The business was founded in 1953, when Ottavio and Rosita Missoni set up a small knitwear workshop in Gallarate, Italy. They presented their first collection under the Missoni label in Milan in 1958. The business prospered, with the support of fashion editor Anna Piaggi, then at Arianna magazine. Rosita met the French stylist Emmanuelle Khanh in New York in 1965, which led to a collaboration and a new collection the following year. In April 1967, they were invited to show at the Pitti Palace in Florence. Rosita told the models to remove their bras, supposedly because they were the wrong color, and showed through the thin lamé blouses. The material became transparent under the lights and caused a sensation. The Missonis were not invited back the following year, but the business grew; a new factory in Sumirago was built in 1969. Missoni designs were championed in the USA by Diana Vreeland, editor of American Vogue, and a Missoni boutique was opened in Bloomingdales.
Missoni reached the peak of its influence in the fashion world in the early 1970s (though has since been the subject of revivals in interest as new generations of fashion writers discovered the appeal of its core knitwear). Tai Missoni then became more interested in other projects, designing costumes for La Scala, carpets and tapestries. Rosita Missoni lost interest in fashion in the 1990s and was succeeded by her daughter Angela in 1998 while Rosita took over Missoni Home.
In November 2005, Missoni and the Rezidor Hotel Group signed an agreement to create Hotel Missoni, with plans to have 30 hotels open or in development by 2012. The centrally located property in Edinburgh is patronised by artists attending the Edinburgh Festival and other arts events held in the city. The agreement ceased in 2014.
In 1996 the Missonis transferred control of the business to their three children: Vittorio Missoni became marketing director; Luca (born 1956) was menswear designer until 2008; Angela (born 1958) was womenswear designer, and took over menswear in 2008 when Luca became responsible for the Archive and Events.
Margherita Missoni used to both design accessories and model for Missoni as well. Today she runs her own line of children’s clothing, which is not associated with Missoni SpA