The Moment: All designers are superstitious to some degree. Lucky charms, psychics, and astrologists are so common in fashion that if Susan Miller ever started a collection, every store in America would vie to sell it.
But there might just be something to all of that star gazing when you hear the stories of the Missoni family members, who spoke with Fern Mallis on Thursday night at the 92nd Street Y as part of her Fashion Icons series. Rosita Missoni, the family matriarch who started Missoni in the 1950s with her husband Ottavio (both pictured, above), and Angela Missoni, her daughter and the label’s creative director for the last 20 years, each began their comments by discussing their signs.
Rosita wears a necklace with a small charm of Cupid as her personal talisman, a reference to one of her first encounters with Ottavio, in 1948, when she was 16 and studying abroad in London, and he was 27, competing in track and field in the London Olympics. They met in Piccadilly Circus, near the statue of Cupid. (Ottavio died in 2013.)
Rosita knew she was in luck when she first set eyes on Ottavio. In her family, the number 7 is considered especially fortuitous. Her grandfather gave the children seven liras on Sundays. (Today, the windows in the Missoni factory are 7x7.) When she saw Ottavio on the track field sporting a bib with the number 331, she calculated that added up to 7, so there you go. Missoni won his heat that day in the 400-meter hurdle race, but ultimately placed sixth in the Olympics. Although she knew it was love at first sight, Rosita was not without a sense of humor about their age difference, since Ottavio was 27.
“He was like Methuselah to me,” she said. “He had some gray hair starting already.”
Why It’s a Wow: Not all lucky symbols are lucky for everyone. Take the color purple, Ottavio’s favorite and one that he scarcely designed a pattern for Missoni’s famous zigzag knits without featuring prominently. This became problematic in 1983, when the Missonis designed the costumes for a production of “Lucia di Lammermoor” at La Scala, starring Luciano Pavarotti.
“Actors hate purple, because it’s unlucky,” Rosita said. When the production opened, Pavarotti’s voice was weak, and audience members whistled at him throughout and at the Missonis at the end when they joined the tenor onstage. In Italy, whistling is worse than booing.
Learn More: Luck has nothing to do with why stars love Missoni. Take a look here for a few examples.