In which I ask Margherita Missoni, heiress to the Missoni fashion house and creative director of M Missoni, what is the best outfit you’ve ever worn?
My closet is pretty big–I use it for work, so it’s basically an archive, and I have a lot of stuff that I keep for research. A lot of times, when I’m in a rush, I end up picking out a dress and it’s easy and I don’t have to think, but when I can actually pick good things from the past–things completely unrelated to each other and make them work altogether–it’s a real satisfaction for me. I really love that.
In this photo from an amFar gala, I’m wearing a Missoni skirt that was from that year–I think 2011. It’s very heavy, fully beaded, but it’s just one piece, so I needed to find a way to make it “a look” for an evening. I found this Helmut Lang top in a corner in my closet, folded in a stack sandwiched between two bigger tops—I was so pleased.
I loved the idea of pairing it with the skirt to break up the embellished mood, but just the two of them together would have been too minimal–well, not minimal but… easy.
My grandmother from my dad’s side had given me an ensemble from the ’50s, it was a dress with a matching jacket in a really nice flower print on silk taffeta, which I loved and wore many times. It’s a simple dress: cut under the breast, straps hanging vertically over the shoulder, straight neck and going down to the knee. I wore them together a bunch–typically during the period of my life when I tried to dress to look more grown up. I guess I wanted to be taken more seriously when I was younger. By who? Everyone, including myself.
When you enjoy putting outfits together, it’s definitely a way to communicate yourself. If I’m sad or in a bad mood or when I’ve been a bit depressed, I hate to get dressed. I think more about how to get covered.
When I first moved to New York, I had a really hard time. I was at Columbia University after transferring from the University of Milan and I was there to study philosophy even though I really wanted to be an actor. It was one of those very cold New York winters, I think the year was 2003. Even though I really wanted to be in New York, I was only doing university to please my grandmother. I was a really good student in high school and my teachers thought it would be a waste to pursue acting, which is where my heart was. One day, my mom called and asked why I hadn’t asked her to send me any clothes. To her, it was really symptomatic of my state of mind.
I look back on that time period now and I think I just wanted to understand who I was outside of my family. I grew up on the countryside, and the company workplace [Missoni] was next to our house. We’re an entangled bunch of people. I always felt like a branch on a tree, not like my own person, and going to Milan and New York symbolized breaking away.
I decided to study philosophy because I guess I felt it was the closest thing to acting: thinking about life and its meaning and why I’m here and what I’m doing. But I was so unhappy—here I was in the place where I wanted to be (I had been dying for city lights after growing up in the countryside) but I didn’t want to be there. I’m much lighter now on life and choices, but when I was younger it felt as if every single choice I made would have long-term consequences on my life and the smallest wrong decision could fuck everything up and there would be no way to fix it. When I think about it now, I’m really happy that I went through all those bits before starting my own family. I have two sons now with my husband.
It’s my mom who actually forced me to withdraw from Columbia and put me in acting school. To be clear, I was never going to be an actor. I would never pursue acting now. I was trying to avoid becoming part of fashion. When I was growing up, everyone would ask me, “Are you going to be a designer?” So, of course, I rebelled.
I studied philosophy and I went to study acting, and then I moved. I left New York and I moved to Paris to act, then I moved to Rome for a play. And when I was in Rome, it hit me: Fashion is what comes out most naturally and spontaneously for me. That’s what I want to do. It’s always what I wanted. I just had to get there myself.
I still wear that Helmut Lang top from the photo. It’s white cotton on the back, and foil from the front, so it doesn’t snag. The jacket from the set that I put over the top doesn’t have a brand—it’s tailored. I got lucky because my grandmother would give me lots of clothes and I’m good at archiving. The combination I wore was really contrasting with the top but it gave good proportion to the skirt—made it softer and added a bit of print. I like prints—they make me feel more like myself.
The only time in my life I didn’t wear prints was when I was 7 or 8. My parents got divorced and I only wanted to wear navy and white smock dresses. To me, they symbolized structure. There was a lot of confusion for me at the time, but those dresses were clear.
What makes an outfit best is when you are at your best, and when I’m at my best, spontaneity lets me create a random pairing from my wardrobe. These combinations don’t make sense, but they really work, and everyone can see that. Even more, they say something about whoever is wearing them.
I’m always inspired by other people when their outfits make me think—when they wear things in a way I would not have. It’s not necessarily people who have styles similar to mine or who wear things that I would wear, but just the ones who give me new ideas.
I shop a lot. I love to buy antique jewelry, I buy a lot of vintage—I go around, I buy online. When I’m in a new town I go to flea markets. I love to search, it’s really a passion. It’s part of what helped launch this new concept for M Missoni [the second brand of the family’s heritage knitwear brand, Missoni], and it’s going really well. It’s exciting because when something is born new, you can have the chance to be playful and write new rules, and with M Missoni, I really wanted to take advantage of Missoni in the best possible way—all the fabrics are from the brand’s stock. Sometimes we recolor them, and it’s not all the zigzag or the space dye. There are these great forgotten florals. This neoprene. We used ten miles of stock fabric and 25 miles of lining from Missoni to make this collection. They’re like medallions from my childhood, it has a really personal feeling and it’s completely sustainable.
It’s also designed to give a feeling that looks a bit more like a closet rather than a collection with its color chart and recurring themes. That’s my mood. It’s different pieces that hang out together in different ways. The antidote to dressing easy. A whole collection, I hope, of, as you say, “Best outfits ever.”
As told to Leandra Medine