One imagines that being born into a bonafide Italian fashion dynasty would lead to certain expectations for an heiress such as Margherita Missoni. One only has to spend a short amount of time immersed in her world however to realise that here is somebody who has unequivocally forged their own path, succeeding in fields far removed from the family business whilst playing a key role in the re-energising of a fashion house as storied as it is iconic.
The heart of the Missoni brand has always been the Missoni family - it was founded in 1953 by Margherita’s grandparents, Ottavio and Rosita. From its humble beginnings as a knitwear workshop in the province of Varese to the global powerhouse it is today, production is, for the most part, still carried out at their family-owned factory in Varese.
When Ottavio and Rosita decided to call it a day back in 1996, they handed control over to their three children, Vittorio, Luca and Angela (Margherita’s mother). Here began the gradual rebirth of the brand, and as Margherita hit her late teens (she is now 33), her striking looks and fierce embodiment of the family ideals made her a natural ambassador for the brand. So when she announced, still shy of twenty, that she was moving to New York to explore new ventures, it must have caused great outrage amongst the Missoni clan, right?
“They completely understood actually,” says Margherita. “They’ve always been very supportive and I needed to be away. We lived in the countryside and my family is very tight but it is difficult to understand who you are as a single being there. So I moved to New York, far away.” Initially studying Philosophy at Columbia University, Margherita then took a place at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute. She very quickly landed a leading role in an acclaimed production of Jean Genet’s notorious playThe Maids, before realising that ultimately her heart lay back in her homeland.
“I left New York and went to Paris and then Rome. From Rome I decided I wanted to work with Missoni so went back to Milan… I always loved acting, it was my favourite thing to do, to play and be other people. I really enjoyed it and it was part of the process of understanding who I am. There came a point though that I had to live my own life, you know? I loved my life and actually being in it, and I didn’t want to ‘get away’ into other things.”
To hear Margherita talk of this time in her life with such conviction immediately removes any suggestion of mere youthful flights of fancy. Rather it comes across as a successful reimagining of just who the ‘Missoni woman’ should and could be. Refusing to be defined by her beauty alone - at the age of just twenty Harper’s Bazaar declared her to be one of the world’s most beautiful women - she made her role as the ‘face’ of Missoni completely her own, no matter where she was in the world or what she was doing. It helped of course though that she was a Missoni and didn’t just wear the items: the vibrant, colourful zig-zag patterns that made the house’s name were ingrained in her very being. Proof of this, if ever that was needed, can be found in the bathroom of her home. There hangs a 1980s Missoni campaign poster featuring the entire Missoni family. “It happened very naturally of course,” says Margherita. “It was not a brand I had to adapt to, or wonder about what it was they wanted from me. The way they raised me to act reflected the same values as the brand so there wasn’t much of an issue there!”
There was a certain serendipity at play also in the fact that Margherita’s burgeoning status coincided with her mother Angela’s conscious effort to bring Missoni to a younger audience. “Seeing it on me helped her perceive how the brand could be younger,” Margherita says. Margherita acknowledges that there have been periods in the brand’s history in which Missoni “had gotten really old.” She can however pinpoint the exact moment that she realised her mother’s efforts to re-energise the brand were beginning to pay off: “I really remember the moment when my friends started asking me for discounts! So now there is a new moment of coolness…”
After her return to Italy from New York and elsewhere, Margherita embraced an altogether more formal role at Missoni, joining the accessories design team and overseeing licensed Missoni ranges from swimwear to shoes. Ultimately though Margherita has chosen to step away completely from her professional links to Missoni, and you get the sense that this was precisely due to the strong sense of family that tied her to the brand in the first place.
Married to the racing car driver Eugenio Amos since 2012 with whom she has two young boys, Margherita is now embracing her own role as a mother with gusto, something that is almost impossible not to view through the prism of the Missoni lineage. In 2013 a plane carrying Margherita’s uncle Vittorio, the then CEO of Missoni, went missing off the coast of Venezuela. By the time the plane was found some months later, Ottavio had also passed away without ever having the tragic fate of his son confirmed. This was also however the period in which Margherita started a family of her own and it is clear just how much comfort this sense of new beginnings generated. Like the fortunes of their eponymous brand, the Missoni family seems to rise and fall but always rise once more.
Margherita’s own creative drive and business acumen are now put towards the childrenswear brand that she recently founded, Margherita Kids. She is quick to point out that the brand is not simply a child-sized clone of Missoni as you might expect, in the way that so many children’s brands with their roots in big fashion houses are (“mini-me’s” is how Margherita describes them when talk turns to the Baby Diors of this world). “The idea is that kids should be able to dress themselves with what they find in their closet. That’s how I was brought up, it let’s you develop your own tastes rather than assuming someone else’s. That’s the spirit of the collection and the clothes are comfortable, easy to wash, easy to get into…”
For all the airs and graces that Margherita naturally possesses (or indeed that people might project onto her), there are numerous telltale signs like this that hint at the independent spirit she undoubtedly is. Beyond the ethos of Margherita, she joyfully and joyously decorates her picturesque home in the Italian countryside with an abundance of flea-market finds and eBay curios. “My husband is always saying, you must find another passion… But I love finding! It’s the pleasure of the hunt.” With that single specific declaration, the tenacious way in which Margherita has grasped opportunities all over the world and in so many different ways suddenly make sense. A life of zigzags that come together in the same way that the kaleidoscopic patterns do on a Missoni knit or textile. The pleasure of the hunt indeed, and one that resonates just as strongly in her blissful, settled present.