Remembering the Missonis

The Missoni family has had a very sad year.  First, son and company CEO Vittorio Missoni went missing while flying in South America, and then last week his father and company co-founder Ottavio Missoni died at the age of 92.

Ottavio and his wife Rosita formed their company in the early 1950s, not as a fashion company, but as a maker of knit sportswear.   This makes sense considering that Ottavio had been an Olympic runner, and  he had helped his trainer make woolen tracksuits for the Italian team in 1948.   In 1953 he married Rosita, and they set up a small wool knitting firm they called Maglificio Jolly.   Within a few years they were producing sweaters for stores in Italy.

In 1958 they changed the name of their company to Missoni.  It was a great time to be getting into the fashion business in Italy.  Italian designers such as Fabiani, Simonetta and Valentino were establishing a good reputation for Italian design, and Milan was becoming known as a fashion center.  Still, it was not until the late 1960s that the company gained international attention.  With the help of Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, they began selling their knits in American stores, and in 1970 they opened their first boutique in the US inside Bloomingdales.

Ottavio claimed to be lazy, but it was he who was responsible for the design and distinctive look of the Missoni knits.  He would play with colors, and using a gridded paper he would color in lines to show the weavers how to set up the looms.   His design lab was full of books of color inspiration and he often turned to nature for his color schemes.

At first the Missonis only designed knits, but in 1962 they obtained machines that would produce a zigzag knit, and this became one of the trademark designs of the company.  They then added other geometrics, and were pioneers in making separates that coordinated in color, but were mismatched in design – dots with stripes for instance.

In the mid 1970s the work of the Missonis was very influential on knitwear.   In 1976 my boyfriend bought me a cotton pullover that was obviously Missoni inspired.  I liked it so much that I married him.

I’ve had this pantsuit for quite a few years, and it is a bit of a puzzle to me.  I thought it was from the 1970s, but the label looks much newer than that, with a newer Saks Fifth Avenue font and the absence of an oval that was seen on Missoni labels in the 1970s and 80s.  Have you any thoughts?


Filed under Designers, Vintage Clothing

5 responses to “Remembering the Missonis

  1. Liz.. did you happen to save the slip-over sweater that was responsible for your marrying your husband? Must have been some sweater! smile.

    I had a sweater with 1/8″ black & brown stripe…the knit was like your picture… had a lapped, cross-over front, held closed by a huge safety pin. Wish I had kept it to recycle. Never noticed labels on clothes….just bought the fashionables at Saks in Gimbles (on sale). Wonder if it was Missoni?

    Liz…it’s amazing how many outfits my sister and I purchased & shared (1947-53) coming to mind as a result of reading your blog.

    Just remembered a black watch cotton plaid, sleeveless sheath sun dress had a cover-up matching suit jacket with the padded hips (Christian Dior ?) a favorite I DID save.


  2. Christina

    Probably one of the most difficult fashion houses to date because of the incredible range of fabrics. However, I think this suit could date from c1975-1980. The Met has a an example of an 1975 “ensemble” which closely resembles the colourway of your suit:

    I have found a useful reference from the year 1979 which might narrow down the year for you Lizzie;,96598&dq=missoni+fabric&hl=en

    It would be great if we could see the lining and finishing of the jacket and/or any other labels. I have not come across that Missoni label before. Missoni also sold fabric by the yard.


  3. What a gorgeous pantsuit! Did you buy it to wear? Or just as part of your collection? I have a long cardigan that is of a Missoni-esque knit and I have practically worn it to death! Those multi-color knits with their subtle patterning are so versatile.


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