48 Hours in Milan With Angela Missoni
At high noon on Friday, a day before showtime, Angela Missoni is everywhere. The glass-roofed former warehouse that holds Missoni’s Milan showroom is abuzz with comings and goings, but the fastest moving target is the designer herself, pursued by stylists, producers, assistants, PR, camera people and me.
Moving among the racks of the spring 2018 collection, Missoni grabs sequined leggings, elongated patterned cardigans and sheer iridescent dresses to add to the runway lineup. She reviews a string of models in their catwalk looks, adjusting them as needed. She checks on a details team currently at work sewing beads on a straw hat of hula-hoop proportions. She receives visitors, packages, phone calls and requests for her attention from every direction, until she finally sits down to have her makeup done in an upstairs alcove — a quiet interlude, sort of, as she still responds to panicked phone messages from friends and family, fields my interview questions, and shows me the acceptance speech she gave just the night before (as if she didn’t have enough to do this week) for an AmfAR award for courage. In the crowd, many sported the pink knit pussyhats of women’s rights protests that she distributed at her previous runway show.
“There’s never a moment where I’m doing just one thing at a time,” says Missoni, closing her eyes to try to reap the benefits of her makeup artist’s head massage. Especially not this moment, as she prepares for a runway show that will mark her 20th anniversary at the head of the brand her parents founded in 1953 — a large-scale event combining 70 men’s and women’s looks, followed by a dinner for her collaborators and a midnight party on the runway. “Twenty years is really a lot,” she sighs, “But at least I can say with satisfaction that Missoni is still a family brand, and still an important brand, and that I’ve transformed it from a ready-to-wear business into a luxury business.” (Missoni stands apart from many other Italian brands founded in the postwar boom because, despite its unusual scale and fame, it is still family-owned.)
On Saturday, with just a couple of hours to go before the runway show, Missoni launches into tour guide mode, taking interminable rounds of reporters through the collection. “It’s a party theme,” she explains on repeat in French, English and Italian, as she points out the jacquard sweaters with a vintage pattern of masks, the chiffon-weight knits, the embroidered woven lace of daisies made with the Swiss technique known as Sangallo — the many patterns and weaving methods pulled from the archives, and the new silhouettes and knit weights that push the fashion house’s language forward. “The most difficult thing with this brand is to maintain its traditions but to continually renew everything,” she says.
The Missoni company produces most of its knits on its own looms in the Varese area north of Milan, so its work is like that of a textile producer as well as a fashion house. Threads are chosen almost a year in advance, fabrics are first woven many months ahead, and then a season is spent designing the actual garments. But for all the time put into creating the luminescent, beaded, sequined, Lurex-filled and party-ready collection for the designer’s 20th anniversary, its reception comes down to these hours, to these reporter tours, and to the 15 minutes that the looks are paraded down the runway.
But Missoni is undaunted as she faces the occasion, and when the last models have wrapped up the show, she strides the entire loop of the runway herself, buoyant and flush with pride as she beams at the audience. Later at the party, fielding endless cheek kisses and autograph requests from well-wishers, she utters an aside to me. “What a beautiful moment today has been,” Missoni says, then she turns to receive more kisses.
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