Unicahome recently sat down with Carlo Torani, Global Marketing Manager for Missoni Home and Christopher Philips, Brand Manager of Missoni Home for the Americas. Carlo Torani is also the nephew of Rosita Missoni, and is the son of one of the owners of TJ Vestor.
The Missoni Company is separated into two parts: Fashion and Missoni Home. Both parts of the company are headed by family members. TJ Vestor is the company that licenses Missoni design for the Missoni Home project. TJ Vestor is Rosita Missoni’s family company (the Torani and Jalmeni families).
Christopher and Carlo have worked together for three years. During that time Christopher has become extremely knowledgeable on the history of the brand. Together they appear to work as family, finishing each other’s sentences. Rather than separate the individual comments I have decided to transcribe the flow of the conversation. I hope you like it.
How old is the Missoni company?
Missoni initially manufactured in 1920 embroidered scarfs and dresses/housecoats for women. The company then started home accessories in textile and embroidered fabric
When did Missoni go into fashion?
Rosita Missoni started playing with fabrics and got some ideas using the fabrics that were found in the factory. Then she met Ottavio Missoni in 1948 in London at the Olympics- he was an Olympic runner. She went to go watch the Italian runners. He designed the official Italian track suit. He designed it out of frustration with a teammate out of frustration with their existing design.
Then they started mixing colored yarn on knitting machines which eventually turned into fashion. The company was founded when they returned to Italy. The name Missoni became famous in the 1960s and 1970s.
They were invited to Palazzo Pitti, one of the most important fashion shows. Florence was the most important design area at that time, 1967. Rosita didn’t like the way the fabric was falling on the models’ bodies so she instructed them to remove their underwear. When the lights hit the garments it rendered them transparent. The press went wild. What was really a mistake launched the company.
The Chevron? How did that come about?
The first designs were the chevron and the stripe. This was due to the limited ability of the machines when they started. Jacquard didn’t exist yet.
Ottavio and Rosita were making patchwork tapestries for the wall, arazzi in Italian. From those kind of artworks made from knit fabrics came the idea to make rugs (circa 1983). Missoni Home was founded in 1983- prior to all of the fashion houses that began to do home accessories much later. The brand was actually born in 1999. Rosita Missoni always considered herself a textile artisans; they never considered themselves fashion designers. Their process is much different than most fashion designers. Most fashion designers design a dress and then choose a fabric for that dress. The Missonis have always designed fabric and then decided what piece it would be used on. Rosita was constantly thinking of many other applications apart from just fashion. Fashion allowed them to work on a daily basis.
Currently how is the company structured?
Both companies are totally private. Missoni Fashion is currently run by Angela Missoni since 1998, who took over when her mother retired and began to focus just on home. Her mother, Rosita is 80. You would never know. She is always at our shows and entertains regularly.
Missoni Home is run by Rosita’s brothers. Rosita is at the helm of creative design as well as Wanda Jelmini, her niece. The main ideas come from Rosita’s passion of decoration. Then the lifestyle concept is so large that we have a staff of architects and designers that must take these ideas and adapt them to the home.
Do your colors mimic the fashion colors?
There is an exchange. We often watch what happens in fashion to pull our inspiration for our color palette that we do at home
How many employees?
There are two very different companies under one family. At the factory we have 100 employees for TJ Vestor and 150 at Missoni. This does not include management worldwide.
Lets go into production. I want to talk about the design process.
How much of Missoni Home product is manufactured in the factory?
10% of MissoniHome is made in the factory- all the embroidery and the more intricate pieces. We kept what is part of our tradition. All of the prototypes are made at the factory. All of the rest of our production apart from a few rugs are made in Italy around the area where we live. Nowadays the Missoni concept is so wide it was only natural that we outsourced to local manufacturers that we were able to work closely with and manage our high standards of quality control.
Missoni is headquartered in the Lago Maggiore region near Milano.
Brianza manufactures furniture- Italian design brands
Como area- produces silk and jacquard for upholstery .
For us it was quite easy to organize production. For us, to keep the label ‘Made in Italy’ on all of our products is very important. The brand Missoni is very related to the Made in Italy tradition.
Lets look at the design process….
We pull inspiration for the color palette from fashion. Fashion is one of the things that is constantly evolving and changing. If you follow fashion you usually stay on top of trends. This has become very important in home collections. The two seem to coincide and are purchased in much the same way than they ever were before.
There is an exchange. Sometimes we will do a weave or a knit that fashion really loves. For example, we did a Husky throw a few years ago and that knit was loved so much by fashion they did a scarf for men. Completely different colorways but the same knit.
We pull patterns that become iconic fashion patterns and pull them into the home collection. One example is the Vevey, which debuted in fashion in 1997. We brought it into the home in 2001 and we haven’t been able to stop selling it. We just revamped it for an outdoor version with a whole new color palette. You can see it on the Kartell chairs, fashion pieces from the late 1990’s. It is still one of our best selling floral patterns.
Wanda Jialmeni is design director. Rosita then comes in and edits. She (Rosita) is very active. She wants to approve every detail. She edits, approves and tweaks and changes.
The interesting thing, I find, is that you do collections that are more fashion-based than any other home interior brand, period. I don’t see Fendi , for example, doing interiors in a similar method. I see a Fendi branding and you’re done. There were a few things I saw where Fendi took a crocodile print and made a larger crocodile print and a smaller crocodile print. Overall I saw it as fairly uninspired design.
All of the fashion houses that go into home rely upon our brand recognition without a doubt. That is extremely important in any industry today. The difference is that we – you look at a missoni fabric and before you even see the name you know it must be Missoni. You put our fabric on a lamp or sofa and you immediately know it is a Missoni product. With Armani, for example, albeit a beautiful product, it caters to many peoples’taste but it is not like you look at an Armani sofa and know it is Armani. This is the difference. The element of design that we bring into it is our strength in textiles and the mixing and matching and blending of colors and textures that no other company has been able to achieve at the same level. The real mission of Missoni Home is to bring color into the home. This is a great mission because Rosita and Ottavio said, “Life is more beautiful in colors.” That is the philosophy. Behind the project there is a great passion. You can feel Rosita’s great passion behind our product. This is something that is very important. People feel that someone wants to make your life more beautiful by giving you the possibility to use colors in your home. The secret of the Missonis is using colors with a great sensibility they are able to mix some colors that anyone can mix- but they find the right balance and the right tones of every color.
I am still surprised when I see these color combinations. I think I would have never put those colors together. I would have been afraid they look horrendous but somehow they look good. This is their magic.
Collection-wise- the collections I find interesting because.. Honestly it is difficult. I have to figure out how to market it. There is always a choice. On the micro scale as a retailer I can show a pillow here in this size and a throw here, etc. On the macro scale, however, you have the whole idea of different fabrics that go together. On the larger scale in many cases it is a reflection of the actual pattern of these different fabrics- particularly presented as a pixelation of the various designs. This, I think, is a fairly new thing. I t is different than fashion .Fashion you have an overall concept of what it is going to be. In fashion you have different materials, fabrics, and cuts. It comes down to the fundamentals of form and color. What you are doing is more in terms of the fabric and using the fabric for the form.
The concept is the same- design the fabric and then the form.
Who did the pixelation?
The pixelation was Wanda playing with scale in 2010. The best example would be the Bouquet collection. We took one of the Bouquet floral patterns and enlarged it hundreds of times. All the colors were the same so they matched perfectly from a color standpoint- but the pattern was unrecognizable.
Our annual collection evolves in stories. This year we had six stories. Each story has a base fabric. That fabric is where Wanda and Rosita start. This year, for example, an orchid flower. Wanda picks some orchids and starts a creative board designing and drawing the orchid. That would be the base fabric of Orchidee. From that pattern, which happens to be a conceptual interpretation of an orchid, with Missoni zigzags and squares and checks worked into the petals, comes all of the other fabrics that are in that story. Without that base fabric none of the other fabrics exists. She’s not going into a mill and picking out fabrics. Each fabric exists off of the other- they are inspired by the others. With all of the color, pattern and texture in a story there is always a common thread even though the fabrics are completely different but work on the same colorway.
The base fabric of the Bouquet Collection is called Lobelia. It is a large floral design of a bouquet of wildflowers printed on macro damier cotton sateen weave (think squares woven into the fabric- only noticeable up close). It is therefore a pattern on a pattern.
The Lobelia pattern was then ‘blown up’ hundreds of times to become a pixelated pattern. This time the factory used a micro damier (think smaller squares). This pattern is called Lobos. The ‘squares’ of the damier and micro damier also reflect on this pixelated pattern.
The Leigh fabric was developed as a solid to balance out the patterns. It uses colors found in the Lobelia. A jacquard weave, the fabric also has the iconic Missoni chevrons woven into the fabric. A fairly good overview of jacquard weaving may be found on Wikipedia, of all places. It is available here.
The Bouquet Collection may be found at Unicahome here.
Most of our consumers look at Missoni as a brand, like “I have a Louis Vuitton purse.” They don’t look at it as if this is a complete representation of a beautiful home. The consumer really only has to pick the pieces out. My goal as a retailer is to educate them more on what Missoni is all about.
It is a complete exercise in graphic design. But they take it a step farther. It is not just drawing and designing it and printing it, however. They are creating and weaving textiles out of this exercise of graphic design. This year we did six complete exercises. It takes about a year and a half to complete each collection.
What is the future for Missoni?
The lifestyle proposal became complete recently with a project in the hotel field. We are building Missoni hotels (with the Rezidor hotel group) around the world. One was done last year in Edinburgh and one was done recently in Kuwait (May 2011). Oman is scheduled to open next year, with projects in Capetown and Turkey. The licensing agreement states that there is a certain level of luxury and maintenance that is required to maintain the Missoni Home brand on the hotels. The Missoni Hotel is something completely different as it is a colorful and branded hotel. Missoni has also started to personalize private condominiums. We need to have complete control over the interior design and specification of the hallways, the model units and packages, at various price points. The first condominium will be in the Philippines. The name of the condominium is Aqua with the concept by Missoni Home. This is the most important project we are working on today. We are talking about 450 public apartments, a mall and public areas. This gives Missoni the possibility to develop the know-how that can be applied to other requests.
The Missoni Home collection concept is perfect for public places. It is applied more fully on public places.
More information on the Hotel Missoni concept may be found here.
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