Workshop Missoni: Daring to be Different at the Estorick Collection

By Hannah Stuart-Leach | 24 June 2009
two people with fabric

Ottavio and Rosita Missoni, 1989 © Giuseppe Pino.

Workshop Missoni: Daring to be Different. Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, 39a Canonbury Square, London, N1 2AN, July 1 - September 20 2009.

The Estorick Collection in London is to host an exhibition of Italian fashion house Missoni this summer. 'Workshop Missoni: Daring to be Different' will take the public behind the scenes of the fashion pioneer, across displays in three separate galleries. The fashion house, which dates back to the 1950s, is particularly identifiable for the eye-catching use of shades, textures and patterns used in its knitwear.

a fabric loom

Loom in the Missoni Workshop in Sumirago, Italy, 2009.

The focus for this special collection will be on the processes that lead to the finished pieces of clothing, and indeed fabric. Inspired by the Missoni’s own collection of modern Italian art, the display will identify how their iconic fabrics and clothing are produced from a technical perspective.

It will also delve into some of the less recognisable aspects of their work, influenced by the natural environment and Europe’s Modernist era. For example, the work of Tancredi, Giacomo Balla and Gino Severini’s vibrant images have striking similarities with the geometric Missoni fabrics.

a brightly coloured design

Ottavio Missoni Design for tapestry

The house of Missoni has a long and impressive history. Husband and wife duo Ottavio and Rosita Missoni began making knitwear items in the basement of their house in Gallarate, Italy, shortly after their marriage in 1953.

Their daring use of zig-zags, stripes and vibrant colour soon attracted international attention, including none other than the Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue, Diana Vreeland. She described their concept as 'ingenious', saying: "Who said there are only colours, there are shades too."

a woman wearing a coat

Coat Autumn/Winter Collection 2002

The couple’s working processes will be exhibited through a series of Ottavio’s drawings and sketches. Many show the origins of the distinct Missoni knitwear style to date back to the 1970s. Photographs will also be displayed, giving a more personal account of their creative evolution.

'The Black and White of Colour', a 30-minute documentary produced by Maggie Norden at the London College of Fashion, will chronicle the history of the brand and feature interviews from Ottavio, Rosita, and other eminent fashion industry figures.

a brightly coloured design

Ottavio Missoni Nuovi Arazzi 7, 1986

A further element of the exhibition includes two video-based works by Turkish artist Ali Kazma, looking at various features of the Missoni working process. Composer Pietro Pirelli also contributes an environmental installation entitled Sinfonia Tessile (Textural Symphony) which captures the sounds of the knitting machines and laboratory.

two women wearing brightly coloured clothes

Spring/Summer Collection, 1968

Workshop Missoni: Daring to be Different is curated by Luca Missoni, son of Ottavio and Rosita. Formerly creative director for the brands menswear and sports collections, he now directs the Missoni Archive, which aims to preserve the company's heritage. The Missoni collection seems made for display, and as Maria Pezzi said in 1979: the Missoni aesthetic creates 'museum pieces that can nevertheless be worn.'

Open 11am – 6pm Wednesday to Saturday (open until 8pm on Thursdays), 12pm – 5pm Sunday, closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

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