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Missoni Mania: A Report From the Front Lines



Who knew a simple Tuesday morning shopping jaunt would turn into a national crisis that made the front page of The New York Times?

My friend Gwen had been talking about Target’s new Missoni line for weeks, so as the launch date neared we made plans to walk over to our neighborhood Target store and check things out.

I thought I knew what to expect. I was in Japan for the launch of the Commes des Garcons collection for H&M back in 2008. I happened to be walking by the largest H&M in Tokyo, off the pastoral Omotesando, and decided to see what the big (and orderly) line was all about. When we were finally ushered in to shop, the line’s silence eventually gave way to a bit of excited chirping, like a swarm of very polite cicadas. I bought a cheap scarf. It was all so efficient and fun.

Not so at Target. Initially, we made idle chitchat with a few other people in line, laughing at the mortals who had wandered by for an early-morning toilet paper run and didn’t expect to see a line of well-dressed shoppers. All was chill.

Until the doors opened.

That’s when decorum flew out the window and we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of Pamplona during the running of the bulls (Gwen was a striking Brett Ashley, me a schlubby Robert Cohn). The crowd had suddenly thickened and everyone was stampeding for the MISSONI! Most made a beeline for the women’s clothes, although I heard someone issue the battle cry “Find the umbrellas!” I saw three women clear whole racks of clothes of all sizes with a single swoop of their arms (this shopping was the most exercise those arms had seen in years – they had no business grabbing anything XS). These Furies moved from rack to rack, swooping clothes and defending their carts from the stunned Missoniless. It was like a deranged Pina Bausch dance — swoop and defend, swoop and defend. One woman even enlisted her kid to fight for the cause – I spied a roving mountain of polyester zig-zag and can only guess there was a young girl underneath it.

It was clear that their motive was not a finer appreciation of Italian knitwear, but profit. It seems the secondary market for these cheap-chic fashions has grown explosively (‘tis true — as of today there are more than 40,000 Missoni for Target pieces available on eBay.) As I walked toward the escalator, I heard one of the women say “we can get at least 100 for each of these dresses!”

By the time I got upstairs to the men’s department, it had also been ransacked. There were just 3 measly cardigans (sorry, but they were really ugly – a rare misfire in the collection) and a lone pair of purple socks. Whoever thought they could buy up all the men’s socks and sell them on eBay is crazy. Maybe there are men who troll eBay looking for crazy deals on high-fashion socks, but I’ve never met them.

I next made it over to housewares and inspected what was left of the merchandise. The few scattered towels left on display were OK, but I’ve stolen nicer ones from lower-end boutique hotels. I’ve been to the Missoni store in Rome, and I guarantee you they do not sell plastic dinner plates. (And when did “melamine” become this fancy new word for plastic, anyway? Have you ever used that word in conversation? It’s plastic, people – there’s nothing high class about eating off a cheap plastic plate. Ask the Countess.) I did see some nice patterned mixing bowls, though. My bowl reverie was interrupted by another army of Cart Valkyries coming in and swooping everything up, including about 3 dozen appetizer trays. Either those trays were bound for eBay or else the small plate phenomenon has finally gone too far.

But amidst all this cart warfare and swoopery, there were moments of, for lack of a better word, tenderness among the shoppers. I had half-heartedly grabbed a Colore pillow because I couldn’t find the Passione pillow I really wanted (yes, I’m fully aware of how ridiculous this makes me sound).  I overheard a woman moping that she only had one Colore pillow and really needed another to make her life complete. Since I was in the position to be the first responder to her quick-onset Missoniopia, I offered her my Colore pillow. In that moment of solace I think I became her best friend – I soon heard her entire life story: her job as a costume designer for a local theater, how her Honda was in the shop so she had to take the subway to the store, how she’s so excited to buy fruit for her melamine (there’s that word again!) fruit bowl that maybe she’ll finally start losing weight… I left her before she could finish the story of her sick cat.

At checkout I was next to one of the Cart Nazis, who could barely contain her glee and was bragging to the cashier how much she was going to price everything on the eBay. As I was leaving I peeked at her checkout screen — her total was already more than $2,700 (more than I spent on my first car) and there was still lots of melamine to be unloaded and tallied.

In the end, my meager haul consisted of those zig-zag mixing bowls, 2 small glass bowls in a striking swirl pattern, a few journals and file folders, and yes, 2 Passione pillows that a nice Target worker found in the back for me (see, my pillow karma was quickly repaid!). If only I could have scored the matching throw…

People are calling the Missoni launch “9/13” (come ON!) or the Cabbage Patch Kids/Tickle-Me-Elmo Crisis of The New Soccer Mom Era (which has a zesty ring to it). But based on what I saw of human nature at Target this week, I’m just glad it wasn’t the next Altamont.



About the author: Michael

Michael is a cultural omnivore and Texas refugee now based in Washington DC, but he leaves town whenever possible. By day he works behind the scenes in the performing arts, but by night he appreciates French chocolate, Kieslowski films, any of the Real Housewives, and a seat on the aisle. He’s worshipped at Westerburg, and he’s only a junior.

Michael has written 5 articles for us.

2 Responses to “Missoni Mania: A Report From the Front Lines”

  1. September 16, 2011 at 7:52 am

    It would be funny if it weren’t true. Its like going to library book sales and competing with all the scanner-wielding book resellers. Bless you for giving away your pillow and curses on anyone who buys or sells Missoni melamine on ebay. If there is a heaven I am fairly certain it does not contain plastic tableware or polyester.

  2. Megan Gray September 16, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Michael, I adore you. You are hilarious.

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