The business was founded in 1953, when Ottavio and Rosita Missoni set up a small knitwear workshop in Gallarate, not far from Rosita’s home village. 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 Ariannamagazine. 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 forLa 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.
On 13 September 2011, Missoni made headlines briefly when Target Stores offered low-cost variants of Missoni products in their stores and on their website. Most items sold out within 24 hours, there were long queues outside stores and the Target website was overloaded. Some items appeared at higher prices on eBay within hours and Target did not restock.
In February 2014, Angela Missoni hired Rossella Jardini, former creative director of Moschino, as a consultant.