Missoni exhibition

Earlier this week, I travelled to London to see the Missoni exhibition in the Fashion and Textile Museum.

I love this museum.  Founded by Zandra Rhodes in 2003, it starts and finishes with bold colour. No better place to house the Missonis’ exuberant creations.Fashion and Textile MuseumInside, the exhibition announces itself within a painting by Ottavio Missoni himself …Exhibition front… and then you are led through a corridor lined with paintings that inspired the Missonis and set the tone for their work.  (Here are just a couple of those pics as examples – and please bear with me for the poor photography, light flashes etc throughout this blogpost – the conditions were not conducive to the camera!)

I wasn’t surprised to see that Ottavio loved Sonia Delaunay (her 1936 Senza Titolo here).Sonia Delaunay - Rythme couleurAnd Gianni Monnet’s 1946 rich and textured Costruzione also sits well with the Missonis’ work.Gianni Monnet - CostruzioneFrom the corridor, you step into a big, dramatic room.  First thing, you notice the mannequins.walking into entrance hallAnd then you take in the huge patchworks of knitted pieces hanging …huge patchwork in entrance hall…  all around the room. large patchworks in entrance hallThese are the most stunning pieces, and, best of all, it’s possible to get up to them quite closely to study the construction. They really do appear to be sewn together, but aren’t lumpy at all.more patchwork knittingNow back to the mannequins – they are amazing – where to look first?  The purple short jumpsuit, perhaps?  I read elsewhere in the exhibition that Ottavio Missoni considered purple a wonder colour because it went with everything.  That’s quite different to my thinking, so gave me pause to reflect.  What is really striking in this garment, of course, is those patterned hexagons on the jersey top.purple jumpsuitWhat about the elegance here?!  Those fluid lines with the extra black gore panels so perfectly inserted, and the skilful way the pattern sits on the body!  What a gorgeous and flattering dress to wear!amazing drape in the side panelsSuch an interesting dress here – the construction!kniting shaped to bodySurely my machine-knitter husband could copy some of these for me?!knitted skirt - inspiration for stephen .Trademark Missoni zigzags here!trademark use of zigzagJust take a more careful look at that dress glimpsed behind the zigzag pant suit – it’s actually mostly made of unconnected threads.  You’d have to be an Elizabeth Hurley to wear this dress.a dress made of stringHere’s one of my favourite garments, – this gorgeous multi-coloured, multi-patterned coat.my favourite coatOr is it?  There’s that red dress – right at the top – that I really like.  Can you see the one I mean?still trying to see red dress at the backStill trying to see more of that red dress … but now we come to one of the faults in this exhibition – you couldn’t see the the back of the whole display properly, nor could you see the backs of the individual garments.  trying to see red dress at the backWould anyone notice if I leapt quickly up the stand?wondering if I could slip up stand unobtrusivelyThat wasn’t the only tantalising thing with this exhibition.  I rather think the exhibition designers had got carried away with their exhibition designs, forgetting the point of the exhibition was to showcase the Missonis.  They had programmed the lighting on a loop which travelled constantly from highlights here to there, from dark, to shade – to finally (oh, thank heavens!) light all around.  Take a look:models in light sequence 1models in light sequence 2models in light sequence 3models in light sequence 4Stylish and cool it may be, but b*****  maddening!

Upstairs I was distracted from my irritations by the abundant and sumptuous examples of pattern.  These are Ottavio Missoni’s basic studies for designs. You can see how he takes simple graphical designs such as a child might do, and develops them into the fabulous patterns we associate with the Missoni brand.designing patternI particularly love the way he completely shifts his colour palette here.developing patternsMissoni zigzags.developing trademark zigzag patternsAnd this piece breaks out of the constraints of the grid to flow and ripple.designing irregular patternsAs well as these “starter” pieces, there were swatches.swatch samplesDetailed labelling was missing, but I guess some of these pieces became garments …sample knitsand others were just put to the side.Missoni zigzagsSuch a fabulous design resource here!sample swatchesmore sample swatchesIf you make garments, you will naturally be interested in not just the colourful patterns the Missonis designed, but the construction of the finished garments too.  So hard to see how those gorgeous clothes on the mannequins were constructed, but there was one Missoni jumper in a case upstairs which gave an interesting glimpse of how it was made.Missoni patchwork jumperIf you look carefully at the detailed photo, you can see that it’s a patchwork! I cannot imagine how machines coped with this work – or was it hand done?  I would be very hesitant to embark on such a work lest I get lumpy knitwear seams, but no evidence of that here.  It’s a stunning garment.detail of patchwork jumperFinally, the exhibition took you to a room furnished with Missoni carpets – oh, wow!Missoni carpetA really lovely space to sit down and watch the Missonis talk about their lives and work. What came over most strongly was the warmth between Ottavio and Rosita. This lay behind their successful business – and radiates today through the younger generations who currently manage the business.watching Ottavio MissoniA parting shot of the carpet in detail. I had a good look at these carpets and they are not made of separate pattern pieces seamed together – they have been woven as one continuous, flowing pattern. Remarkable!detail of carpetWhatever my complaints – a wonderful exhibition.  I’m just greedy – wanted to understand more.  A final piece was a film by Turkish artist Ali Kazma showing the Missoni factories at work.  This was important because I think we need reminding that this wasn’t just genteel playing with colour and pattern – this was an extremely successful business functioning with super speedy, super efficient and super sophisticated machinery.

When I left the exhibition, I found that I had time on my hands so I dropped in on nearby Southwark Cathedral. Built between 1220 and 1420 it was the first Gothic Church in London. It was then repeatedly damaged by fire (including the Great Fire) so was rebuilt and repaired.  It’s a beautiful space.interior of Southwark CathedralBut with the Missoni exhibition still in my mind, I was drawn to the kneelers …kneelers in Southwark CathedralNot quite Missoni – but sort of interesting …


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14 thoughts on “Missoni exhibition”

  1. Interesting exhibition, despite its annoyances. There’s nothing like getting close to a garment to see how it’s constructed, though I always want to reach out and touch.


    1. Oh yes – I so long to touch exhibits, especially at this exhibition! Clearly, human beings never lose that yen for tactile exploration that small children demonstrate!


  2. Thank you for a fabulous virtual visit! I understand about the frustrations of the lighting loop — many times lately I have been in an exhibit where I wanted to spend more time, but the very short audio loop of music and sound bites drove me out! Which may be what the display designers wanted, to move people through, but these were not in exhibitions that were heavily attended. I also went to a Leonardo da Vinci exhibit where the sound track was all piano, which drove me crazy because the piano was not invented in his time.
    But this exhibit looks so inspiring. My favorite is the panel top right behind the dress you want your husband to copy for you. That looks like a design that could be done in handwoven fabrics and could be worn anywhere. I love the swatches too!


    1. So glad you enjoyed this virtual exhibition! crazy to think about all those badly designed exhibitions that are just exhibition designers indulging themselves. There are just so many ideas that I found inspirational here which was one of the reasons I wrote such a detailed blog: I really wanted a reference for myself in the future.


  3. Hmm, count me out. Think the carpet at the end finally won me over but I don’t think I would want it in my house. I’d have the screaming abdabs ! now, IF Stephen knitted something from that museum……..you’d wear it, Where??? Just asking 🙂


    1. Really interesting to read what you say, Susan, because I’d love almost any of this stuff in my house (probably a very small version of the carpet!). I reckon the world splits into those who wear pattern and those who wear plain – and I am the former. I have so few clothes that do not have patterns on them – and many of them are strong designs, perhaps not as startling as the Missonis but certainly striking. Would I be right in guessing most of your wardrobe consists of plain-coloured clothes?! Not that I don’t like plains, but I really feel uncomfortable in them.


  4. thank you Katherine for this fascinating tour of the Missoni museum. Never knew it existed. The colours are inspirational and I can see you were very much in your element. Really enjoyed the glimpse of those earlier fashions too.XXX Mandy


    1. It’s not actually a Missoni museum – this exhibition is just on there at the present. I’ve been to a Kaffe Fassett exhibition there too – equally inspirational! Fabulous little museum – not too big – I really recommend it if you’re ever near London Bridge …?! So glad you enjoyed the blog post, Mandy xx


  5. An exhibition after your own heart, Katherine! The Missonis were new to me. I could certainly live with that carpet! And could see you wearing some of those clothes – definitely get Stephen onto it! Must get to this museum.


    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Polly! Just wonderful, wonderful abundance and exuberance. I don’t often feel so impressed by an exhibition that I want to document it so thoroughly, but this one I thought was exceptional – so if you’re in the area do go – think it ends in September.


  6. [J+D] As ever, your post is full of interest and enthusiasm. We hope one day to be in a position where we are producing less, creating more. We might even find the wherewithal (funds, of course, but also the courage to face the thronging metropolis) to visit the Missoni exhibition, the V&A and other such. Thanks for visiting on our behalf!


    1. Yes, the metropolis can be daunting after our quieter countryside lives. I write as Stephen is on a very crowded train, travelling back speedily (I hope) from London, after complaining loudly about everything there! I have to say that this was one exhibition that I knew I could not miss – and I am so glad to hear you enjoyed the virtual trip.

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