It's all about the jet-setter life on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Calif, so it's no surprise that the Italian fashion dynasty, the Missonis, as well as Somali-born model Iman are landing there this weekend to christen their new homes. Or, more accurately, their new homages.
They are the next style superstars to receive the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style Awards, which are permanent plaques on the sidewalk of one of the world's most famous, fashion-conscious shopping streets.
The Walk of Style aims to remind both tastemakers and tourists that Los Angeles has earned its fashion credibility with red carpets, film wardrobes and important retailers, even if it isn't where most of the industry hangs its hat. Previous recipients include Tom Ford, Giorgio Armani, Donatella Versace and Manolo Blahnik, all of whom attended the splashy celebrity-filled party held as part of the awards. The expectation is the same for Sunday's ceremony.
Angela Missoni, creative director for her family's company, says three generations will be there, including her nonagenarian father Ottavio, who founded the brand with her mother Rosita, and Angela's daughter Margherita. Iman is coming, too, but she's coming without her husband, David Bowie. He is staying behind in New York to take their 11-year-old to school the next day. (Daughter Alexandria will probably use the occasion to raid her closet and walk around the house in high heels, Iman says.)
Peri Ellen Berne, chairwoman of the event, says her panel of media, entertainment and fashion insiders tries to take a broad look at style influencers and come up with some unexpected choices. "We try to keep it interesting," she says.
Iman is the sort of woman young girls aspire to be like, says Berne, carving out careers as both a model and entrepreneur, while finding time to be a real champion of charity. And, she adds, "she's breathtakingly beautiful."
Missoni was a no-brainer, considering the house's signature zigzag knits are known all over the world, Berne says. "You see that pattern and it's instantly recognizable as Missoni. That's extraordinary."
And the company's recognition only increased with last month's partnership with Target.
Angela Missoni says Los Angeles is an important market that really "gets" Missoni's relaxed, glamorous vibe. "I think there's a thing between Missoni and California: They're all about colors, the easy life, the outdoor life."
Missoni and Iman have a bit of history together, too: She modeled several seasons for the brand.
A closer look at the honorees:
Iman, 56, was born in Somalia, the daughter of a diplomat. She was scouted as a model in 1975 while studying political science in Kenya. Her early work was largely done under the tutelage of photographer Peter Beard _ and she has worked with other top photographers including Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Irving Penn and Annie Leibovitz.
Marquee moments include a Vogue cover, the Calvin Klein, Yves Saint Laurent and Donna Karan runways and a gig on Bravo with Isaac Mizrahi as co-host of "The Fashion Show." She launched her own brand of cosmetics in 1994, started designing an accessories collection for HSN in 2007, and has written two books, "I Am Iman" and "The Beauty of Color: The Ultimate Beauty Guide for Skin of Color."
Last year, she won the prestigious fashion icon from the Council of Fashion Designers of America. As a committed Manhattanite who hoofs it all over town, she likes the idea that this new award will be on the sidewalk. "I'm encouraging everyone to walk all over me! That's the thrill I'm hoping for."
She is essentially retired from modeling now, she says, so these awards are particularly flattering and confirm that all the hard work was worth it. "The group I came up with as a model _ I don't know where most of them are now. This I feel like makes me relevant."
The celebrity platform also allows her to keep her causes front and center. She'll be on Rodeo Drive, for example, to talk about a Save the Children Auction and about severe drought conditions in East Africa. She also does work for The Children's Defense Fund and Raise Hope for Congo.
Rachel Zoe will be dressing her for the ceremony, with Iman trusting the stylist to make her look West Coast appropriate. "Rachel likes my kind of clothes _ 70s-inspired, California cool, and easy and breezy."
Iman does have happy memories of Los Angeles. It' where she met husband Bowie on a blind date, set up by her hair-dresser. Married now for 19 years, she says they live a pretty quiet life.
"I could go out every night of the week, but who wants to _ other than reality stars? That works for them, but that would work against me. The reason I've survived is that I'm not always out there. The reason people still think I look great is because they don't see me all the time."
Angela Missoni is part of the sandwich generation of a family that's so tightly weaved together _ like one of Missoni's knit garments. As creative director, she is charged with respecting and maintaining the brand's colorful history, while moving both its style and business forward.
All this from someone who wanted to be a psychologist. "I never thought of being a fashion designer or (to) be the head of the company," she recalls in a telephone interview from Italy. "I started to work a little bit for the company when I was 19 _ after high school, in the summer for some pocket money."
Missoni was already a fashion force then. Founded in 1953, its kaleidoscope designs were a signature of Italian fashion by the `60s. In recent years, it enjoyed a rebirth thanks to the popular bohemian, 1970s-inspired style that Hollywood starlets seem to love. The brand expanded into the home decorating market and even branded hotels.
As a young woman, Angela, now 52, wanted to focus on motherhood, giving birth to Margherita at age 23, followed by Francesco and Teresa. Ironically, it was because she wanted to focus on her children that she moved closer to her parents _ and the rest is history, she says. "I went to my father and said, I realize working in this company is never going to be my life. He asked, `Why?' I say, `I want to design jewelry,' and he told me Missoni was a big hat and I can do that."
As she carved her own projects there, though, she also found herself working side by side on fashion with her mother _ and Angela liked it.
In 1993, she recalls, her mother told her that her designs were "what Missoni should look like today."
She's been the primary designer ever since, but she suspects that she'll be giving her own children more and more responsibility. Margherita already models in ad campaigns and gave creative input on the now sold-out Target collaboration _ which, says Angela, had totally unexpected, overwhelming results.
"I thought it would be something big. I thought it would be cute, but I could have never imagined the size of it now."
As part of the joint venture with Target, Angela visited the company's home base in Minneapolis a few times. "It's very different from the cities I usually visit. There was a big snowstorm at the end of April. ... It was very curious to see the people in Minneapolis: They are in buildings all the time and use those bridges that connect them. They only wear their coat to the car and never wear again for the rest of the day!"
By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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