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Fashion / Style File

Powerhouse Designer Tells All In Advance of Major Fashion Honor

How an Iconic Brand Keeps It Fresh

BY // 11.01.17

Next week, Angela Missoni will be honored with the Fashion Group International of Dallas (FGI) Lifetime Achievement Award – and we can’t think of anyone more deserving. In the last 20 years as creative director for her family’s iconic fashion house, she has expertly and artfully merged fresh, visionary ideas with Italian heritage to create a life as colorful, beautiful, and timeless as a Missoni zigzag knit.

PaperCity caught up with the designer to chat about everything from running a business to entertaining in her Italian countryside home – we suggest taking notes.

PaperCity: Over the last 20 years, you’ve managed to lead your family’s brand in a way that honors its heritage but continues to be fresh and exciting. What are you most proud of?  

I am proud that, with everything constantly changing in the fashion world, I’ve managed to keep Missoni relevant after 64 years. It’s a unique case in history for a fashion brand to have been helmed by the same family and still owned by the same family after all this time.

And, while we’ve had special projects, it’s all with our own forces. We’re not part of any big group that has big muscle.

There’s another thing I’m very proud of and that is giving my mother a second creative chance – a second life in a creative way during these years. My mom offered the main line to me and she takes care of the Missoni Home collection now. Really, as a daughter, I’m very proud that she could have another opportunity to still have a very creative life – without the stress of the fashion collection!

PC: What has been the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge has been to, on every single level, find solutions on a daily basis to keep your company going and keep it updated. It’s being creative at every aspect and using your creativity to solve problems.

Sometimes I feel a bit like Lucy from Peanuts… I can find any solution. How to dress, how to clean, which language to speak, how to speak with the younger generation, how to set a table, how to do a project.

At the same time, even through some tough years, I’ve managed to keep the family together.

PC: How do you find time to spend with family outside of everything else?

We all live in the same neighborhood! I have three grandchildren now and I’m so lucky they all live by me — but you need to have the time.

We try to get together as much as we can. Two days before leaving, I had a dinner for the whole family. In Italy, we celebrate the day of your Saint. Margherita, Teresa, and Francesco are all within 15 days of each other so I said, ‘Let’s have a dinner of the Saint!’ So we find occasions to be together.

PC: It’s no wonder the theme of your Spring 2018 Ready-to-Wear collection was simply: Party! There is certainly lots to celebrate.

Yes! We had a christening for my daughter Teresa’s six-month-old baby exactly six days after the show. I had a large lunch in the garden for family and friends.

I always love an excuse to set up the house and set the table but, if I’m being honest, we did the show on Saturday and then a big party and then, when Theresa gave me her proposed guest list for the party on Monday morning I thought, ‘I can’t have another list!’ In the end, I managed. 

PC: How do you do it all! Do you cook for everyone?

I enjoy cooking — especially on vacation. I have a person that helps at home and I taught him all of the dishes from the house. He is very good! When he joins with my mom’s cook we can have a dinner for 50 people.

PC: You famously love to decorate. How important is it for you to feel connected to the space around you?

The space around me is very important. I think I always try to do, to make, to create, but really I’m always looking for harmony. That’s the first thing in my life. I always try to create an ambiance where everybody will have pleasure in staying. Where everyone will engage with the space and with others in a relaxed way. 

This is definitely related to my philosophy at work. I need harmony to work and harmony between the people that work with me and around me, no matter their talent.

PC: How has the fashion industry changed since you started as creative director 20 years ago?

The way things are today, there is the constant urge to have more collections and more projects – it goes very fast. You need to do your research but, at the same time, you need to act. Sometimes even though you’d like more time to finish your thoughts you have to take your courage and go.

The worst thing would be to stop. It doesn’t mean you don’t have doubts, but you have to make a decision because if you don’t decide – you’re dead.

PC: What was the most important lesson you learned from your parents?

 I can tell you that the biggest gift of course is being given this amazing job and company and style to work on, but maybe the bigger gift is that I’ve grown up with a lot of trust and freedom. I’ve never felt judged by them, so that’s what I try to do with my kids and I hope that I have managed.

We moved to the country about 40 minutes outside Milano near the lake in a beautiful area. My parents decided to go and work in a place where they would have loved to spend their weekends. Even though you have a very stressful job, this keeps your balance in life and makes it more stable and more real. It keeps your feet on the ground.

The fact that I wake up in the mornings and have this beautiful view of the Alps, and I see the seasons – it’s an amazing gift they’ve given to the family.

PC: You often pull something from the Missoni archives or your family history as inspiration for a new piece or collection. How do you approach something old to make it feel new?

 I don’t need to go to the archives because I know the archives by heart. I realized growing up that I have a memory of every single detail – from the shoe closure to the makeup to the stitches and details of the clothing maybe from the age of 5. I was, and still am, an observer.

Now when we’re working on a board for next season and I’ll realize something we’ve done might fit, I will tell them exactly the collection and the year so we can pull one of the pieces.

I’m very proud of Missoni and its past because it’s part of me – but I’ve never been about history. I need to go forward. I need to add new words to the vocabulary of language that my parents invented.

PC: We’re thrilled that you’ll be here in Dallas to be honored at the FGI Night of Stars. You first visited on a special trip with your parents?

 We were in Dallas when I was 14. My parents got the Neiman Marcus Award and in those years, that was the fashion Oscar! I got to meet everyone in the industry because I was always around. Stanley Marcus became a good friend of my family and he was a great mentor to my parents.

We’ve been selling at Neiman Marcus since 1971, and we are probably the only label that has sold uninterrupted from that moment until today. It’s really an amazing thing to be back!

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