11 February 1921|
Ragusa, Kingdom of Yugoslavia
|Died||9 May 2013 (age 92)
|Height||1.86 m (6 ft 1 in)|
|Weight||80 kg (180 lb)|
|Event(s)||400 metres hurdles|
|Achievements and titles|
Ottavio Missoni (11 February 1921 – 9 May 2013) was the founder of the Italian fashion label Missoni and an Italian Olympic hurdler who competed in the 1948 Summer Olympics. Along with his wife Rosita, he was part of the group of designers who launched Italian ready-to-wear in the 1950s, thereby ensuring the global success of Italian fashion.
Ottavio Missoni was born in Dubrovnik, on the Dalmatian coast. His mother, Teresa de Vidovich, was Countess of Capocesto and Rogoznica, and his father, Vittorio Missoni, was a Friulian sea captain who had moved to Dalmatia whilst it was under Austrian rule. He was educated in Zara, Trieste, and Milan.
Aged 16, Missoni joined the Italian National Track Team in 1937. He won the individual national championship four times. He also competed with the Italian team in the 1948 Summer Olympics. At the age of 88 he was still practising sports such as shot putting and javelin.
|1939||Italian Athletics Championships||1st||400 metres|
|1941||Italian Athletics Championships||1st||400 metres hurdles|
|1947||Italian Athletics Championships||1st||400 metres hurdles|
|1948||Italian Athletics Championships||1st||400 metres hurdles|
|1948||Olympic Games||London||6th||400 metres hurdles||54.0|||
Missoni served as an infantryman during World War II. In 1942, he fought in the Battle of El Alamein, where he was captured by the Desert Rats and served out the remainder of the War in an English prisoner-of-war camp.
Whilst in London for the Olympics, Missoni met the 16 year old Rosita Jelmini, an English student from Golasecca, Italy. She was in the audience at Wembley at the time he was running in the finals. They married five years later on the 18th April, 1953, and settled in Gallarate. Their first son, Vittorio, was born on April 25, 1954. Luca, their second son, was born on July 4, 1956. Angela, their only daughter, would follow in 1958.
After the war, Ottavio and his team-mate Giorgio Oberweger launched an activewear business in Trieste making wool tracksuits, which they called Venjulia suits. The tracksuits used details such as English ribbing and drop-stitching, and featured zippered legs, a detail which Missoni has been credited with inventing. The success of the Venjulia suits, which took into account the need of athletes for functional, warm garments enabling freedom of movement, led to their being worn by the Italian Olympic team in 1948.
In 1953, following his marriage to Rosita (whose family ran a shawl-making business), the Missonis set up Maglificio Jolly, a machine-knitwear workshop in Gallarate. The Missoni's experimentations with machine-knitting led to the discovery that clothing-weight fabrics made using machines originally designed for shawls and bedspreads could be surprisingly lightweight. They supplied designs to the department stores Biki and later, La Rinascente in Milan, where in 1958, the first Missoni-labelled garments, a line of colourful vertically striped shirtdresses, were displayed in the window. Ottavio's experience as an activewear designer and manufacturer was applied to his and Rosita's designs, which contributed significantly to the development of Italian sportswear as a challenge to the American industry.
In 1965, Anna Piaggi covered Missoni in an article for Arianna, a magazine published by Mondadori. She continued to actively promote Missoni through her long career as a fashion journalist, including writing their press releases whilst at Vogue Italia in the 1980s. This helped bring Missoni to the attention of the wider world, as did a joint collection with Emmanuelle Khanh in 1965.
They held their first catwalk show in 1966, and the following year, presented a show at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. This show proved controversial due to the unplanned transparency of the models' clothing under the lights, revealing a lack of underwear and leading to comparisons to the Crazy Horse cabaret. Although the see-through look was presented by Yves Saint Laurent the following year, the Missonis were not invited back to Florence. However, the scandal gave them immense publicity, and helped lead to the development of Milan as a fashion capital when the press followed the Missonis back to Milan. The Missonis went on to feature in many leading fashion publications, including Women's Wear Daily, Vogue, Marie Claire, Elle, and Harper's Bazaar, and were championed by influential editors such as Diana Vreeland and Piaggi.
Ottavio was the colourist and pattern designer whose watercolour paintings and gouaches formed the basis of Missoni textiles, whilst his wife developed the cuts and shapes of their garments. Ottavio's designs, which combined multi-coloured zigzag, stripe, check and wave patterns in unexpected colour combinations, were highly influential, and were recognised as having artistic merit. In 1975, an exhibition of Ottavio's textiles and related paintings, curated by Renato Cardazzo, was held in Venice, and Ferruccio Landi wrote an article titled “Missoni, a Work of Art, Pullover Size”. In 1974, Jennifer Hocking of Harper's Bazaar and Queen selected male and female ensembles by Missoni as the Dress of the Year for the Fashion Museum, Bath. In 1976 Ottavio was named one of the ten most elegant men in the world, sharing the list with Robert Redford and Charles, Prince of Wales.
To mark the 25th anniversary of Missoni's founding, a retrospective was held in 1978 at the Rotonda della Besana in Milan, and later hosted by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the first time the Whitney had hosted a fashion exhibition.
- Neiman Marcus Fashion Award (1973)
- Tommy Award from the American Printed Fabric Council Inc. (1976)
- Gold Medal for Civic Merit from the Municipality of Milan (1979)
- Fragrance Foundation Award for Best Packaging (1982)
- Civiltà Veneta and Knight Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (1986)
- Munich Mode-Woche Award, from the mayor of Munich (1992)
- Knight of the Order of Labour Merit of the Italian Republic (1993)
- Honorary Royal Designers for Industry (HonRDI) by the Royal Society of Arts, London (1997)
- Honorary Doctorate from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London (May 1999)
- Honorary Doctorate Degree of Humane Letters from the Academy of Art College, San Francisco (1999)
- Premio Leonardo Qualità Italia (2002)
- Honorary degree from Shanghai University (2002)
- Lombardia per il Lavoro, from the Lombard Regional Government (2004)
- Honorary citizen of Trieste (2007)
Later life and death
In 1997 Ottavio and Rosita passed the Missoni business to their children. Vittorio acted as marketing director, Angela became creative director, and Luca holds a technical role, having created designs for the Aeros dance troupe and an installation for the Expo 2005. Since the handover, Missoni has expanded into a lifestyle brand which includes furniture, car interiors, a chain of hotels, and collaborations with companies such as Target.
In 2003, when Missoni marked their 50th year of business, Suzy Menkes wrote a tribute in the International Herald Tribune stating how the "best-beloved" Missonis represented "one big happy local family of hands-on wizards".
On the 4th January 2013, Missoni's eldest son, CEO Vittorio Missoni, his wife Maurizia, two other passengers and two crew disappeared in an airplane near the Los Roques islands near Venezuela. Wreckage of the submerged plane was discovered by a U.S. oceanographic vessel in June but no identification was able to be made. On October 22, 2013, the deaths of Vittoria and the other passengers on the plane were confirmed by the Italian news service and the city of Caracas' chief prosecutor Ortega, after meeting with the victims' families. The bodies were found inside the aircraft, except for the pilot, with DNA samples used for identification. The authorities are attempting to raise the wreckage to determine the cause of the crash. 
On the 1st May 2013, twelve days after marking his and Rosita's 60th wedding anniversary, Ottavio was taken to hospital, but at his request, he went home to be with his family in Sulmirago, where during the night of the 8th and 9th May, the 92-year old Ottavio died "serenely".
- A note about the life and death of Ottavio Missoni (Accessed June 5, 2013)
- Franco d'Emilio; Colleen Barry (9 May 2013). "Patriarch of fashion brand Missoni dies in Italy". San Francisco Chronicle. Associated Press. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- Watson, Linda (10 May 2013). "Ottavio Missoni: Fashion designer who transformed the world of luxury knitwear". The Independent. Retrieved 11 May 2013.
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- He ran in 53.4 in semifinal.
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- Italy-Italy 21: 62. 9 September 2011. "Among other things they produced a woolen tracksuit called the venjulia, and they are considered the inventors of tracksuits with zippered legs."
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- Black, Sandy (2006). Fashioning fabrics: contemporary textiles in fashion. London: Black Dog. p. 176. ISBN 1904772412.
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- Isa Tutino Vercelloni, ed. (1995). Missonologia : the world of Missoni (1st U.S. ed. ed.). Milan: Electa. p. 67. ISBN 0789200481.
- Sheridan, Jayne (2010). Fashion, media, promotion : the new black magic. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell. p. 25. ISBN 1405194219.
- Giustacchini, Enrico (2012). Ottavio Missoni - Il Genio del Colore - Genius of color. Rijeka, Croatia: Galerija Kortil.
- "Dress of the Year 1970 - 1979". Fashion Museum, Bath. Retrieved 11 May 2013.
- "Ottavio Missoni, couturier". Who's Who in Italy. Sutter's. Retrieved 11 May 2013.