May 6th-Sep 4th 2016
Missoni is one of the best known fashion brands in the world. This family-run Italian company is known for its brilliantly-coloured knitted textiles, fluid designs and highly distinctive patterns: it has always had a unique take on fashion. Ottavio and Rosita Missoni’s inspiration originates from twentieth-century Europe’s fine art.
The exhibition Missoni Art Colour, Fashion and Textile Museum explores the influence of 20th century European art on the Missoni’s fashion designs.
This exhibition examines the innovative designs, exhibiting artworks from some of the artists who inspired them such as Sonia Delaunay, and futurists Giacomo Balla and Gino Severini. Bruno Murani had a profound influence on their designs, as evidenced by their striking colours and abstract shapes.
Visitors are greeted by a now ubiquitous device in many exhibitions, a film, which takes a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at the Missoni brand. Three video screens show the making of a collection. The first screen displays textile machines at work, whilst the second gives close-up photographs of garments details.
In the final screen models are being made-up and dressed for a catwalk show. The video might have been better placed as a natural conclusion to the exhibition, showing the building blocks of the brand but space is at a premium at FTM.
The exhibition is divided up into five sections:
- Missoni Style
- Passion for Material
- The Missoni Room
On entry visitors walk down a corridor displaying some of the artworks that have influenced Missoni. Two sections divide the main gallery, with the first shows a number of large knitted wall hangings created by Ottavio Missoni in the 1950s. This provides a striking backdrop to the opposite wall showing 42 mannequins standing on an ascending platform.
The arresting display shows the diversity of fabrics and styles. A timed sequence of lighting, which went from dark to light, adds nothing to the experience. There was a background sound of knitting machinery, which was effective as an aural device to place you in the factory setting.
Missoni is strongly associated with knitwear. A curtain made from yarn provided was used to show the different iconic patterns.
This room really brings the brand to life in all its vibrant colour and texture and highly desirable and sensual designs.
Upstairs, in the section entitled Dialogues, there was an opportunity for the visitor to see how Italian Art from the 1950s informed the design process. The mezzanine exhibited to a number of cases displaying the process of design, such as drawings on graph paper and fabric swatches.
There was a wall of framed samples of different knits and textiles, which was very striking. It would have been interesting to see more examples of the knitwear and manufacturing process.
Finally visitors enter a darkened room at the top of the gallery scattered with beanbags, the walls decorated with mirrors, framed by Missoni fabric. This felt like a high-end hotel, which is in fact one of Missoni’s brand extensions.
There are a number of Missoni hotels in European cities, as well as one in Edinburgh, Scotland. A film showed Missoni designers discussing their work and influences, illustrated by archive footage of their early designs.
There is much to admire about a brand that innovated Italian fashion design in post-war Europe. Missoni has weathered the storms of global changes in fashion trends. While many exhibitions are dominated by text, this exhibition had a lack of historical detail, which sometimes made it hard to contextualise the objects.
It would have been interesting to see more information about the challenges they must have faced in creating and sustaining their fashion house. It must have been hard to create a clothing brand in an era where post-war deprivation was still in evidence.
The exhibition was curated by Luciano Caramel, art critic and historian. It offered a different proposition to previous exhibitions at the Fashion and Textile Museum showing the Italian Art that inspired Missoni’s fashion designs.