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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2017 www.italoamericano.org L'Italo-Americano 2 NEWS & FEATURES TOP STORIES PEOPLE EVENTS W hen it comes to qua- lity, innovation, craft- smanship, and the rise of its brands to prestigious inter- national status symbols, fashion is not simply a top product of the "made in Italy." It is history. History of a personal journey, like the one, both professional and human, of fashion designers: only after entrepreneurial sacrifi- ces, bouts of creative geniality and the use of their innate instinct to identify and translate into clothing the mood of an era, they manage to see their pieces on the catwalk. Fashion, howe- ver, is also the productive history of a whole territory, because Italy is not only and simply home to fashion artists. Italy is home to a profound knowledge of fibers and fabrics, to an immense sartorial compe- tence and to the refined handi- craft work of dressmakers, seam- stresses and embroiderers, who translate ideas into material pie- ces. Italy is, in other words, home to a widespread, out of the ordi- nary know-how when it comes to fashion, which belongs to designers and craftsmen alike. Such type of competence is, probably, the reason behind Italy's world leadership in the world of fashion. Let's take the Missoni brand as an example: a fashion house that made of its knowledge and creative use of textiles is most distinctive connotation. Mention it to anyone and images of seduc- tive geometrical patterns and wave-like lines immediately spring to mind. Missoni dared with new color and pattern com- binations, it dared with its inno- vative use of knitted fabric, crea- ting a new graphic interpretation of clothing. Yet, the fashion house didn't really start from scratch. Its col- lections (the first dated 1958) and its catwalk shows (from 1966) stood not only on the solid origi- nality and creative flair of Ottavio Missoni and Rosita Jelmini, but also on the profes- sional culture of a family, that of Rosita, who had been involved in the field of textiles and embroi- dered accessories since the end of the 1920s. The small-scale, family based Missoni brand was to become an excellence of Italian design in the world, and Ottavio and Rosita's -the masters of colors - atelier a symbol of how Italian fashion had a solid historical and professional back- drop, made of knowledge of tex- tiles, of the art of dressmaking, knitting and embroidering. The Missoni brand doesn't only know the history of Italian fashion, it lived it. Thanks to the development and diffusion of circular looms, a florid knitwear industry had developed in the northern regions of Piedmont, Liguria and espe- cially Lombardy since the end of the 19th century. By the end of the 1930s, just before the begin- ning of the Second World War, Lombardy was home, in fact, to half of the over 400 knitwear fac- tories in the country, which employed a half of Italy's 20000 textile industry workers. The real boom of the sector was to come between 1955 and 1965, a deca- de of huge economic growth for the country, where the textile and fashion industries had a pivotal role in bringing Italy among the 10 most industrialized countries in the world. When the Missonis opened their business in 1953 in a rented warehouse, they had only 4 workers, who would travel one and half hour by train every day to reach work. Ottavio would pick them up at the train station every time. Little details, that show nevertheless how rich is the amount of information we have on this inspiring couple. They met each other at the London Olympics of 1948, Rosita a spec- tator, Ottavio an athlete, who obtained the sixth place in the 400 meters high hurdles final and also competed in the 4X400 relay race (in 1935, he had won 8 national titles in the 400 meters and 400 meters high hurdles). Behind the success of the Missoni brand, lead for the past 20 years by Ottavio and Rosita's daughter Angela, are this cou- ple's dedication, passion and sacrifices. An immense amount of work and commitment, almost impossible to find in today's fashion world, made largely of tacky, yet immensely rich fashion bloggers, who dominate the industry without possessing any specific skill of knowledge about it, beside the ability to sell their image and social network's profiles to those paying the most. They have millions of fol- lowers, they decide what's trendy and stylish by offering their faces to promote - not always tastefully - accessories and clothes of whichever brand because, in the end, the only thing that counts is trending on Twitter. What do they have to share, to teach and to pass on to future generations, when compared to Ottavio and Rosita, Cavalieri del Lavoro of the Italian Republic, who made of Milan the capital of world fashion in a time when it was Florence and Rome to dominate the game and who, in 1971, had the New York Times writing "if Coco Chanel were still alive and worked in Italy, she'd do exactly what the Missonis have been doing." The History of Italy's greatest fashion brands BARBARA MINAFRA

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