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Workshop Missoni:
Daring to be Different
1 July - 20 September 2009
Estorick Collection of
Modern Italian Art, London

Design - the synergy of machine and art

Exhibition curator Luca Missoni, the second son of the founders Rosita and Ottavio Missoni of the famous Italian knitwear company Missoni (since 1953), is focusing on the 'work in progress' of making a piece of clothing: he takes the visitor behind the scenes of Missoni, exploring the technical working processes involved in the production of the fabrics with the iconographical zig-zag stripes as well as the typical one-of-a-kind clothing pieces.

Alongside to the explanation why the fabrics have the typical zig-zag stripes (the pattern has even a mechanical reason caused by the looms the Missonis have used), the exhibition reveals the sources of inspiration such as the art work of Sonia Delaunay, the natural environment and from Europe’s Modernist era.

The curator of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Richard Martin documents in "The St. James Fashion Ecyclopedia. A Survey of Style from 1945 to the Present" (published 1997 by Visible Ink Press) that "... the Missonis have often pointed out that they deny fashion. Rosita Missoni told once the CNN fashion journalist Elsa Klensch >Our philosophy since we went into business has been that a piece of clothing should be like a work of art. ...<" and that "...they realized that modern design is a synergy between machine and art."

Sound and film installations
You are invited to enter the typical Italian way of making fashion, which begins at the weaving or knitting loom: an installation, capturing the sounds and noises of the laboratory and Missoni knitting machines, recorded and written for the environmental installation Sinfonia Tessile (Textural Symphony) by composer Pietro Pirelli is also featured.  

Conceived with a fixed, unmoving camera focusing upon a loom working a classic multicoloured stripe and employees overseeing the process, the film was realized by Luca Missoni during a normal working day in the knitting department and provides a window on the methods of production used by the company.

Documentary on the Missoni website
On the website of Missoni you will find the 50th anniversary documentary from 2003. One of the online movies shows a piece of Ottavio Missoni's work in the years before he married Rosita: in the late 1940s, Ottavio Missoni established a workshop producing jersey tracksuits that were also sported by the Italian Athletic Team at the 1948 London Olympics, where Ottavio himself qualified for the final of the 400m hurdle race. In London, he met Rosita Jelmini, the granddaughter of a family of shawl and ladyswear manufacturers from Varese (Northern Italy). The company Missoni was founded in the year of their marriage in 1953.

‘Who said there are only colours, there are shades too!’ commented Diana Vreeland, the Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue, the work of Missoni when she first met the couple in 1969.
(Read more about the history of fashion photography in the Harper's Bazaar times of fashion editor Diana Vreeland from 1936 to 1958. Since 1963 she has worked for Vogue

Check out the video: Report by Tim Blanks about the Missoni Fall/Winter 2009/10 collection from the catwalk in Milan. By
The contributions come from Margherita Missoni (daughter of Angela), Angela Missoni (since the late 90ies the fashion designer of Missoni), Natalie Massenet (Net-A-Porter), Hadley Freeman (The Guardian) etc. about the inspirations (hip-hop, Tuaregs in the desert, layering, the typical Missoni put-together style which made the label globally renown in the 70ies.

About the curator Luca Missoni
Luca Missoni is the textile specialist in the family who experimented already in his teens with knits and fashioning simple one-of-a-kind pieces. Today he is with his sisters Vittorio (marketing) and Angela (designer of the ready to wear collections) co-owner of Missoni. Formerly the creative director for the Missoni Menswear and Missoni Sport collections, he currently directs the Missoni Archive which he is developing as a museum project to preserve the company’s heritage, in addition to curating events and exhibitions for the company worldwide.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated publication, 96 pages, with an essay by Caroline Cox, Professor of Cultural History at the University of the Arts London

Source: Original article with images and video on


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