ANGELA MISSONI TALKS FASHION, FREEDOM AND FEMINISM

Even after 20 years at the helm, Angela Missoni is still taking risks and starting revolutions. Grazia Editor in Chief Alison Tay flies to Italy to find out more...
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ANGELA MISSONI TALKS FASHION, FREEDOM AND FEMINISM
THE MISSONIS: FRUIT OF THE LOOM

It was a moment when the entire fashion world stood together in solidarity. Inspired by the Women’s March in Washington and around the globe that fought for freedom, equality and choice for all, Angela Missoni closed her AW17 show with a defiant parade of pussyhats, and a powerful speech calling for unity. “In a time of uncertainty, there is a bond between us that can keep us strong and safe: the bond that unites those that respect the human rights of all,” she declared on the runway, flanked by her family. “Let’s show the world that the fashion community is united and fearless.”

Angela recalls, “I’ve always been a fighter for human rights and women’s rights especially. Many of my friends were participating in the Women’s March in Washington, New York and in LA, and I wanted to be there too so I decided to do something at my show.” With just two weeks to go, she set about producing 1,500 pussyhats for the models, guests at the show, and everyone involved behind the scenes. “I think the pussyhat is a tool for survival that everybody needs to have in today’s society,” she observes. The scene was set against the backdrop of a pink mountain – “it’s the mountain that’s in front of my house,” she explains. “It’s the first thing I see in the morning and has always been a symbol of strength for me” – and as all the elements came together, she realised a slogan T-shirt shouting, ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ was no longer enough and felt compelled to make herself heard.

Angela Missoni brought together the fashion community in a show of strength for AW17​

"Somebody else might have done T-shirts, but I hadn’t seen a place where all the fashion community came together, really putting our foot down saying, ‘This is what we believe in.’ I want my work to speak for itself, but I knew that in that moment I could use my voice for what I believe in. I’ve always had strong beliefs because I grew up in a very liberal family. And then of course I’ve tried to raise my daughters in the same way but I had to tell them that nothing was for granted, that we’ve had to fight and we still have to fight to keep those rights and not everywhere in the world has them.”

She concedes, “I knew that it could have been a risk for the company but all the family supported me.” In fact, she didn’t stand alone, and not only had the Missonis by her side, but the entire Milan Fashion Week show schedule, with designers that couldn’t join her on the day including Donatella Versace, Domenico Dolce, Stefano Gabbana, Silvia Fendi, and Alessandro Michele sending handwritten notes of support – a testament not only to the cause but to the admiration she inspires. “I was so touched,” she reveals. “Fashion has always been a mirror of society yet you never know how people will react when you say something personal while you’re showing your fashion collection but that’s who I am.”

Angela’s instincts have always served her well. While other Creative Directors are hired to interpret the DNA of the brand, she is the DNA of the brand. Her parents Ottavio and Rosita – who founded Missoni in 1953 – raised her to be revolutionary, and assisting at shows from the age of six has bestowed her with an encyclopedic knowledge of the archives. “I grew up with a lot of freedom from my parents and that probably helped give me such confidence. I never felt criticised by them, and I hope my daughters and my son feel that too.”

Hailey Baldwin rocks one of two limited edition designs celebrating Angela's 20 years as Creative Director, available at the Missoni stores in Mall of the Emirates and The Dubai Mall and online at www.boutique1.com

When she took over the creative direction of the family firm 20 years ago, her mission was to modernise the lexicon of the Missoni language her parents invented. “At the beginning I made clothes that I wanted to wear, and then sought to understand what my daughters and their girlfriends desired and started making clothes for them,” she states, but that would be to oversimplify her contribution to the house codes. She also pioneered the development of finer-gauge knits to strengthen Missoni’s summer collections, building on its established heritage of winter coats. She then pushed boundaries and played with techniques “in a way that I could cut more sartorially as if they were fabrics but they were still knits,” she elaborates. “I started printing,” she continues. “I found a lot of solutions to achieve different shapes so every season I had what I needed to keep the collection 70 per cent knitwear.” She acknowledges, “Experimenting was never a problem for me because I know it’s in the DNA of Missoni to be experimental and revolutionise.”

Angela Missoni takes a bow at her 20th anniversary ollection show for SS18. "Twenty years is an incredible lifespan for a designer," the Creative Director tells Grazia

My wish is for Missoni to still be relevant 20 years from now

Her proudest achievement? “That Missoni is still alive and relevant!” she answers without hesitation. “It’s a miracle that Missoni is still here after 64 years. There are no labels that are in the hands of the same family,” she points out – an accomplishment she attributes to her family’s broad-minded values. “My wish is for Missoni to still be relevant in 20 years. I hope for stability and financial growth so that I can finally develop my accessories line and leave the company to the children of the third generation with a passion for it. Nothing is guaranteed in this business, right? But there are certain moves we can make in the next five to six years that can assure that the company will be in a better position.” As fashion’s first family faces the future, when that time comes, Angela, now 59, has this advice for the next generation: “Always have an eye of your own and never be a follower. I treasure my past, I treasure the Missoni history, but I’m always looking forward.”

Photos: Jason Lloyd-Evans and supplied