All eyes zigzagging to Missoni

Missoni is having a moment.

Last month, the Italian luxury label's Missoni for Target collaboration was so hotly sought after that it caused the retailer's website to crash. EBay was flooded with resales of the stuff - some 21,000 items at one point - at inflated prices.

Orders for the Missoni spring 2012 ready-to-wear line got a post-frenzy boost, and the company is pondering a mid-priced line. Copycat zigzags are turning up on scarves to sweater dresses.

On Oct. 23, three generations of Missonis gathered in Beverly Hills to accept the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style Award - the first fashion house to be honored as an entire family. Could it be that Missoni is on its way to becoming a household name?

Over the course of the three-hour lunch, the Missonis interacted in a manner that conforms to an idyllic picture of familial harmony. (They often use family portraits as part of their advertising campaigns.) They held forth on many topics - the label's history, the origin of those trademark zigzag patterns that are the brand's under-the-radar logo, the dynamics of a family business - but often returned to the Target deal and the new opportunities it is creating.

"Honestly, we didn't expect it," Angela Missoni, 52, creative director of the brand said of the Sept. 13 frenzy. "I kept getting calls from friends all over America saying, 'Do you know what's happening here? There are lines outside the store. The shelves are empty!' "

The Missoni for Target collection was the discount retailer's biggest high-low collaboration to date, with 400 pieces, including a $4.99 martini glass, $49.99 cardigan sweater, $399.99 bike and $599.99 patio set - all in Missoni's graphic patterns, and all less expensive than Missoni's main line, which sells at Neiman Marcus and other high-end department stores at $1,000 or more for a dress.

Target first came calling five years ago. "And we were attracted to what they could bring to the awareness of the label," said Missoni.

Colleen Sherin, senior fashion director for Saks Fifth Avenue, characterized the collaboration with Target as "brilliant." "I don't think anyone realized how incredibly successful it would be," Sherin said. "It was very smart in terms of developing further brand awareness across the country..."

Founded as a knitwear label in 1953, Missoni gained prominence in the late 1960s and early 1970s for using knitwear as a canvas for kaleidoscopic flame, zigzag and space dye designs.

It has grown into an international lifestyle brand with 40 stand-alone boutiques. In many ways it has been a niche brand in the United States - until now. In the online coverage of the Target deal, Missoni remembered one commentator posting: "Am I the only one who doesn't know Missoni?"