The life story of Ottavio Missoni

No one, who has not entered his studio at least once, can say that he really knew Ottavio Missoni, whom his friends called Tai.

An endless room, in a family house in Sumirago, the region of Varese in the north of Italy, whose end seems to be lost in the fairytale forest of the Monte Rosa mountain, best depicts its mastery. Where fabrics and colors are more important than furniture and books, in the simplicity of their kingdom, it is possible to truly understand the magic of Missoni’s art. ”They ask me where my inspiration came from after so many decades of work. I find it in everyday situations, in talking to friends, in the wine I drank, in what I read, what I thought about…

A long time ago, when Rozita and I were just starting out, there was a lot of work and little money. We were always in the red and when we had a few liras in the account, I felt like the richest man in the world. From then until today, everything happened to us, but we always had each other and because of that it was easier for us. It is still not clear to me how this huge success came, how we got on the front pages, in the world… “, said Missoni, whose fabrics, unique style, recognizable and impressive motifs, from the fifties of the last century until today, rule the fashion world, making it happier and more beautiful.

I’ll introduce you the life story of Ottavio Missoni!

Earlier years

He was born on February 11, 1921, in Ragusa, today’s Dubrovnik, as the son of naval captain Vitoria Missoni and the noble Teresa Vidovich, a member of the old noble family from Sibenik. He was six years old when the family moved to Zadar, where he spent his childhood and youth until 1941.

“My father was the captain of a long voyage, I saw him once a year when he would come home for a short time after traveling around the world. We started talking, getting closer only when he retired, when there was enough time for walks and long meals together. Then I discovered one person I had never really met before. Luckily, I had a wonderful mother who was always angelically calm, who did not know what sadness was and who kept repeating that nothing bad could happen to her children. She always understood and supported me perfectly. When they ask me why I am so fond of women and why I care about them, I answer – because I had a wonderful, wonderful mother, “said Ottavio Missoni, who was known as a simple person, extremely dedicated to his family.

Since April 1953, he has been married to Rozita Jelmini, with whom he had three children: Victoria (1954), Luke (1956) and Angel (1958). He also had nine grandchildren, and all adult members are involved in the family business.

My mother believed that Ottavio could be better than the others, even though he was a disastrous student in high school and later: “I kept repeating and repeating, and mostly I didn’t even go to class. The only thing I was interested in at school was drawing. I was educated in Trieste and Milan, in fact, I studied less and played more sports. My mother did not complain, she let me sleep as much as I wanted, because I was impossible, unbearable when I was sleep deprived. My entry into the world of fashion happened quite by accident, when a house friend persuaded my mother and aunt to buy a knitting machine. And, out of pure curiosity, I started working with them. ”

As a boy, he began to show an unusual sense of aesthetics, although his first love was sports. At 16, he became a member of the Italian athletics team, and at 18, he was the world youth champion in the 400-meter run. He never stopped playing sports – at the age of 80, he participated in the competition of Italian and world veterans in athletics. World War II interrupted Missoni’s sports career and revealed to him the “cruel side of the world”, as he often says.

He was a participant in the battle of El Alamein in 1942, when he was captured, and he spent four years in an Egyptian prison.

After returning from captivity in Egypt in 1946, Ottavio started a sportswear workshop in Trieste, a year later, together with his friend, hammer thrower George Oberverger. The Missoni fashion house was created a little later, in 1953, by the joint efforts of Rosita Jelmini and Ottavio, who met in 1948 at the Olympic Games in London. Rosita, ten years younger, whose family owned a factory of embroidered fabrics and scarves in the north of Italy, in the town of Golaseca, was studying English in London at the time, and Tai designed the clothes of the Italian national team.

In 1958, clothes with the Missoni label appeared in the shop windows of the Rinascente department store for the first time, and equally delighted the public and fashion critics. Their creations appeared in fashion magazines, and in 1962, they began to use the Rachel machine, otherwise intended for knitting scarves, to make fabrics. Light, multicolored materials were a real innovation, refreshment in the then fashion market and guaranteed the commercial success of the collections.

Missoni’s first independent fashion show was held in Florence in 1967, when Rozita asked the models to take off their bras, because they were allegedly the wrong colors, which, along with previously unseen fabrics, caused a real sensation. Among the visitors to the packed Palazzo Pitti was Diana Vriland, the then editor of the American magazine Vogue. “There are not only colors, but also shades,” she said enthusiastically and invited them to America. The same enthusiasm followed across the ocean – with the expression “put together”, Ottavio explained how his originality lies in the fact that he mixed colors and motifs in a way that no one had dared before.

An incredible kaleidoscope of colors and a striking recognizability of the design with Missoni’s signature, opened the door to some of the most important museums. It is impossible to list all the exhibitions dedicated to art that were backed by Ottavio, Rozita and, later, members of their family, and the largest were retrospective, on the occasion of 25 years of work, in 1978 at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and in 1979 in Milan, called Missonologia, which was then housed in both the University of California Art Museum at Berkeley and the Yurakucho Asahi Gallery in Tokyo.

Inventive, imaginative and ambitious spouses, encouraged by success in the fashion world, decided to go even further: in 1983, Missoni Casa was created, a brand that designs bedding, bedspreads, carpets, curtains, furniture, and decorative items for the house. They achieve great success, for which Rozita Missoni is most deserving, for whom decorating the home has always been a great passion. Rozita’s ideas are based on her claim that the living house must be constantly changed and never finished, as well as on cheerful, colorful, sophisticated pieces of furniture, and the same items that need to be moved from one place to another from time to time. “Furnishing a house means freely, comfortably and informally creating a space that will be available for family activities, meetings, surprise guests… Fabrics, pillows, carpets are like a puzzle, like puzzles, with which you will express your own character and desires, just like clothes. ”

Missoni has as many as 25 brands, the most famous being M Missoni, Missoni Home and Missoni Menswear, and their clothes are also loved in star circles. Among the regular clients are Demi Moore, Cameron Diaz, Katie Holmes, Nicole Richie…

The Missoni brand signed a contract with the Rezidor Hotel Group, creating a new type of luxury Misoni hotel: the first was opened in 2009 in Edinburgh, in early 2011 in Kuwait, then in Turkey and Oman, and in 2014 in Brazil.

Rozita Missoni stated that when decorating the hotel, they were guided by the idea of making the space as comfortable as possible for the guests, while maintaining the recognizability of Missoni’s fashion handwriting.

As he wanted to organize all the events during the nine decades of his life, Missoni published in early 2010 an autobiography with a symbolic title – “Life on a woolen thread (Una vita sul filo di Lana)”, in which he told the most important events related to childhood, love, family, sports, work, war… His everyday life was always filled with meetings with friends, colleagues, models, models, as Ottavio liked to say “pleasant company for every occasion”, and he ends every laughter uttered with laughter.

“A clear mind is most important to me. Age is an ugly disease, you can cure it, but you can’t cure it. If you are healthy, it can be nice, but, again, it is short-lived. I still feel like a young man struggling to grow up, ”said Ottavio Missoni, who died on May 9, 2013, in a recent interview. He was 92 years old, vital, healthy and active, but overwhelmed by a great the tragedy that befell the Missoni family in January 2013. A private plane carrying the eldest son Vitorio, his wife and four other people disappeared in the Caribbean Sea, near Venezuela. Only the body of the co-pilot was found, and the search for the bodies of the passengers was unsuccessful.


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