European Fashion Heritage Association

Journal Designers

Object Voices / RIGHE – Milano Sympathy

1950sdepartment store storiesItalian fashionknitwear

The first voice from the Missoni Archive recalling the first collection designed by Rosita and Ottavio Missoni for La Rinascente in Milan – the beginning of a beautiful story

In midway through the 1950s the small knitwear factory in Gallarate had begun to work for the renowned Biki boutiques in Milan. Biki came and went from Paris, bringing back new ideas, which were passed on to the Missoni to be reworked and translated for the Italian market.

From this period Rosita recalls certain large “rice-grain” knit capes, which looked as if they were handmade. The director of Biki, at the time, was Luìs Hildago, who was to become the head of the fashion office of La Rinascente department store chain, working together with the buyer Alma Filippini. They were the first to purchase Missoni products for a department store.

This was the golden age of La Rinascente, during which the chain of department stores played a role of orientation and instruction of taste, and not only in terms of fashion. The chain’s unusual initiatives were observed with interest, and often copied, abroad.

A job which Rosita remembers as stimulating task, and Ottavio recalls as a fine performance in rapid time, was that of preparing, in three or four weeks only, a small collection for La Rinascente, part of the so-called “Post-Paris” line (these were years in which Paris still called the fashion shows, and Hidalgo used to call and “narrate” them by telephone to Rosita). The collection was hurried designed, produced and placed on the racks on the basis of these telephone conversations.

Toward the end of the 1950s, the small knitwear factory in Gallarate had developed a profitable business with department stores. Although Ottavio and Rosita, the day after the unveiling of the window displays at La Rinascente (a sort of game of blind man’s bluff, mannequins blindfolded with colorful scarves, dressed in very colorful striped garments), heard a passerby exclaim: “Poor girls, luckily they are blind-folded, if they could see themselves!” The garments were knitted wool shirtdresses, the first items of the store’s ’58 spring season, and the newspapers immediately began to discuss them.

These were also the first garments to sport – in a rather clandestine manner – the “Missoni” label; Brunetta depicted them with immediate, communicative pencil strokes for a full-page La Rinascente advertisement in “Corriere della Sera”.