Ottavio Missoni

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Ottavio Missoni
Ottavio Missoni (foto di Giuseppe Pino, 1990).png
Ottavio Missoni in 1990
Personal information
Nationality Italian
Born(1921-02-11)11 February 1921
Dubrovnik, Kingdom of Yugoslavia
Died9 May 2013 (aged 92)
Sumirago, Italy
Residence Varese, Italy
Height1.86 m (6 ft 1 in)
Weight80 kg (176 lb)
Country Flag of Italy.svg Italy
Sport Athletics
Event(s) 400 metres hurdles
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)
  • 400 m: 47.8 (1939)
  • 400 mH: 53.1 (1948) [1] [2]

Ottavio "Tai" 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. [3] 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. [4]

Italy republic in Southern Europe

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a European country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Italian Alps and surrounded by several islands. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean sea and traversed along its length by the Apennines, Italy has a largely temperate seasonal climate. The country covers an area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and shares open land borders with France, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland and the enclaved microstates of Vatican City and San Marino. Italy has a territorial exclave in Switzerland (Campione) and a maritime exclave in the Tunisian sea (Lampedusa). With around 60 million inhabitants, Italy is the fourth-most populous member state of the European Union.

Missoni is a high-end Italian fashion house based in Varese, and known for its colorful knitwear designs. The company was founded by Ottavio ("Tai") and Rosita Missoni in 1953.

Hurdling group of track and field events

Hurdling is the act of running and jumping over an obstacle at speed. In the early 19th century, hurdlers ran at and jumped over each hurdle, landing on both feet and checking their forward motion. After experimenting with different step patterns the 3-step for high hurdles, 7-step for low hurdles, and 15-step for intermediate hurdles was decided on. In the sport of athletics, hurdling forms the basis of a number track and field events which are a highly specialized form of obstacle racing. In these events, a series of barriers known as hurdles are set at precisely measured heights and distances which each athlete must pass by running over. Failure to pass over, by passing under, or intentionally knocking over hurdles will result in disqualification. Accidental knocking over of hurdles is not cause for disqualification, but the hurdles are weighted to make doing so disadvantageous. Hurdle design improvements were made in 1935, when they developed the L-shaped hurdle. With this shape, the athlete could hit the hurdle and it will tip down, clearing the athlete's path.


Early life

Ottavio Missoni was born in Dubrovnik, on the Dalmatian coast. His mother, Teresa de Vidovich, was Countess of Capocesto and Rogoznica while his father, Vittorio Missoni, was a Friulian sea captain who moved to Dalmatia while it was under Austrian rule. [5] [6] He was educated in Zadar, Trieste, and Milan. [7]

Dubrovnik City in Dubrovnik-Neretva, Croatia

Dubrovnik is a Croatian city on the Adriatic Sea. It is one of the most prominent tourist destinations in the Mediterranean Sea, a seaport and the centre of Dubrovnik-Neretva County. Its total population is 42,615. In 1979, the city of Dubrovnik joined the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites.

Dalmatia Historical region of Croatia

Dalmatia is one of the four historical regions of Croatia, alongside Croatia proper, Slavonia, and Istria.

Rogoznica Village in Šibenik-Knin, Croatia

Rogoznica is a popular tourist village on the Dalmatian coast in Croatia that lies in the southernmost part of the Šibenik-Knin County, in a deep bay sheltered from wind, about 30 km from Šibenik. In the 2001 census, the population of the village was 2,391, with 96% declaring themselves Croats. It is occasionally called Šibenska Rogoznica to distinguish it from Lokva Rogoznica, another tourist resort in Dalmatia.

Sporting achievements

Missoni joined the Italian National Track Team in 1937 at age 16. He won the individual national championship four times. [8] [1] He also competed with the Italian team in the 1948 Summer Olympics. [1] At the age of 88 he was still practising sports such as shot put and javelin throw. [5]

Italian Athletics Championships

The Italian Athletics Championships are the national championships in athletics, organised every year by the Federazione Italiana di Atletica Leggera.

1948 Summer Olympics Games of the XIV Olympiad, held in London in 1948

The 1948 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XIV Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event which was held in London, United Kingdom from 29 July to 14 August 1948.

Shot put track and field event

The shot put is a track and field event involving "putting" a heavy spherical object—the shot—as far as possible. The shot put competition for men has been a part of the modern Olympics since their revival in 1896, and women's competition began in 1948.

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 Flag of the United Kingdom.svg London 6th 400 metres hurdles 54.0 [9]
Final 4x400 metres DNF

War service

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. [5]

Infantry military service branch that specializes in combat by individuals on foot

Infantry is the branch of an army that engages in military combat on foot, distinguished from cavalry, artillery, and tank forces. Also known as foot soldiers, infantry traditionally relies on moving by foot between combats as well, but may also use mounts, military vehicles, or other transport. Infantry make up a large portion of all armed forces in most nations, and typically bear the largest brunt in warfare, as measured by casualties, deprivation, or physical and psychological stress.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Second Battle of El Alamein major turning point in the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War

The Second Battle of El Alamein was a battle of the Second World War that took place near the Egyptian railway halt of El Alamein. The First Battle of El Alamein and the Battle of Alam el Halfa had prevented the Axis from advancing further into Egypt.


Rosita Jelmini and Ottavio Missoni in 1975 Rosita Jelmini and Ottavio Missoni 1975.jpg
Rosita Jelmini and Ottavio Missoni in 1975

While in London for the Olympics, Missoni met the 16-year-old Rosita Jelmini, an English student from Golasecca, Italy. [10] She was in the audience at Wembley at the time he was running in the finals. [11] They married five years later on 18 April 1953, and settled in Gallarate. Their first son, Vittorio, was born on 25 April 1954. Luca, their second son, was born on 4 July 1956. Angela, their only daughter, would follow in 1958.

Golasecca Comune in Lombardy, Italy

Golasecca is a town and comune in the province of Varese, Lombardy.

Gallarate Comune in Lombardy, Italy

Gallarate[ɡallaˈraːte] is a city and comune of Alto Milanese of Lombardy and of Milan metropolitan area, northern Italy, in the Province of Varese. It has a population of some 54 thousand people. Its name comes from Latin, in fact a lot of cities around it have the same root "rate", such as Casorate Sempione, Samarate, etc.

Vittorio Missoni was an Italian CEO of Missoni, the fashion house founded by his parents in 1953. Missoni is credited with expanding Missoni into a global brand after his parents handed control to him and his two siblings, Angela and Luca, in 1996.


After the war, Ottavio and his team-mate Giorgio Oberweger launched an activewear business in Trieste making wool tracksuits, which they called Venjulia suits. [1] The tracksuits used details such as English ribbing and drop-stitching, and featured zippered legs, a detail which Missoni has been credited with inventing. [12] 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. [13]

Giorgio Oberweger athletics competitor

Giorgio Oberweger was an Italian discus thrower who won a bronze medal at the 1936 Olympics and a silver at the 1938 European Champsionships. He placed sixth at the 1934 European Championships and 15th at the 1948 Olympics. Oberweger won five national titles, in the discus throw and 110 metres hurdles (1939).

Sportswear (activewear) Clothing worn for sport or physical exercise

Sportswear or activewear is clothing, including footwear, worn for sport or physical exercise. Sport-specific clothing is worn for most sports and physical exercise, for practical, comfort or safety reasons.

Tracksuit an article of clothing consisting of two parts: trousers and a jacket usually with front zipper

A tracksuit is an article of clothing consisting of two parts: trousers and a jacket usually with front zipper. It was originally intended for use in sports, mainly for athletes to wear over competition clothing and to take off before competition. In modern times, it has become commonly worn in other contexts. The tracksuit was one of the earliest uses of synthetic fibers in sportswear.

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. [5] 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. [10] 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. [4] Ottavio's experience as an activewear designer and manufacturer was applied to his and Rosita's designs, [14] which contributed significantly to the development of Italian sportswear as a challenge to the American industry. [15]

In 1965, Anna Piaggi covered Missoni in an article for Arianna, a magazine published by Mondadori. [4] [16] 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. [17] This helped bring Missoni to the attention of the wider world, as did a joint collection with Emmanuelle Khanh in 1965. [11]

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. [4] [11] Although the see-through look was presented by Yves Saint Laurent the following year, the Missonis were not invited back to Florence. [4] 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. [10] 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. [11]

In 1970, Missoni opened their first in-store boutique at Bloomingdale's in New York, [5] and their first directly-owned boutique in Milan in 1976. [11]

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. [11] 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. [11] 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". [18] 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. [19] 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. [18]

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. [18] [20]

In 1983, Ottavio and Rosita designed their first stage costumes for a production of Lucia di Lammermoor , starring Luciano Pavarotti, at the La Scala opera house in Milan. [18]

In 1991 an exhibition in Yūrakuchō, Tokyo, was held of Ottavio’s tapestries, the first time they had been displayed in Japan. [18]


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. [4] [18] 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. [10] [11]

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". [18]

On 4 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. [11] On 22 October 2013, the deaths of Vittorio 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. [21]

On 1 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 8 and 9 May, the 92-year-old Ottavio died "serenely". [4]

See also

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