Iconic brand Missoni is well-known for its distinctive brightly patterned clothes and vivid homeware. The journey of the label is a story of authenticity but also of love, and we were privileged to hear co-founder Rosita Missoni share some of this story at Design Indaba 2015.

Rosita, now in her early eighties, always had a passion for fashion. Growing up in a clothes factory, as a child she’d treasure pattern cuttings and admire the aesthetics in fashion magazines. It was on a school trip to England in 1948 that she met Ottavio, an athlete at the London Olympic Games. She was 16, he was 27 “with grey hair already” and at first uncertain about him, he was as passionate about design as she was, and after a five-year courtship the couple were married in 1953. Rosita laughs: “Ottavio was the creator, but I created him.”

Their business started small in a 100m2 factory, with their designs seeking harmony between colour, shape and textile, and were unusually eye-catching in the demure 1950s, but a commission in 1958 drew the fashion world’s attention, and Missoni became known as ‘the ones who make shapes’.
“Patterns, colours and textures is an endless game to play, which is fantastic,” says Rosita, with the label continuing to do so, even after Ottavio’s death and with Rosita handing over the management of the company to her children and grandchildren.

In fact in the 1990s, she left fashion as she “was no longer in love with it”, and “played grandmother” for about a month, but was finding herself back at the office every day, relooking at the Missoni Home collection, started by her brothers, which she felt “lacked punch”.

“The difference between fashion and homeware is that things you make for the home are meant to last. Fashion lasts for weeks then goes out,” she says.

She debuted her own home collection at Maison et Objet in 1997, and within weeks there were copies. ”A copy is a homage, it means you have something interesting,” she says about its popularity.

And it doesn’t seem as if Rosita is ready to be only a nonna any time soon again, unless it involves some retail bargain hunting. “It’s a joy to have such a life, to have such a wonderful, wonderful job. Design is my passion – so is flea markets.”