If Margherita Missoni is prone to globetrotting, she also knows the value of a family that's, well, tight-knit. The once-peripatetic accessories designer and unofficial muse at Missoni, the venerable Italian knitwear company whose vibrantly patterned sweaters continue to be coveted in its sixth decade in business, has found both critical and commercial success in the footsteps of her intimidatingly talented forebears: Mom Angela is the label's creative director, while grandmother and co-founder Rosita designs home furnishings and hotels for the brand. Recently, the sometimes media-shy 29-year-old spoke to Globe Style from her office in Milan, expounding on everything from the value of boredom to a new charity collaboration with Holt Renfrew: stuffed animals bearing Missoni's trademark zigzags. Proceeds from their sale will go to – what else? – helping families stick together.
The importance of family seems to be ingrained at Missoni. Did this influence your association with OrphanAid Africa, the organization that aims to help Ghanaian kids at risk of abandonment stay in family settings?
Probably, but not overtly. Everything that you experience influences your choices and sensibilities and emotions. It's maybe something that I'm drawn to because of the experiences I've had.
You have been working with OrphanAid for nine years now. How did that happen?
I ran into Lisa [Lovatt-Smith], the founder of OrphanAid [and an old friend of her mother's], at a moment in my life when I needed an objective. I spent that summer volunteering for OrphanAid in Africa. It was a small organization back then: There was a French office and a Spanish office, but not an Italian one, so we decided to create one together and I became the president. And when Holt Renfrew wanted to do something to help, I came up with the idea of launching the Missoni stuffed animals [a bear and an elephant sporting the house's signature zigzags].
How has having such a close family helped you in your life?
It's like having this net of protection. You can never fall. You always bounce off something. Most people only have one or two people in their life that they can rely on for no judgment. When you have such a big family, you have an even bigger circle.
You work with your mother. How does that relationship play out at the office? Are you all business or are there mother-daughter tensions?
My job … involves my whole family. And definitely some of those tensions are there. You respond to a family member in a different way than you would to another co-worker. But then again, you trust someone who you've brought up in a completely different way. It becomes much easier to delegate. I have my own [design responsibilities] in my job and my mother trusts me with that.
You're in a creative role now, but do you want to gain more knowledge of the business end of the company?
When it's something that belongs to you, you're automatically interested in every side of the company. There are no borders between my job and the [business] stuff.
You moved to New York for a few years to pursue acting, then moved back to Italy to work with your family. Was it a hard decision to go back? What changed?
No, it wasn't hard at all. Acting came from a need to get away. I needed to be alone and understand who I was as a single being. I went to a different country and had a very different job. Eventually, I became more complete as a person and that was the moment I decided to come back to Italy and work with my family.
You travel a lot. Are you at your most creative on the road or when you're sitting still?
When you are seeing things and travelling and filling up on all these stimulating elements, you need to become a little bored to be able to create. Everything that you've seen and heard has to sit there for a while before it comes out.
Is your closet organized by stripes or solids?
Ha! I try to organize it like that, but it often gets mixed up fast.
This interview has been edited and condensed.