Star of Stripes
Dallas fashion gala honoree Angela Missoni reflects on her zigzag life
Perhaps most famous for its iconic zigzag stripes, the Italian brand Missoni has grown from a small Italian knitwear workshop into one of the world’s top luxury brands. Founded by Ottavio and Rosita Missoni in 1953, today’s Missoni encompasses men’s, women’s, and kids' clothes; accessories; and home goods — even a lauded Target collaboration that flew off the shelves in 2011, which is still an eBay favorite.
The company already was a fashion powerhouse when the founders’ daughter, Angela, took the reins 20 years ago. Raised in her parents' workrooms, she worked in sales for “pocket money” as a teenager before taking time off to have her three children, Margherita, Teresa, and Francesco.
Despite “never imagining she would take over,” a fortuitous conversation with her father led her to become the second generation to drive the brand, a role for which she is receiving Fashion Group International of Dallas’s 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award. She will accept the award at FGI’s Night of Stars Gala on November 10 at the Texas Hall of State in Fair Park.
A day ahead of the gala, she jetted into Dallas from her home in Sumirago, Italy, for a luncheon at Neiman Marcus that celebrated her 20th anniversary as creative director of Missoni, where we had the chance to chat with her about her zigzag life and career.
“I decided this is not my thing; I [was] not going to work in this company, but my father asked what I would like to do,” Missoni recalls in a positive yet reflective mood. “I said I would like to design jewelry and maybe do a children’s line. My father was a very wise man. He said I could consider this company like a big umbrella, and if I had any projects, I could develop them for the company. [He said] I could be on my own and didn’t have to work with my mom every single day.
"He knew how strong she is, so he understood my character and that I had to go on own legs to build up my self-confidence.”
Rosita Missoni eventually stepped aside to helm Missoni’s home line, and Angela was able to imprint her vision on the brand. With an uncanny ability to recall the tiniest aspect of a past collection — the fabrics, the models, even the soundtrack to the runway show — she mines her mental archives while keeping an eye to the future.
“I realize years later I remember every detail of every dress, every hairpin, the makeup,” she says. “I never went to the archives. I am the archives. But as always is my nature, I’m looking forward. I’m very curious, and I see in details, and every time I start with a collection, I start with a theme, and I make links in my head.”
Angela Missoni drew from the archives to commemorate her FGI award and her long relationship with Neiman’s. Four classic designs from collections past have been reissued exclusively at the store, including a plunging maillot once modeled by Gisele Bundchen.
For Missoni, any visit to Neiman’s is a homecoming, as its founder, Stanley Marcus, was one of the first supporters of her parents' line back in 1970. The store also awarded Missoni the Neiman-Marcus award (the “Oscars of fashion”) in 1973.
“It’s a full circle," she says. "It’s a bit strange, the fact of lifetime achievement. But it’s a great honor, plus being in Dallas where my parents won the award gives me goosebumps.”
Still a family business to this day (Missoni’s brother and nephews are also involved with the company), she anticipates the dynasty continuing should she ever decide to retire. Daughter Margherita, a former brand ambassador and Missoni model, is currently in fashion, producing her signature line of children’s clothes, and daughter Teresa has expressed interest in developing products with some of the recycled fabrics in the atelier.
“They have a lot of passion for fashion, so there is a chance,” says Missoni. “I’m happy they’re doing their own things [now], so they can grow with managing as well as design. But I love the fact that Missoni is trans-generational as a family and as a company. That’s very important to me.
"You can be passionate about fashion at every age and with every kind of body.”