“My home has become an oasis of colors and moods, evoking emotions and curiosity,” says a very welcoming Rosita Missoni as she reflects on her family’s main residence in Sumirago, Italy. “This place is always open to encounters of people just passing through, the family’s comings and goings and for when friends and acquaintances unexpectedly drop in,” she adds with a bright open smile. Sitting at the foot of the Lombard Alps, the magnificent property, built by architect Enrico Buzzi, is also the elective backdrop of the Missoni business, a status symbol of Italian design, which in 2013 will be celebrating its 60th anniversary. Since the brand’s inception in the early 50’s, Rosita and her husband Ottavio (Tai), Italy’s most prominent fashion couple, began creating their unparalleled knitwear, fusing art and fashion “with museum pieces that you can wear” and introducing the world to a new way of dressing and living. Their mix-and- match style, which Americans defined as ‘put together’ is a unique patchwork of geometric and colored jacquards, zigzags and stripes morphing into an extraordinary kaleidoscopic effect, where colors blend into tones and imagination never underestimates simplicity. Missoni hasn’t stopped at clothing and fashion accessories. “I enjoy creating a habitat that is ordered yet informal, versatile and welcoming,” admits a self-satisfied Ms. Missoni, who in the mid 90’s launched Missoni Home, transferring the brand’s fashion iconography into the world of design. “I always loved home décor and I thought that expanding my creativity into home furnishing was the most natural thing to do,” she recalls.
Missoni Home’s latest collection, which was presented at Maison et Objet in Paris and Salone del Mobile in Milano, was received more than well; a collection of vivid pieces ranging from sofas and relaxed form ottomans to pillows and luxurious blankets and throws. Missoni explains, “The new and fascinating story interweaves nature and fantasy, passion and geometry, a fusion of inspirations and techniques: linear forms, sculptural volumes and great eclecticism in the use of the pictorial color palette. The color tones are vibrantly intense and rich in high notes. Polychromatic scales nuance into faded effects, they emerge from the shadows to snake into spatial flashes.”
The Missoni brand and legacy has proved that the art form of great design can transcend market boundaries and be a success in any business sector. Over the years, the brand has expanded from fashion to furnishing and modern day living. After Missoni Home was born, which Missoni happily admits, “is now a very consistent collection,” a collaboration with architect Matteo Thun in 2006 gave birth to Hotel Missoni, which became another important part of the brand’s evolution.
In 2013 you will be celebrating 60 years in the fashion business. What do you see as your greatest achievement?
To have created a style with our fashion and a lifestyle with our home collection.
How would you define Missoni’s style in a few sentences?
Dynamic, colorful, geometrical and playful.
The use of color has always been a very distinctive mark of the Missoni brand. What drew you and Tai into it?
It was instinctive from the very beginning. Tai could have become an artist, as his sense of color is extraordinary. On the other end, I love gardens and flowers. During the years though, Tai has become a huge gardener too. He started with a small terrace in our previous home but now that we have a huge garden he has definitely improved his abilities.
You met your husband in London in the late 40’s, and since then you have started a very successful relationship and business collaboration. Was it love at first sight?
Yes. Tai was running as a finalist in the Olympic games in the 400 meters hurdles. When I first met him, I kept my fingers crossed. He was a very handsome man but what I really loved was his sense of humor and his captivating philosophy of life.
What would you say has been the secret to your long-lasting relationship in romance and business?
Working together for so many years has certainly created a strong bond between the two of us. I also believe that the best choice of our life has been to decide to establish our headquarters here in Sumirago. I consider a privilege the possibility to live and work in a place where every day you can look outside the window and see something beautiful. All our children and grand children live here. It’s not far from Milan and you can still enjoy the city life.
How has your brand evolved into so many fields, most predominantly Missoni Home?
We started Missoni Home very early, at the end of the 70’s because Bloomingdale’s introduced us to Fieldcrest, for whom we made four bed and bath collections. My family at that point added bed spreads, rugs and upholstery fabrics to their production and therefore they suggested starting our own home brand made in Italy. So we did, and at the end of the 80’s we launched a Missoni collection of rugs and upholstery fabrics, although it was not under my direction.
What prompted you to take over the direction of Missoni Home?
It was in ’97, when my daughter Angela decided to work on our main line. I felt a great relief, as I needed to step back from the fashion world and its craziness. I knew that the home was becoming fashion and I must say in a couple of years I realized I had a very good idea.
In your opinion, what was the turning point of the brand’s evolution in the world of design?
It was when I started seeing copies of what we were doing. And when they copy you, it’s usually a sign of success.
Which vision inspired your Home collection?
The pleasure of being surrounded by excitement. My house is a nest where I bring back all the things I love. It’s structured but very informal, appealing but simple. It’s a game which I love to play. Very often I build from the fashion collection and transform it.
Could you please describe the philosophy behind Hotel Missoni?
When Italian architect Matteo Tun approached us with the idea, I instantly thought it would have been a very good window for the Home collection and also a field of research.
What are the main design elements you have chosen to define your private residency in Italy?
I am fascinated by design and comfort and I like simplicity in shape. There is one particular chair I chose for my home, the Wishbone chair by Hans Wegner. I decided to have it also in the hotels because it’s comfortable and easy to move. I hate heavy furniture. I love objects and my house it’s full of them.
What is your most treasured possession?
A series of huge glass beads which I bought in London six years ago. They are from Seguso, a factory from Venice, and made in the 60’s. I also used to collect handkerchief porcelain vases, knotted ones, but now I am tired of them. In my house in Milan I have a huge red chandelier that looks like a big octopus, made by Gio Ponti in the 50’s. We have so many different homes though….
What other homes?
The big house, our main residency, is in Sumirago, the house in Milan we mainly use to throw parties after our fashion shows. I have a house in Paris, in Rue du Bac, overlooking the Tour Eiffel, and one in Sardinia, our summer house in Puntaldia, on a long beach with pink sand and turquoise sea. Our house in Venice overlooks the bridge on the side of the Palazzo Ducale, and in the lagoon we also have a flat boat where we throw very cool parties with up to 150 people.
How large is your art collection and which pieces are the most important to you?
I wouldn’t personally call it an art collection but a very intimate ensemble of pieces. We have a beautiful painting called The Birth of Venus by Savinio, De Chirico’s brother. Tai bought it 25 years ago. He came home with it and said to me, “This is your Christmas present for me.” For his 80th birthday I give him another painting from Tancredi because it reminded me of how Tai designs his projects on knitted fabrics.
Do you have a motto you live by?
It’s never too late.