Addio allo stilista Ottavio Missoni, il ricordo di tre quotidiani internazionali

Gli obituary sono i necrologi che i quotidiani angloamericani dedicano alle personalità importanti. La scomparsa di Ottavio Missoni è una perdita importante per il made in Italy e per il nostro Paese. Lo ricordiamo così come lo ricordano tre quotidiani: Il NY Times, Il Financial Times ed il Guardian:

Ottavio Missoni, Who Made Zigzags a Symbol of High Fashion, Dies at 92


Ottavio Missoni, the patriarch of an esteemed Italian fashion house whose outré, multicolored knits and zigzag stitches became an insider status symbol for the ultra-wealthy, died on Thursday at the family’s home in Sumirago, Italy. He was 92. His death, which was announced by the Missoni company, came four months after a small plane carrying his oldest son, Vittorio, the fashion house’s top executive, disappeared over the Caribbean Sea after taking off from Venezuela with three other passengers onboard. There has been no word about the fate of the plane or its passengers since then.

Mr. Missoni, an Italian track star, and his young bride, Rosita, created the Missoni label in the 1950s, and for many decades it was considered the height of Italian sophistication, known for its rather jarring striated patterns. Missoni sweaters were collected by Lauren Bacall, Marcello Mastroianni and Rudolf Nureyev (who favored the house’s “crazy quilt” cardigans) and more recently by Madonna and Jennifer Lopez. Diana Vreeland, the legendary Vogue editor, included a Missoni vest as part of her uniform.

Though they did not bear a familiar logo, the designs were so easily recognizable — and recognizably expensive — that they conveyed a peculiar social currency among the moneyed elite, like an updated varsity sweater for young preppies of the 1970s and ’80s. In his 1989 novel about shopping, “I’ll Take It,” Paul Rudnick describes a character from a family of bargain hunters who tells of his obsession with a particular Missoni sweater, “which means it’s very well made,” he says, “and okay, I would rather die than be the kind of rich geek who buys $1,250 sweaters.” So he shoplifts it instead.

Although the Missonis designed as a couple, Mr. Missoni, known as Tai, was the technician, plotting patterns that were inspired by Guatemalan, Aztec and Incan textiles or Abstract, Impressionist and Art Deco paintings. He designed on graph paper, mapping out shapes with startling combinations: primary colors that did battle with earth tones, and polka dots that chased whirling stripes through kaleidoscopic prisms. Mr. Missoni once wrote that he created a chromatic harmony by adding a third color to two clashing ones.

“Color?” he wrote. “What can I say? I like comparing color to music: Only seven notes and yet innumerable melodies have been composed with those seven notes. How many basic colors are there? I don’t remember exactly, seven perhaps, like the notes of the scale, but how many tones or shades does each color have? An infinite number, just as always endless are the hues and nuances composing a work of art.”

Ottavio Missoni was born on Feb. 11, 1921, in Dubrovnik, in what is now Croatia. His father, Vittorio, was an Italian sea captain then stationed on the Dalmatian Coast; his mother, Teresa de Vidovich, was an Austrian countess. Athletic, handsome and over six feet tall, the young Mr. Missoni was on his way to becoming an international track star — at 18 he was a student world champion in Vienna — when World War II took him to Egypt. As an infantryman in the Italian Army, he took part in the Axis forces’ desert campaign and was captured at El Alamein. After four years in a British prison camp, he was released in 1946 and returned to Italy, where he parlayed his love of track and field competitions into a business, joining a friend, Giorgio Oberweger, in making wool athletic suits.

In 1948, Mr. Missoni qualified to compete in the 400-meter hurdle race at the London Olympics and placed sixth in the event. He also designed his team’s uniforms. It was during that London sojourn that he was introduced to Rosita Jelmini, a 16-year-old convent student from Golasecca, Italy, who was there to study English. He agreed to meet her under the Cupid statue in Piccadilly Circus. They married five years later.

The Jelmini family had a business making shawls and embroidery, and their knowledge of knitting machines helped enable the young couple to start their own business, in 1953, in the basement of their home in Gallarate, about 40 miles northwest of Milan. At first they made clothes for department stores to sell under the stores’ own labels, but in 1958 they began showing collections under the Missoni name. They were quickly recognized for their unusual presentations; one was an aquatic fashion show set at a pool featuring blowup plastic armchairs and floating furniture.

Their big break came in the early 1960s, when they began making sweaters and dresses using the same machines that had been intended to make shawls and bedspreads. The machines, which created a streaky, space-dyed effect, produced sumptuous, astonishingly lightweight knits. The knits became a Missoni hallmark.

“We try to find superior materials and new ways to use old materials,” Mr. Missoni said in 1971. “But I think our great asset is our simplicity of line. We make it possible for women to be dressed in fashion and still dress very simply.” As the business expanded, acquiring licenses for fragrances and a home collection, the Missonis constructed a stunning factory about 15 miles from Gallarate in Sumirago, known for its spectacular views of the Alps at sunset. They built a house next door for their three children, Vittorio, Luca and Angela, all of whom have worked for the family business, along with many of their children. Angela Missoni became the company’s designer, and her daughter Margherita appears in its fragrance advertisements.

Besides Margherita, Mr. Missoni’s survivors include his wife, Luca and Angela Missoni and several other grandchildren.

Vittorio Missoni, who was 58 at the time, was in charge of the company’s business operations when his plane went down on Jan. 4 while he was vacationing. His companion, Maurizia Castiglioni, and two other Italians were also onboard. Since the late 1990s, when Ottavio and Rosita Missoni handed over control of the business to their children, the company has expanded into a lifestyle brand with furniture, fragrances and hotels, as well a collaboration with Target in 2011 that broke many store records. While they preferred to live and work in the countryside, the Missonis played an important — though somewhat accidental — role in the development of the industrial city of Milan as an international fashion capital.

In 1967, they had been invited to present their collection at a prestigious trade fair at the Pitti Palace in Florence, where, minutes before the show, Mrs. Missoni asked all the models to remove their bras because they were visible beneath the thin layers of knits. On the runway, however, the harsh spotlights made the knits nearly transparent, causing both a scandal (the Missonis were banned from the venue) and a sensation (the fashion cognoscenti eagerly followed them back to Milan, which was just then beginning to stage its own semiannual fashion weeks).

“ ‘What do they think, that Pitti is the Crazy Horse?’ wrote one disgusted journalist at the time,” Vittorio Missoni said during a 2004 retrospective. “Of course, then everyone wanted to see the brand.”

(dal New York Times del 9 aggio 2013)


Ottavio Missoni, designer and businessman


Half a century ago, alongside his wife Rosita, Ottavio Missoni created a knitwear label soon beloved of Hollywood, European royalty and the global glitterati. Instantly recognisable by its geometric multicoloured zigzag knits and clingy silhouettes, Missoni garb became the unofficial uniform for those in the know. His death aged 92 follows a devastating four months. His eldest son Vittorio, to whom he had passed
leadership of the brand, has been missing along with daughter-in-law Maurizia since their light aircraft vanished over the coast of Venezuela four days into the new year. It is thus a double blow for what was long seen as one of Italy’s happiest corporate families. “The Missonis are such a special Italian institution . . . a family business that seamlessly passed power between generations without trauma or back-stabbing but instead with kindness,” said Emanuela Schmeidler, a Milanese publicist.

When Ottavio – known as Tai – stepped down from day-to-day operations in the late 1990s, he handed control to his three children: Vittorio, Angela and Luca. Angela’s daughter Margherita later also joined. Its recent advertising campaigns have focused on the family, depicting all three generations posing together at home.
Calling him a “luminous figure in our history”, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano spoke of Missoni’s achievement in “transforming his zest for life, which he truly had, into an irreplaceable style, a model of original elegance and beauty while all this time giving support to ideas, energy and talent”. The son of a sea captain and a countess, Ottavio Missoni was born on February 11 1921 in Dubrovnik before growing up in Zadar – now part of Croatia but then an Italian territory. A member of Italy’s national swimming team at 16 and champion at the World Student Games in 1939, he was a supremely talented athlete. When war broke out he fought with the Italian infantry before being captured and held as a prisoner of war by the British following the Battle of El Alamein in Egypt, passing the time primarily by playing volleyball.
“I passed four years at the pleasure of Her Majesty, in confines close by the Nile. They gave you 1,600 calories a day, once in a while American nuts, and they let you play sport on Mount Sinai,” Missoni explained wryly years later.

In peacetime, he started a woollen sportswear company and was clad in his wares when winning eight national athletics titles and competing in two Olympic finals in London in 1948. Writer Gianni Brera, in a reference to the speed of his friend, once said he had not seen Missoni run but simply detected the motion of “his ectoplasm”. It was in London that Missoni met Rosita Jelmini, a 16-year-old exchange student; the couple had their first date under the Cupid statue in Piccadilly Circus and were married five years later. The Jelmini family were also in the garment trade, making embroidered shawls. In 1953 the duo combined their skills, setting up shop as Maglificio Jolly.
While the name did not stick – they switched it to Missoni in 1958 – appreciation for their kaleidoscopic patterns did. He “changed the way to dress women and men with his sense of colour”, said Franca Sozzani, editor-in-chief of Italian Vogue. “From an idea he created a brand, making Missoni synonymous with creativity and quality.” Business boomed, and in 1967 the Missonis were invited to present their new collection at the Pitti fashion fair in Florence, causing a scandal as models appeared braless in diaphanous knits. “I’ve never done what was fashionable,” Missoni declared in 2011. “Going against the rules comes naturally to me.”

The strategy worked: the surge of publicity that followed the Pitti fair ignited the popularity of the brand and gave the family the opportunity to open a new headquarters at Sumirago in rural Lombardy in 1969. They never left. Ottavio died at the family villa surrounded by his wife and children – except for Vittorio. “I met [Ottavio] for the last time after the disappearance of his son. He responded with great courage and never lost hope, but I think there is a correlation between that event and the worsening of his health,” said Mauro Croci, Sumirago’s mayor.

Today, the company includes furniture, fragrances and hotels, with more than 40 stores worldwide and a 2012 turnover of €67m. It has often been mooted as a mergers and acquisitions target, as similar family-run brands are increasingly either sold or floated on the stock markets.
But that would defy what to Missoni was more than just his own wish. “I never pushed for them to pursue this career,” he once said of his offspring, “but I’m happy because they chose the company themselves. And we all agree it’s a family firm and it must always remain as such.”

(dal Financial Times del 10 maggio 2013)


Co-founder of the Italian fashion house known for its brightly coloured zigzag patterns


Ottavio Missoni, who has died aged 92, was the co-founder of the Italian fashion brand Missoni and the patriarch of a dynasty. In 1953, with his wife, Rosita, he set up the company that became known around the world for its brightly coloured geometric knits and zigzag patterns.
Ottavio, known as Tai, and Rosita began with a few knitting machines, making designs for other brands. The first Missoni collection appeared in 1958 and included two striped dresses that sold out in the Milan store La Rinascente. Adapting the Raschel knitting machine (which was usually used for shawls) in 1963, the Missonis created the distinctive zigzag lightweight knits which became their signature.
Their first fashion show was in 1966, and the brand began to grow in the 70s, with a colourful, bohemian aesthetic. Supporters included the influential fashion journalist Anna Piaggi and the American Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, who reportedly commented, on seeing the vibrant knits: “Who said that only colours exist? There are also tones.”

Sixty years after its foundation, Missoni, based in Sumirago, in the countryside outside Milan, continues to be successful – it had a turnover of £59m last year, with 40 stores around the world and celebrity fans ranging from the Duchess of Cambridge to Jennifer Lopez. It has also expanded into homewear and hotels. This suited Ottavio perfectly. “I’ve never done what was fashionable,” he said in 2011. “Going against the rules comes naturally to me.”
A classic Missoni creation of tthe mid-70s. A classic Missoni creation of the mid-70s. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The son of a sea captain, Vittorio, and his wife, Teresa De Vidovich, Countess of Capocesto and Ragosniza, Ottavio was born in Dubrovnik and grew up in Zadar – now part of Croatia but then Italian territory. He fought with the Italian army in the second world war at the Battle of El Alamein and was a prisoner of war in Egypt for four years.
He was also a talented athlete, who had competed in track events before the war. A member of the Italian national team at 16, he was a champion at the World Student Games in 1939. He continued exercising regularly into his 90s, and had a swimming pool and gym installed at his home. In an interview with Women’s Wear Daily in 2011 he said: “Running was a natural gift. They called me ‘son of Apollo’.”

Sport turned out to be his unlikely entry into fashion. He represented Italy in the 400m hurdles at the 1948 Olympic Games in London, and made knitted tracksuits that were worn by members of the Italian team. Sixteen-year-old Rosita Jelmini was a student spectator at the event and the couple met at a lunch organised by the Italian team.
Married in 1953, they turned out to be a formidable fashion force. The Missoni brand combined Ottavio’s burgeoning design skills with Rosita’s background in textiles – her family had owned a shawl-making factory. They began with a small factory in Gallarate, Lombardy, where Rosita had grown up.

As with other Italian fashion houses, from Versace to Ferragamo, family has been central to the Missoni brand. Although Ottavio and Rosita continued to preside over its progress, in the 90s they handed over the day-to-day running of the business to their three children, Vittorio, Luca and Angela. Angela has designed the ready-to-wear collections since 1996. The couple continued to live near Sumirago and Ottavio devoted more time to painting and tapestry, also writing an autobiography, Una Vita sul Filo di Lana (A Life on the Woollen Thread, 2011).
Ottavio saw the evolution of the Missoni dynasty as a natural choice rather than something expected of the second generation. “I never pushed for them to pursue this career,” he said, “but I’m happy because they chose the company themselves. And we all agree it’s a family firm and it must remain as such.”

Three generations are now involved in the business – Ottavio and Rosita’s granddaughter, Margherita, designs accessories – and rather than using models, the photographer Juergen Teller has captured the family at home for ad campaigns since 2010.
Ottavio is survived by Rosita, their children and grandchildren. Their son Vittorio and his wife, Maurizia, have been missing since January, when their plane disappeared over the coast of Venezuela.

(Dal Guardian del 10 maggio 2013)

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