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Virgola Seating System


Angela Missoni

Angela Missoni

DS: What is the key to your longevity?
AM: I often ask myself the same question, I think it is a miracle. I think really it is because my parents invented the style. I was lucky enough to inherit style from them and was able to revamp it and make it fashionable again. Missoni was not only a zigzag and it isn’t only a zigzag. It is a style, a colour base, they were pioneer in many things in fashion. The palate of Missoni is vast in terms of patterns and colours, I’m not scared in adding to it.

I’m never working on the past, I always work on the future. I never go to archives. I know the archives by heart, I was there. Every reference in my mind of my youth and growing up is related to a pattern, to a dress, to a person, to something related to fashion. If ever I ask to see something from the archive I tell them the precise year and I know exactly what I am asking for.

How do you stop everything from slipping into the past and keep it moving forward?

I use my instinct, with my knowledge of the pattern. I don’t have a recipe, I work by instinct which luckily has worked till now. I think I have courage. I was asking myself “how can I be so sure of what I am doing?” but I’m not, anymore. I like things and I go on. Season after season, I follow my instincts. There is something which is a continuation. Every collection has a precise identity but the research work never stops. There is a continuation. Maybe someone from outside can analyse better.

You have this reputation for being an earth mother… I like to live in the country. I like to come out of the country of course, but I do like to come back. I started an organic chicken farm 30 years ago, maybe that’s where the reputation started. The two things can go together.

Do you ever try to combine them?
What fashion and the chicken farm? No! Fashion is fantasy, you try to work with natural material, there is a comfort that has to be there for me in our clothes which is part of something. Those clothes have to make you feel better, or at least I hope that they do. I don’t look at trends. Either you see them or you don’t and you filter. I think I have good eyes. I see details that the majority of people don’t see. In a good sense as well as a bad sense, as you see defects everywhere. I see that there is a plug under the couch over there. I see when it’s dirty and I want it to be clean. I am very curious and I try to see as much as I can in general and I am attracted by many different things, I analyse everything and I translate it into my work.

Your mother lost interest in fashion, which is part of the reason she passed the business over to you. How do you stay engaged and interested in it?

Bowl design for Target with the characteristic Missoni zigzag pattern

Bowl design for Target with the characteristic Missoni zigzag pattern

My mother felt trapped. When she asked me to do the main line, she was tired of fighting with the commercial side. As soon as she stepped out of it, she said she wanted to retire. She has many other interests in life, but then she started with the Missoni home collection. She still does research. If she goes to a flea market, she will bring me something back so she hasn’t lost her passion for fashion. At the time she felt alone, fighting the commercial side, and she said to me “fashion you have to do when you are young and passionate, and you have the strength to fight with the commercial side otherwise they will ask you to always do the same thing that they sold yesterday.”

What keeps you inspired?
Sometimes you finish a collection and you are very tired. You might not even have the time to finish one before you start on the next. Sometimes you don’t know where you are. A little thing is enough to start it. You might see a small thing that opens the door again and you can start the process to go on. Of course, that’s what keeps you going on. I don’t only design fashion, me and my brothers own the factory and the brand. It means you are involved in all the processes, you have various things that can keep your attention alive all the time. When I see that my clothes are well received, I do have a sense of satisfaction. It is good to see that you are on the right track, so that you can go on. When I see that my daughters enjoy my clothes too, they are also very inspiring. [Angela’s daughter Margarita is an A-list model and unofficial face of the brand].

What does the Missoni brand mean?

Three generations of the Missoni family

Three generations of the Missoni family

It is fashion, but I would like people to think of it as more than fashion. It is artisanal, craftsmanship and many values. It is a brand with a very long history so that’s what I was trying to communicate. Sometimes I can hardly distinguish the brand from the family. Doesn’t mean that we all eat together everyday or that I see my mum everyday, I might see her three days in a row. I do talk to my daughters very regularly. At the moment my daughter is getting married so I seem to talk to her every 30 minutes! She was in New York for five years and one day I told her that instead of her having a phone she should have an intercom from New York and here because we speak so often.

What would you like people to think when they think of Missoni?
First thing is I would like them to have a smile. Then think of something positive. They should think beauty, joie de vivre, a lift in the spirit. You can think of art, of good food, dinner with friends. Family is not only family members, it is a large sense of family which includes your friends. A sense of hospitality. It started with my father at the very beginning. The first collection that my father decided not to show in Florence (which was in Palazzo Pitti) because he realised why go there when there was an international airport 15 minutes from the house. That was how the Milan fashion week started. Others followed. They were not showing in Milan, they were showing in the factory. That is incredible when you think of it today, but in 1970-1971, all the fashion crowd was 150 people from magazines to Bloomingdales and buyers from Hong Kong. My mother was organising lunch and dinner for them too.

Angela Missoni design for the A/W 2012/13

Angela Missoni design for the A/W 2012/13

What is the relationship between art and fashion for you?
Both subjects are the expression of the moment together with other forms, music and film, etc. I don’t think that fashion is an art but more of a craftsmanship. That’s what makes the link. We are talking the language of now or rather of tomorrow. Art also is an expression, an extract of what is now. This setting is the link.

With my work I just want my clothes to look beautiful, to give you something more. Art sometimes can be disturbing. I’m not going to make clothes that disturb you, so it isn’t the same process as art can be. I like the interaction with artists. More recently I have been asked by several artists if they can do a collaboration with us, which is very interesting. They want to work with us, with our materials. Last week I was asked by Nick Cave who I would love to work with. I would like to ask them what they think about Missoni. I wanted to work with Peter Blake, but I convinced Juergen Teller to have his photo cut out. No one touches a photo of Juergen Teller, but he let it happen. It was done at the Museum of Everything. We did a campaign inside the museum. For the summer campaign I put together Juergen Teller, Pedro Almodovar, Rossy de Palma. Everybody enjoyed it. Put creative talent together and shake. Artists are very much in their own world. Rarely you see them watching other artists. I had the image of Sergent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in my head and I wanted to have an image like that with all our family.

My projects, I have to work fast. If I am working for a campaign I need to work with a very fast rhythm. From the show to the day you have to have the material in your hand, you have a month, a month and a half. You can start thinking before but not much because the collection is really defined when it is on the catwalk.

We did a movie with Kenneth Anger two years ago. Sometimes you think people are very hard to approach but actually it is very simple. Kenneth came and stayed five days with us.

How does the fashion side relate to the home, the hotels?

Spool Tables

Spool Tables

It relates because there are some patterns that can translate. What I like is that patterns in fashion stay there for 6 months or even less, but the same pattern you can put on an armchair and it has a life of 15 years. It gives you satisfaction. Certain patterns maybe are not instantly recognisable as Missoni, particularly from the outside, but they became Missoni classic designs.

You’re wearing some very cool accessories. Can you explain what they are for the benefit of our readers who can’t be here?
I always create my jewels myself. I don’t like to wear the things that other people wear. I do it instinctively. This is a souvenir chain with little presents, charms. It is a long chain from the beginning of the last century, I think it was meant for a monocle. I am wearing black trousers, black t-shirt, boots, and a sweater wrap. The earrings are the same. I was in Columbia at the end of the year and bought a little coffee grain from the airport, which I have hung on it too.

Reading time: 9 min
Art Hong Kong


What is Art13?

TheArtPioneer2It is London’s global art fair. The capital has people from all over the world, living here, working here and appreciating art. The existing art fairs don’t cover everyone. London is a big city of 8 million odd people, it can certainly warrant another. We don’t want people to feel intimidated, it is a friendly fair. The gallery content is very much global; half of our stands are from 25 other countries outside the UK, from Korea, China, Australia, India, all over the world. Many have never shown here or if they have, it hasn’t been for a long time in an art fair, even many of the UK galleries.

Why is it different?

There are people out there who like art and are wealthy individuals and who feel that there isn’t an art fair in London they can relate to. The affordable art fair is about decorative art, filling a hole on the wall with a piece of art and probably not curated. Frieze is vetted and curated, but your average person who buys two or three pieces of art a year at a reasonable level is intimidated when they visit. They don’t feel relaxed. Its focus is a very serious art fair, the character and the atmosphere. Art13 will be a serious art fair, but a friendly art fair with a personality.

How do you make an art fair friendly?

We have employed an architect who is working on the theme, ‘All the Fun of the Art Fair.’ He works on interior design for restaurants and homes, most recently Adele’s house. He understands approachability. If you had an exhibition designer, they would create a design for an exhibition space, it would look like all the others. The prevalence of social media means the look of the place is even more important. You want your guests tweeting, bringing an audience there through the week. If it looks great, busy and a place you want to go, then people will come, word of mouth drives it.

Who do you want to attract?

Art fair audiences are a pyramid. At the top are the really serious art collectors, in the middle are the wealthy individuals who collect art and then the general public who just want a day out. We see all three sectors as equally important and feeling that they are welcome there; they can walk into a gallery and talk to the owner about the art. Maybe they won’t buy today, but they will buy tomorrow.

How did Art Hong Kong begin?

I first had the idea when I was in Australia. I was speaking to Australian galleries who told me they had been up in Hong Kong selling art by taking hotel rooms. It didn’t seem a very smart way to do it so when I heard they had no art fair I went up there. I had never been to Hong Kong before, but I realised there was a gap and decided we should do an art fair. Hong Kong is a hub, Asia is growing, the pieces of the product slotted together

How difficult was it to establish it?

People were very sceptical. We got into month three or four of the project and I said “at what point should we pull it, do we have a fair?” because we were struggling to get galleries in. Magnus Renfrew, the Fair’s Director, just kept on pushing; he had a real vision about how he wanted the fair to be. In the first year the gallery year was almost there, not exactly what we wanted, but it was good enough to build the fair on.

We were determined never to do a deal with any galleries. There is a real temptation to do that, especially with a new art fair, but it can be the kiss of death. If the galleries you give spaces to pull out, it sends the wrong message to others. In London there are still some galleries we would like to be in it, but at the moment it is a good enough base so that the galleries that we want to be there are interested in participating.

Is it easy to set up an art fair?

It has become tougher, probably because of global competition. People look at any fair from a global perspective. A gallery will decide whether they want to show in Rio or Miami now, where as before they would be much more local. It really is about getting your positioning right. It isn’t just about the message of the fair, but also about where and when. We deliberately chose February because we go through the terrible January period, then in February the flowers start to come out, London Fashion Week and the BAFTAs appear, the Oscars start coming and people are looking for things to do. We chose West London because of the wealth around there. If you get those bits right, you can make a great fair.

Have art fairs changed the art scene?

It has changed how galleries sell their art. You look at the sales mix now and they sell it through the gallery, through their website and through the art fairs. If you look at any serious gallery, they will all have at least one or two art fairs in their year. They bring out a different audience they often can’t access any other way. Art fairs are important for the audience too. I have never seen someone unhappy at an art fair. I went to Fiac in Paris in the Grand Palais, it’s stunning. How could you not enjoy that?

What are your concerns?

The concern of anyone running these events is that you want both sides to do business. You want the visitor to enjoy it and buy art and the galleries to sell, either that day in the fair or later on, when people visit their gallery.

I have no problem bowling up to a visitor in the art fair to see what they think. 9 times out of 10 people will tell you and you get an honest answer. Most of my lot are terrified of it, but I love it, that’s how you learn. They will tell you little things, the negatives so that you can react to them.

How did you become involved in running events?

30 years ago I was a photocopy salesman; to this day I have no idea how a photocopier works. I found selling boxes that copy things boring so I changed job to work as a salesman for an events company. I worked my way up and after 8 or 9 years asked the owner if I could ever buy a stake in the business. When he said no, I left to join a new company and started ‘The Money Shows’. We built them up and sold them on which is how it all started.

Have you had any particularly difficult events?

I decided to launch The Clothes Show in London and linked it to Cosmopolitan. The deal was that they lent their brand and I funded the show. We persuaded the companies we worked with on London Fashion Week to take a stall alongside some cool cosmetics companies and held it in Earl’s Court. We got an audience, but they were all kids, 16 year olds with no money, not the 25 year old readership Cosmo described. Normally with fairs, you expect to lose in the first year, make back the loss in the second year and make profit in the third, but with that show, you could never make it back again. Cosmo wanted me to do it again, but I walked away with a half a million pound loss.

Do you always invest your own money?

Yes, always. The art fairs are more challenging than any. You have massive staff costs, over heads, venue costs, promotion costs and you don’t get a penny in for months and months. The art fair at the moment, I doubt we have had £5000 in income.

Do you enjoy the risk?

The house isn’t on the line, but I do enjoy the risk. Like anyone who invests in something I’m always aware that I have to put more in, so you don’t have the painful moment of trying to find that money from somewhere.

What is it that you still love about running these shows?

The satisfaction of seeing it come together. Some shows are nightmares, you nearly pull them, you can’t sell the stands. The buzz that you get at the end of the second day – if you have a strong start it generally follows through – when everyone is happy is great. As a business man, when you have a successful event, you know that is something you can build on. That’s a really nice feeling.

What are you most proud of?

Probably Art HK. I had never done a high end art fair and I had never been to Hong Kong. To create something that Art Basel buys 70% of and be considered in the premier league of art fairs is phenomenal.

Do you collect art?

Bits and bobs. I buy a lot of Australian art because it is colourful, it’s clever and it’s quite good value and I have some Warhols. I quite like pop art because I was brought up in the 60s and 70s. I bought my first Wahol in the late 80s in New York just after I had done a deal. I said to the guy in the gallery “I really like this painting. He’s not making them like this anymore is he?” and he replied “no, that’s because he has been dead 10 years.” So really, I didn’t know anything about art!

Art13 London, 1-3 March, 2013, Interview by Caroline Davies

Reading time: 8 min