Missoni owns the zig-zag. Since 1953, the Italian brand has proved knitwear needn’t be about your gran’s Christmas jumpers, by swapping snowmen for striking graphics that work year-round. Missoni’s designs are fashion as modern art, a link explored in-depth by a new exhibition, Missoni Art Colour, at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum.
The show presents Missoni’s pieces side-by-side with mid-century paintings, to prove that art is still art, whether it’s on a canvas or figure-flattering jumper. “Knitwear is always a central aspect to Missoni and the label has translated this into soft outerwear, track pants and trainers,” says Damien Paul, head of menswear at MATCHESFASHION.COM. “At the heart of this aesthetic is the fact that its knitwear is immediately recognisable as Missoni.”
Missoni proves that graphic elements add an essential point of interest to even the simplest pieces, which is why the brand slides in and out of fashion every decade as a new generation discovers how punching up your knits can elevate any look. So even if your budget doesn’t quite stretch to Missoni, you can learn a lesson on making any outfit a masterpiece.
Printed knitwear on the SS16 (top) and AW16 (bottom) Missoni runways
Make The Knitted Polo Your Summer Saviour
Missoni’s founder, Ottavio, was an Olympic hurdler, and sportiness has been a key element of the brand from inception. The knitted polo shirt is integral to its relaxed, track-ready look. Short sleeves and button fronts make for an easy-to-wear, comfortable option when the heat hits. Toss in a graphic pattern in quality wool and you elevate the polo from the starched white versions you wore in PE.
Missoni is a quintessentially Italian brand, so hone that on-the-Med look. “Pair a polo with pleated relaxed-legged slacks and white pumps or simple espadrilles for a Cary Grant in St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat vibe,” says Eric Down, style director at Men’s Health. “You can also flip it round and wear plains on top and keep the graphic prints to your bottom half.”
Keep Everything Else Pared-Back
Mix busy graphics and you move from Rothko into Jackson Pollock territory. So if your knit is particularly loud or busy, keep the rest of your outfit minimal to let it pop.
“Graphic knitwear goes very well with dark indigo denim or chinos,” says Paul. Link top and bottom by picking out one of the print’s minor shades with your trousers, to make even wild graphics look put-together.
Buy The Best Materials
Missoni works with premium wools, like merino, to provide a high-quality canvas for its graphics to work on. That means an outlay which offers superb returns. “If cared for properly wool and cashmere are great investment that can last for years,” says Paul. And since bold graphics are a perennial trend, your big buy won’t date.
In summer, prioritise soft knits in wool and cotton blends, which keep air circulating and wick away sweat. Merino wool is ideal, because its ultrafine fibres are soft against your skin and provide a plain background for the graphics to pop against.
Choose The Right Graphic For Your Body
Wild prints can warp your body, so it’s important to consider your shape. Missoni’s SS16 collection is made up of pale colours in seaside tones – there are no dark knits – and the patterns tend to zigzag across in fine blocks, rather than big chunks. Which makes it immediately more wearable.
“Lighter prints on a darker background flatter bigger frames,” says Down. “For larger prints, layering a neutral on top will reduce the volume.” If you really want to make a statement, pick bright colours instead of oversized prints. “Haters gonna hate, but confidence goes a long way if you have the cojones to carry it off,” says Down.
Mix It Up With Graphic Knit Accessories
Graphic accessories can take your look up a notch. This year, Missoni worked with Globetrotter to produce a collection of luxury cases covered with vegetable-tanned Tuscan ‘feino’ leather and lined in Missoni’s signature space-dyed knits. Which means all-business from the outside, but party once you lift the lid.
Contrasting complementary colours is an optical stimulus that can help pull different prints together. Try clashing a graphic item of clothing with a graphic accessory to link your look, but play the numbers game. “Choose one large scale and one smaller print and limit the colour palette to three shades at most,” says Down. “At least one colour should be the same in both so they harmonise.” Think a light scarf with a punchy shirt.
How To Wear Graphic Knitwear
As a new Missoni exhibition lands in London, learn to master the brand’s signature graphics
Image: Simons Le 31 2016