Photo Courtesy of Giada Mariani, Semaine
“I am absolutely a country girl, but when I was growing up, I loved cities and begged my mom to take me to cities,” Margherita Maccapani Missoni tells in a phone conversation. She’s in her garden at her home in Varese and the birds singing. Varese is the beautifully pedicured town of parks and villas where Margherita grew up. But by the time she finished high school, she headed to Milan and Manhattan.
We all kind of grew up with Margherita— at age 19, she was the muse of her family’s brand Missoni. She tells me that at the time her focus was less fashion and more theatre, studying acting with Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg studios. Eventually, Margherita returned to Europe, Rome and Paris for a year on the theatre tour, all the while getting closer to home.
“I was coming up to Varese and Milan more and more, and that’s when I admitted to myself that fashion was what I really wanted to do”, Missoni elaborates. When she was 26 years old, she joined Missoni’s design team. For five years, she was fully immersed in Missoni, assisting her mother Angela and groomed to be the next director in a three-generation dynasty. She was happy and fulfilled, and after giving birth to her second child, Missoni made the decision to leave the company.
In the following years, Margherita launched into a series of personal projects and curated collaborations from clothing and homeware to luggage and hats that niched Missoni as a tastemaker of her own name. And then about two years ago, FSI the fund that invested in Missoni in 2018, approached Margherita and asked her to take over M Missoni, a less expensive line introduced in 1998 and distributed a separate group. “I was not happy at all. I thought M was a license- a cheaper copy of Missoni,” but Margherita was curious and FSI would explain that M was no longer a license and wanted to develop M with its own aesthetic and identity.
“It’s not easy giving an identity to something that is born of a derivation of itself”, she says. Before accepting the position of Brand Director, Missoni immersed herself in the archives- in memorabilia, in images, in press clippings. “It hit me how much of Missoni’s past is so rich. [M] should always start from a little piece of real Missoni”
Re-use, Remix, and Respect
M as a letter and idea stands for a piece of Missoni, Margherita says, and M Missoni is nothing new. Margherita is upcycling the quintessential Missoni concept, images, vibe, unrecognisable prints and even its warehoused deadstock. “[We] elaborate on it, layer it, twist it inside out, upside down and make it into something new. Everything we do has a narrative in the past, it’s never a copy.”
And the methodology of M is also infused with the Italian tradition of resourceful reusing and ingenious recycling. Everyone has a nonna who remade a sweater or a zip who retrofitted a car. It’s in Italian DNA. “It’s very much part of my own personal approach to craft and my aesthetic in general. I work much better if I only have two yarns, a few beads. It is very Italian – not throwing away but of giving new life.”
M Missoni is a collection and manifesto on sustainability, inclusivity and ethical practices. The collection, which Margherita describes as “series of pieces to fill in a wardrobe more than setting an idea of fashion”, is genderless and absolutely no sway to size, shape or age. Margherita tells me that part of M’s manifesto is includes yearly collaborations with artisans and companies outside of Italy, like Ethiopia, Peru and Ghana, who reinforce global sustainability, fair wage employment and ethical work environments. “If [there is] the possibility of producing something in companies abroad that are built ethically with great standards, then I push for it to be made there.”
Missoni pretty much invented maximalist aesthetic. Is that something you were naturally?
My aesthetic is heavily influenced by Missoni, without even noticing. Even when I think I am being minimalist, I am actually in other people’s eyes a maximalist. There was a time when I was a little girl when I wanted something different, unchangeable and solid. I would go to church on my own and I only wanted to wear navy, white and smoke [coloured] dresses. That was my rebellion from the Missoni aesthetic. By the time I was 10, it was over.
Tell us a little about Italian street style?
That depends what you refer to as street wear – …. joggers, sneakers and sweat ships. Remember the Missoni brand was created as chic knitwear that would effortlessly take you from morning to evening. [It’s] that element that makes the difference in a chic but effortless way like a knitted polo, instead of just a t-shirt. I do feel that is very Italian. Italians are very good at being chicly laid back.
And how would you describe Italianissimo?
It is freedom and loud, we are laid paid and we are not shy. We take everything to its extreme- whether its craft and they are made at their best, or dancing and having fun. It is taking what ever we do to the top.
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What’s the most issimo thing you say?
Fichissimo- we [Margherita, her husband and sons] say it a lot at home for anything that is really cool. It’s a word that says a lot.
What’s fichissimo about Italy?
The best thing about Italy is how compact it is. Every few meters you have something new that is surprises you, inspires you.