"The voice of Missoni can be heard around the world" – Angela Missoni
Celebrating 20 years as Creative Director
S itting in the loft at the Missoni showroom in Milan, Angela Missoni, ice-cream in hand, greets Buro 24/7 Middle East's Editor in Chief, Shannon Wylie. We're here to talk about the SS18 anniversary show and capsule collection, one that celebrates the designers 20 years at the helm of the luxury Italian lifestyle brand. Her parents, Ottavio and Rosita Missoni, presented the first collection in 1958, with each subsequent collection remaining a family-run affiar...
What does family mean to you when it comes to business?
It's the only business I know and all of the family, even the younger ones, if they're working or they're not working in the company; they're always very involved. It's their thing; it's our thing. It's a family project.
Missoni is one of the only family-run businesses on an international fashion level, one that is still managed by the family.
It's my reality (laughs). Of course you have difficulties when everyone is sitting together. Some families have fights that end up bad but the way we are, fights always end up in a good way. Sometimes things slow down because if you don't agree, it takes longer and you try to find another way, like mediate or meditate (laughs).
Next year marks the 65th anniversary of Missoni and you've been at the helm for 20 of those years. How do you feel looking back on your time?
Those 20 years are one third of Missoni. When I started we had no internet, we had no emails, the way I talk about it, it's like we had no cars, only horses (laughs). My thing has always been reorganisation and it's a never-ending process. Now, every five years I reorganise because today a company of five years is a very old company.
We live in the age of the startup...
I'm always very curious and I'm always looking forward. Luckily, we can still be relevant and the voice of Missoni can still be heard around the world.
Do you think that has everything to do with the Missoni DNA when it comes to the design concept?
For sure! My parents really invented something. They invented a style, which was very rare in fashion, very powerful, very unique and very distinctive. I've said that it's like a language and I've managed to renovate, or update, the vocabulary of this language.
How would you say you've achieved that?
First of all, I love Missoni by heart. I know every single detail of every single collection. I've worn Missino since I was four- or five-years-old. Then later on when mum asked me to do the main collection, she said: "What you are doing today is what I would like Missoni to be today". Working in fashion, you have to take risks. I never go back to the archives to do research because, as I said, I remember everything and I'm always looking forward. Back then, they were only doing zigzag prints and so when I first started I wanted to introduce a certain type of print and graphic, that my eyes were telling me is Missoni. Though sometimes I received a reaction from people who said: "Oh, this it not Missoni." How would they know?
You talk about taking risks. How do you assess when the right time to jump is?
First of all, you have to try and challenge yourself and up until now, it's worked. The last time I look a risk was two years ago, when I told myself I was approaching 20 years [at the helm]. I needed to refresh the brand because I started to realise that my daughter was 30 and I said: "Oh! Where are the 20-year-old kids now?" So as she's getting older I need to look down and say something to the new generation.
What are your thoughts on the new generation?
I always try to understand and I want to understand. I'm very curious at every level, so yes, I am very curious about what the new generation want. Today I spent 35 per cent of the time on communication because they are curious. They have been born digital and the digital world gives you the opportunity to go deep. So you need to be good at explaining but we are not that good yet.
Buro 24/7 Middle East experienced the Missoni factory today, which is brimming with history juxtaposed against new designs and soon-to-be-released collections. You should create a 360-degree virtual tour of the factory for everyone to experience...
We definitely need to have a virtual tour of the factory made for our website, (Speaks Italian to her team), maybe even during the fashion show so people cab move around the 3D experience. Thank you (laughs), thank you for giving me that idea.
We would be able to connect from the Middle East. How exciting. Speaking of the region, you've been in the market for a number of years now, what interests you the most?
When I go to Dubai, I like the old town because that's what I'm more interested in - it's totally unique. Of course, I'm also I'm amazed at the power and how everything has developed so fast. It makes me realise how many things you can do in such a short amount of time, if you want to. Missoni as a brand, is also something the Middle Eastern woman should relate to because of the colours, the craftsmanship. There are certain weights that I did 10 years ago too, which started to make the collection lighter and lighter.
Why did you do that?
Because when I came in, the biggest season for Missoni was winter and one of the best sellers were coats. So without trying to forget that, I designed fabrics to produce eveningwear and every kind of dress that I wanted. Secondly I wanted to make more structured quality garments.
I think this generation is starting to realise that fashion is not fast; it is something that lasts longer
Do you think that there is room for longevity in fashion still?
Yes. There is time for longevity; there is time to establish style but fashion is something that moves. It's short heels and then next month high heels and then platforms in three months. In fact, when they ask me about fashion over the past 20 years, I say, you know what? Trends! If you go back through the last century, you can really define decade by decade. You show me a drawing and I can tell you 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 and now, 2000. Now, in 2017, what will last? Sneakers? Anything is possible.
What is relevant to you?
I think something that lasts. Craftsmanship! You really need to love a piece and you need to know that you want it to be in your wardrobe for a while. Styling wise, that's a point of view. You can style your skirt this way, or that way... What's going to make the difference is when you learn how to play with your clothes, play with your wardrobe and invest in good quality pieces.
What do you think the next 20 years of Missoni is going to look like?
Oh my! Let's see what happens with the girls (pictured top). They both have a lot of passion for fashion and they both love Missoni. Both of them are now working on their own projects and I'm very proud of them. There are becoming businesswomen and I hope that one-day, if they want, they can be back and bring some fresh new energy to the company. Next year will mark 65 years of Missoni, so it will be a big year and I would like to ensure there's a retrospective as to what Missoni is.
Will that take place during Milan Fashion Week?
Yes, exactly one year from now. I hope to make a book too.
Would a book be difficult for you to create because of the sheer volume of content create during those years?
We will make it into an encyclopedia (laughs). My parents were founders of Milan Fashion Week. My father was showing in Florence at the time, at Palazzo Pitti — it was only women at the time and all of a sudden, it must have been around 1971-1972, he said: "Why do we show in Florence when the airport is in Milan? Let's stop people in Milan!"
You've experienced a fashion evolution!
Sometimes I amaze myself because I've witnessed so many things in fashion. For somebody in my generation it's kind of unique because I was there as a child and I kind of met everyone. I know three or four generations of editors, of buyers, presidents and I witnessed all the changes in the buying systems. I was there and I witnessed it all.
I think you need to write a book. It would be very interesting.
I'm already 60! I'm the last dinosaur of the era.
You must have some incredible stories to tell.
Maybe somehow, somewhere, they'll come out.
And, I think, your life has been so well documented because you've been in the industry for so long, what is one thing people don't know about you?
I think I'm very open. I would like to be an astronaut (laughs), to experience zero gravity. There are also so many places I would like to see. I would like to do two years around the world to see, and then another two to see what I haven't seen.
Also don't miss the Missoni SS18 runway show from Milan Fashion Week.