“Ask the Missonis to describe their style,” June Weir wrote in Vogue in 1981, “and Rosita replies, ‘It’s a lifestyle more than a fashion.’ ” Despite—or perhaps because of—their label’s trend-wary positioning, the Missoni family has seduced the novelty-seeking fashion crowd for more than 50 years, first with featherweight space-dyed or mélange knits created with a repurposed Raschel machine, then with innovations like quilted knits, boiled knits, reversible coats, and adjustable drawstrings, all in a warm kaleidescope of color and pattern. Often described as artists, Rosita and her artistic and athletic husband, Ottavio (“Tai”) Missoni, have been the subject of many exhibits, and parallels have been drawn between their highly collectible work and fine art.
Like its famous zigzag pattern, the brand’s reception has not been static. “The seventies were our best years,” Rosita told WWD in 2003. “We were lucky to live in that magical moment of change with the birth of ready-to-wear.” Missoni was one of Milan’s big draws then, and Missoni-clad editors were enthusiastic about “the new Missoni-ism” in fashion. One retail executive went so far as to suggest that it was “what Chanel would be doing if she were alive, young and working in knits.” Copyists, too, went mad for the Missoni look.
Influenced as much by medieval tapestry as Sonia Delaunay’s Art Deco stylings, the house was somewhat sidelined in the early days of minimalism. Attention was focused again on the company’s every zig and zag in the mid-1990s, when it underwent a renaissance largely engineered by Angela Missoni, Tai and Rosita’s daughter, who fully took over creative direction in 1997. Her editing and trend-consciousness—paired with the brand-ambassador efforts of her daughter, Margherita Maccapani Missoni—were a winning combination. “Missoni, with its extended, good-looking, wholesome family,” wrote Suzy Menkes at the time of the brand’s fiftieth anniversary, “is the essence of Italian fashion—as the Italians would like to view themselves