MISSONI ART COLOUR at the Fashion and Textile Museum

Prepare yourself for an overload of shades, tones and colours – the spectrum is almost infinite, and the experience is breathtaking. The Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey and the MA*GA Art Museum, Gallarate, have collaborated to produce this overview of the work of Missoni, the Italian family firm founded in 1953, and famous for combining craft and design in it’s colourful knitwear.

Split into 4 sections (‘Roots’, ‘Colour, Matter, Form’, ‘Dialogues’ and ‘Tapestries”), the exhibition starts by contextualising the work of Ottavio and Rosita Missoni within the context of 20th century fine art. Taking in the work of modernists working with colour and abstraction (such as Lucio Fontana and Sonia Delaunay), this first section leads us into the main room, with over 100 garments chosen by the family from Missoni’s first 60 years. Looking at this stunning selection, it is almost impossible to date these outfits – a true compliment for work in an industry for which, to paraphrase Heidi Klum ‘One day you’re in (fashion), and the next day you’re out!’ The staging, with sequenced lighting changes highlights the different colours and contracts in (and between) the outfits, with the soundtrack of the factory machines adding another layer to the experience.

‘The garments highlight the elegance and softness of the knitted yarn, which is the house’s principle stylistic feature.’ The Curator, FTM

On the walls, the tapestries and paintings of Ottavio Missoni explore how his own work as an artist combined his love of colour and composition with the development and textile research that underpinned the creation of the unique garments. Upstairs, more 20th century modern masterpieces are hung alongside the couple’s sketches, working drawings and machine samples (part of the production process).

‘We became famous for our stripes; little did they realise that that was all the machines could produce!’ Ottavio Missoni.

Often in exhibitions, videos are superfluous to the main thrust of a display. Here though they give us a great deal of fascinating background facts about the Company’s production process, and funny and colourful titbits about Ottavio and Rosita’s life together. Who knew that they met at the 1948 London Olympics, where Ottavio had qualified for the 400m-hurdle final; or that he was in fact colour blind!

Like the McQueen retrospective, albeit in a more modest way, this show pulls off a difficult challenge with aplomb – exploring the skill and artistic context of clothes, without stripping them of their joy. An exhibition not to be missed!

As always, you can see the full set of the images here.

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