CEO Talks: Missoni’s Livio Proli on Reorganization, Freezing M Missoni Line

MILAN — Heritage is seen as a key asset in the luxury goods sector, but it’s not enough to protect a brand from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is causing several changes at Missoni and a restructuring of the storied Italian company.

For starters, the future of the M Missoni line is uncertain, and Margherita Maccapani Missoni, who returned to the family company in 2018 as creative director of the brand, will be relinquishing that role.

Chief executive officer Livio Proli told WWD exclusively in his first interview since his appointment last May that the reasons for the decision lie in the changed scenario following the health emergency.

“Responding to the reduction and changes in consumer spending in fashion caused by the pandemic, the company is carrying forward an internal reorganization plan in the creative and communication areas to improve the natural synergies and the strengths in the quality of the design of the collections,” Proli said.

“We believe it is our duty to act quickly in this direction both to efficiently support all our clients in the retail and wholesale channels and to strengthen the relationship with the consumers of the Missoni brands. In the context of this change, Margherita Maccapani Missoni has decided not to renew her professional collaboration for personal reasons, which at the same time will not prevent her from remaining close to the company.”

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To be sure, throughout the interview, Proli underscored how the values instilled by the founders — the late Ottavio, affectionately known as Tai, and his wife Rosita — remain fundamental and keep the family together. “They must have injected those values into their children’s feeding bottles,” he said with a smile. Margherita Maccapani Missoni is the founders’ granddaughter, as her mother is Angela Missoni, the firm’s president and creative director.

The reorganization also sees the sons of the late Vittorio Missoni, Angela’s brother, take on new roles.

Giacomo has been named president and CEO of Missoni USA, while Ottavio, formerly president of Missoni USA, is now in charge of sustainability, a newly formed and all-important department. In October 2019, Antonio Moltoni had joined the company as CEO of Missoni USA, which at the time was a new position.

Giacomo is expected to move to New York as soon as conditions allow it, said Proli, praising both siblings’ commitment to the brand. Ottavio, he said, is “very close” to the territory and Sumirago, near Varese, a one-hour drive from Milan, where the company is headquartered. “Sustainability is very much in his chords, he loves nature and he personally asked to take this on,” Proli said.

The Missoni family in 2018 sold a 41.2 percent stake in the firm to the Italian FSI fund and Proli said both owners “have unanimously confirmed their support to the solid post-pandemic relaunch plan with great determination and positivity.” The family continues to hold 58.8 percent of the shares. Upon the sale, the goal was to focus on international expansion, product extension and retail development in key markets.

The executive said the fund “is not aggressive. Its purpose is to help Italian companies to develop their international business, and it is not obsessed by ROI [return on investment] in a short time.” He also believes that in the Missoni case it is particularly “important to be aligned with the family’s values and vision.”


Livio Proli courtesy image

“The Missoni longevity is there for all to see; this company has an incredible history and heritage, but in the respect of its fundamental values and the family context, it must be more agile and more efficient,” said Proli, who in May will present his business plan until 2025.

A priority for Missoni is to enter China and the executive said the company has just opened a branch in Shanghai, with the goal of opening more flagships and franchised stores in that market. It is also planning to launch e-commerce with local partners, Proli noted.

The executive is a veteran of the Giorgio Armani Group, where he held the posts of general manager and managing director. He was also president and CEO of GA Retail Srl and GA Operations SpA, as well as of president of the Olimpia Basket Milano team, which is owned by Giorgio Armani. Missoni did not have a CEO before the arrival of Proli, and the sale to FSI coincided with the idea of creating a management organization. Proli insisted on the notion of finding a balance between the family’s culture and that of the fund. “Rosita and Tai set up the tracks back in 1953, the direction is there and it is up to us to make the company modern and contemporary without swaying from those core values,” he offered.

Proli enthused about Rosita, honorary president, who remains “a glue and a motor” of the company, praising her “intelligence, incredible discipline and work ethic, protecting the family harmony.” He also credited her daughter Angela for reinvigorating the collections with more fashion-forward elements since taking her bow on the catwalk for the first time in October 1997, also adding designs worthy of the red carpet.

Proli said Angela’s brother, Luca, has been working on setting up the brand’s archives dating from 1953 to today. Missoni just bought a 16,200-square-foot location where it is moving the archives. “It’s an incredible asset and value,” Proli said.

In other news, the company will launch a new training center called Missoni Lab in Sumirago, Italy, and the young students and artisans will have access to the archive. Tai Missoni’s simple yet efficient system to create the famous zigzags and flame patterns — a series of small colored lines drawn on checked paper with matching shreds of yarn to indicate the sequence for the looms — is still used at the company, but the Lab will help digitize the system, Proli said.

Rosita continues to head the brand’s home collection, which has seen a 40 percent gain in revenues in the first months of 2021. The line is a stronghold for the brand and allows Missoni to be legitimately considered a lifestyle label, “a pioneer compared to many competitors, and so unique for a medium-sized company,” Proli observed. In 2020, Missoni internalized the home line by acquiring its storied licensee T&J Vestor, which allowed increased control over production and distribution.

Focusing on the signature line will be key in this scenario and help to be more competitive, Proli continued, adding that the company this summer will evaluate the future of the M Missoni label, whose last collection is expected to be for fall 2021.

Founded in 1998, M Missoni is available at around 1,000 points of sale, distributed through the wholesale channel.

The company brought the M Missoni line in-house in April 2018, selecting Italian manufacturing company Gilmar SpA, owned by the Gerani family, which produces its own Iceberg line, as a production partner for the line. This followed the expiration of the licensing agreement with Valentino Fashion Group, which had first been signed in 2005. Proli underscored that Margherita Maccapani Missoni’s exit was “not a seismic change but a natural progression,” and that the designer remains a shareholder.

She had exited the family company once before, launching in 2015 her own independent children’s line, which is now closed, and working on several projects, including collaborations with Splendid for sportswear; Yoox for children’s sleepwear; Away for luggage; Pottery Barn Kids for home; luxury handbag-maker Ximena Kavalekas, and with apparel brand Mott50 on a sun-protective swimwear collection for women and children.

Proli compared the pre-pandemic strategies to “a plane taking off, when [the COVID-19] lightning struck.”

M Missoni’s sales amounted to around 30 million euros in 2019, the latest figures available. Total company revenues that year totaled 110 million euros, including the aggregation of the home line. The board will approve 2020 results in May, but Proli said the figure is expected to be in line with the average decline in the industry of around 30 percent.

Missoni has been expanding its product offer. In December 2019, it signed a global licensing agreement for the design, production and distribution of watches with Timex Group. The first styles under the new deal are expected to bow for fall 2020. This followed a renewable five-year licensing agreement with Safilo Group for the production and distribution of prescription eyewear and sunglass collections for Missoni and M Missoni.

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