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Missoni, Art, Colour

It’s the brand responsible for creating the most notorious knits in Italian fashion. Since 1953 the Missoni family has provided us with colourful wools and zig-zag motifs.


If there’s one thing Missoni founders Ottavio and Rosita Missoni should unarguably be credited for, it’s introducing us to the versatile character of a fabric typically associated with the fall/winter season. No matter the occasion, and regardless of the season, Missoni has stayed loyal to wool for more than 60 years, having worked directly with the Woolmark brand since the 1960s.

“I think of Woolmark as a high quality supplier that delivers us the best goods, and it’s able to guarantee us a certain quality,” explains Luca Missoni, the son of Ottavio and Rosita. “Knitwear is central to our brand and Woolmark has for a long time identified wool types and their origins, and so it has helped us to consistently delivery quality.”

Last year, the family business, which is headquartered in Sumirago, in the Italian region of Lombardy, debuted the exhibition Missoni, L’Arte, Il Colore at the MA*GA Art Museum in Gallarate, the same town in which the former Olympic athlete Ottavio and his wife founded their namesake. This week, the same exhibition opened in London (the city in which Missoni founders Ottavio and Rosita met each other for the first time) at the Fashion and Textile Museum.

The exhibition, here titled Missoni, Art, Colour, in partnership with The Woolmark Company, takes visitors through the brand’s extensive archive, tracking its growth from a small-scale project centred around wool sports uniforms into a full-blown knitwear empire that mixes Italian craftsmanship with a contemporary fashion aesthetic.

“The looks are being showcased in a very special manner,” explains Luca, noting that the exhibition also features artworks by various Italian artists of the 1950s and 1960s that informed the creative process of Ottavio and Rosita. “There are many people that would not have seen the work of these artists, but the connection to [Missoni] becomes very obvious in the way they stimulated my parents’ designs.” Additionally, the exhibition features original sketches by Ottavio, who began Missoni’s collections with pen on paper.

Shaping the next generation of knitwear designers is something the Missoni family has made somewhat of a personal mission, and is a partner, along with The Woolmark Company, on Politecnico University’s master’s course in knitting design. As a result, an educational knitting program has been integrated into the London exhibition, helping to educate students and visitors on the versatility of wool.

In its own collections, Missoni uses a broad range of wool types, differentiating its various product lines. “You need wools with different characteristics,” explains Luca. “It might be boiled wool, or felted wool, or a lightweight wool, but no matter what the purpose, Merino wool has amazing functionality… you can do so many things with it.”


Missoni, Art, Colour is on dispaly at the Fashion and Textile Museum, London, until 4 September 2016, with ticket bookings available online

Mitchell Oakley Smith is The Woolmark Company’s Global Content & Creative Manager. His writing has appeared in Architectural Digest, Belle, GQ, Harper’s Bazaar, Interview, The Australian and Vogue, and he is the author of five books on art, fashion and design.