ottavio “Tai” Missoni established the company’s first knitwear workshop in Gallarate. “We recognize good luck was on our side,” she said. “We chose a beautiful place to work and build within…it helped our creativity.” The result was an archive of knits with bold patterns and a resulting fashion empire that now encompasses ready-to-wear, accessories, children’s apparel, and home décor. “Our work, our pace, our life has become a lifestyle” says Rosita who handed over creative direction of the brand’s collections to daughter Angela in the late ’90s.

Angela, in turn, grew up observing Missoni’s signature zigzags patterns and she noted that the new role came naturally. “I have the archives of every collection in my head since I was five years old,” Angela said. “I updated the lexicon, the language of Missoni. [Since] I have known it so well, I’ve never been afraid of adding new words.” She and her daughter Margherita noted that the line’s bohemian aesthetic complements a laid back, informal spirit in American fashion that resonates with the current California lifestyle. As the lead designer for the house’s line of accessories, Margherita said she favors hats and large belts to foster this look. Angela said she relied on looser silhouettes including longer skirts, light weight trousers and tunics. “Fall is introducing a new point of view,” she said, adding, “The look is more relaxed, with a hint of sportswear” recalling the early wool track suits her father created for the 1948 Olympic games in London.

The Missoni family dynamic is truly endearing (Margherita reached over several times to help her grandmother Rosita reposition her microphone). They also have a keen sense of humor. Margherita even joked about her role as family muse, “Every girl dreams of her husband writing poetry to her, being the muse that inspires him. My husband drives race cars, so I guess it’s all right to be the muse for my mother.” Menkes asked if the three women ever argue about their work. “Fighting is life!” Rosita exclaimed, “If possible, [we argue] every day.” Angela fired back her two cents, “It is a regular language we use.” Margherita noted, “We are one big knot that is hard to untangle.”

By Jennifer McCullum


Pictured: Rosita Missoni, Angela Missoni, Teresa Maccapani Missoni & Margherita Amos at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
Photo by: Laura Morton For Drew Altizer Photography

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