It all began with a word: chakra. A term that evokes Indian philosophy and mysticism. Chakra is the root of the name of an everyday object used in India, which is so important that it has become a philosophical and spiritual metaphor. This object is the traditional Indian spinning wheel, known as a charkha, so it is easy to understand how important the art of textiles is in this culture. Indeed, it reaches its highest level in India, where the colours and manufacturing process are the fruit of a millenary culture that blends religion and craftsmanship. It is precisely in the heart of mystic India that a cultural crossover, which saw Missoni as the protagonist, took place through a coloured knit scarf. It all happened during the Kumbh Mela, the largest religious gathering in the world that is held every twelve years, on the occasion of a particular astral conjunction, in the holy city of Allahabad. A ceremony attended by thousands of yogins, sadhus and ascetics, who emerge from their hermitages and converge on the jungle near the waters of the Ganges. Here they stay for many days and nights, practicing meditation and performing the sacred purification rite: during the three royal baths anyone who immerses themselves in the waters of the river can wash away the residue of their karma (actions) from their soul and free themselves from the cycle of birth and rebirth. We followed the sadhus – whom Buddha joined for a certain time – the mystics who abandon and renounce society for the whole of their life, and we photographed them with a Missoni scarf: an object characterized – just like the Indian art of spinning – by attention to detail regarding both materials and manufacture. The scarf, made of fine woven rayon and cotton threads was characterized by an openwork motif typical of the Missoni technique, and intermingling nuances of black, emerald, sage, shell pink and white. The parallel between Missoni and the refined Indian art of textiles is striking when one considers that the products of both are underpinned by a philosophy firmly embedded in their origins. Missoni combines a respect for its traditions with constantly evolving research. Indeed, as Emilio Tadini writes: “For the Missoni family, the fabric is the custodian of colour – or rather of its vitality and value”. If there are any secrets they are a lack of compromise when it comes to quality and an enterprise firmly rooted in home ground, which gives the maison’s creations that extra something. It is impossible not to think of the concept of terroir when considering Missoni’s production: from the end of the 1960s till today, the entire process from spinning to dyeing has been carried out at Sumirago, located among the woods near Varese. An extreme choice but one that gives Missoni creations something undeniably unique. We cannot but draw another parallel, this time between Monte Rosa – which Missoni’s seamstresses can see from their sewing rooms – and the mountains of Rajasthan, and recount in a few words a story worthy of Sheherazade. The story of a scarf that left Varese and arrived at the Ganges to join, by a subtle thread of iridescent silk, two realities separated by thousands of kilometres, but united by the same creative philosophy.
Photographs by Margherita Chiarva