MILAN, Italy — Ottavio Missoni, the founder of the Italian luxury fashion house that carries his name, died this morning at his family home near Varese, Italy, the company announced in an official e-mail statement. He was 92 years old.
Missoni is known mostly for its patterned knits, in particular a colourful zigzag motif, but comprises today several collections, a range of licensed products and diffusion lines. The family-run brand has successfully leveraged the heritage of the founding dynasty and a wholesome high-end image by steering clear of overt trends, while at the same time managing to remain relevant sixty years after it was founded, thanks to the efforts of the Missoni clan’s younger members. The photogenic family was captured in a Juergen Teller campaign for the label in 2010.
Ottavio Missoni’s passing comes four months after the news that his eldest son Vittorio and his partner went missing in a plane over the Venezuelan coast. To date, it has not been determined what happened to them and their four fellow passengers, although investigations continue.
In his youth, the Croatian-born patriarch, also known by his nickname ‘Tai,’ was held as a prisoner of war in Egypt for four years, and competed as a successful amateur athlete in the hurdling (track and field) events at the London Olympic Games of 1948.
This is where he met his future wife Rosita, with whom he started the Missoni brand in 1953. At the time the company produced mostly active sportswear. The couple showed their first collection in 1958. Soon the brand became an international success and a favourite of the fashion crowd, in part due to early support from figures like Anna Piaggi and Diana Vreeland. In the 1970s, in particular, the label’s sweaters were considered coveted status symbols among the stylish international set, similar to a Louis Vuitton bag or Gucci loafers. Missoni is also known for innovation, introducing feather-light, space-dyed, quilted and boiled knits, as well as reversible coats and adjustable drawstrings, all in the brand’s signature kaleidoscopic pattern. The first Missoni flagship opened in Milan in 1976.
The company and its legacy have been continued by the founding couple’s children and grandchildren, who took over management and creative responsibilities in the 1990s and turned Missoni into a lifestyle brand. Until his recent disappearance, Vittorio Missoni was Missoni’s marketing director while Luca Missoni the company's head creative director. Angela Missoni designs both men's and women's wear collections. The founder's granddaughter Margherita acts as an ambassador and accessories designer for the brand. Ottavio’s wife Rosita oversees all of Missoni’s homeware projects.
Ottavio Missoni had been hospitalised last week for cardiac failure. He is survived by his wife Rosita, his children Angela and Luca, and eight grandchildren.