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A Tribute to Ottavio Missoni 1921-2013

May 9, 2013

Everyone who knows me and many of you who have followed my blog for the past 15 months will know my admiration and love for the missoni brand.

I’ve just heard that ottavio missoni, the founder of the brand, has passed away today.

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Tragedy had struck his family earlier this year, when his eldest son vittorio missoni, 58, disappeared with his wife. They had been flying in a small plane during a vacation to a venezuelan island. No doubt, this immense loss must have weighed heavy on ottavio’s heart.

Last year was special for me in so many ways. One of my highlights was to see rosita missoni, ottavio’s wife and co-founder of the missoni brand, in conversation with michelle ogundehin (editor in chief of elle decoration uk) and be able to tell her what great influence missoni has been on me. Look how radiant rosita looked. This was in september 2012. I cannot even imagine how she must be feeling having lost her son back in january and her beloved husband today!

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As homage to the missoni family and to pay my respects, i hope you don’t mind that i’m now going to re-publish my post, written in february 2012. Here it is:

When I was 15 years old, i spent a weekend with my father in switzerland. On a shopping trip he took me to a missoni boutique and bought me a blazer, cardigan and scarf. I immediately fell in love with their knitwear designs. There is no doubt in my mind that this first encounter, over 30 years ago, has greatly influenced my use and views on colour, patterns and generally the way i look at fashion, interiors and design. It certainly left an everlasting imprint on me.

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This is the cardigan i bought over 30 years ago. I last wore it about a week ago. It hasn’t dated right?

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Breathtaking patterns and imagery on knitwear.

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Does this look like a scarf bought in the early 80′s? Could be the latest season’s design?

The story of rosita and ottavio (tai) missoni began at the 1948 london olympics. Ottavio, a member of the italian olympic team, designed the uniforms for his team mates that year. Rosita, who was born into an italian family of shawl and embroidered fabric producers saw him run the 400m hurdle race. They fell in love and started the missoni dynasty in 1953, the same year they got married.

Their humble beginnings consisted of a small workshop where they created art; the only possible way to describe their early knitwear designs. Taking much of their inspiration from folk art, the missonis were primarily known for their innovative use of knits and patterns. Most recognisable among these is the missoni zigzag but the label also plays with stripes, geometrics and abstract florals. Missoni uses a myriad of colours in their fabrics but avoids any jarring notes by using similar tones. The company is also known for its intelligent use of a variety of different fabrics such as rayon, silk, cotton and wool and for its innovative knitting techniques.

The missonis used great imagination for their creations, separating them apart from the old-fashioned ways of traditional hand knitted items and the often blandness of machine knitted products. Their biggest asset is their supremacy of design, mixing traditional italian skills with modern technology. Missoni still has its own factory in italy where they create their signature knits. It takes around 2-3 hours to make one meter of fabric which can contain over 20 different colours in each design.

Missoni does not rely on fashion trends but instead uses their natural talent for italian flair and style. They have been quoted saying: ‘our philosophy since we went into business has been that a piece of clothing should be like a work of art. It should not be bought for a special occasion or because it’s in fashion, but because a woman likes it…..and feels she could wear it forever.’

In 1997, after over 40 years, rosita missoni stepped down as head of the knitwear lineBeing a family run business, the three children of the founders have taken reign of the business. Angela missoni is creative director of the woman’s wear collection. Luca missoni is responsible for the design of the menswear collection. Recently, margherita missoni, angela’s daughter, has joined the business and is hailed as angela’s next successor.

In 2003, the missoni phenomenon celebrated 50 years in business with a catwalk event at the v&a in london, as part of their fashion in motion series. I was lucky to have obtained a ticket for this much sought after event. They were showing their key pieces for each year since their inception in 1953. Honestly, not one outfit had dated and all would be fashionable today. Total magic and utter genius!

In 2004 rosita missoni, not one for retirement, launched the missoni homeware collection which has been a massive hit. In 2009 rosita oversaw the opening of the first hotel missoni, in edinburgh. I was ecstatic that this coincided with my trip to the edingburgh festival and so celebrated my birthday in missoni heaven.  A second hotel, in kuwait, is due to open in March, and she has three more luxury boutique hotels—in oman, brazil and turkey—in the planning. Not bad for a 79 year old lady!

I love going to art galleries and exhibitions. Sometimes i am left speechless and one such time was when visiting the incredible: workshop missoni – daring to be different at the estorick collection of modern italian art back in 2009. Curated by luca missoni, rather than focusing on finished products, the exhibition took the viewer ‘behind the scenes’ of missoni, exploring the technical working processes involved in the production of their fabrics and clothing and revealing their underlying sources of inspiration – including the fine arts.

Here are some pages from my own copy, but you can still buy it from here

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In late 2011 missoni collaborated with target. It was, on one hand, a huge success and equally a total internet-crash fiasco.

I want to leave you with snippets of my own home project. Here below, in my living room, i’ve used the missoni fabric range: neuchatel. When it came to doing the bathroom i wanted to paint stripes, so decided to take a sample of the missoni fabric and ask the nice people of oliver paint in portobello to hand mix me the colours. They did an incredible job but unfortunately they are no longer in business.

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Meanwhile, I spent a few days on the computer working out colour dimensions, proportions and how it would work best in that space.

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This is a section of the finished bathroom. Who has spotted the missoni bath mat?

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My dream came true when on 27 january 2012 i was in the audience in the v&a auditorium, as part of the peroni collaborazioni talks, listening to angela missoni in conversation with renowned fashion journalist gianluca long. Angela allowed a rare insight into what it’s like working for such an iconic family firm. The talk addressed her forecast for the future of italian fashion and her thoughts on the new designers and fashion houses that might shape that future.

My highlight was to be able to go up to angela afterwards and tell her of my longstanding love affair with missoni and thank her for the continued inspiration. Grazie mille!

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24 Comments

  • Reply Louise - 30s Magazine May 9, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    Don’t know what to say. I know how you admire them. xxx

    • Reply tina May 14, 2013 at 9:50 pm

      I know you know xx

  • Reply Alice May 10, 2013 at 8:10 am

    How very sad, but what a colourful and amazing life at the same time. I have a Missoni Jumper handed down from my mum and I still wear it, the colour ways and fabric is just perfect. I think I will wear it today…
    PS: Love, love your bathroom!

    • Reply tina May 14, 2013 at 9:52 pm

      Thanks for visiting Alice. Of course, at 92 years old it is an amazing age to reach. I think I wouldn’t have been so upset if it wasn’t for his son dying a few months ago.
      I have no doubt, this contributed to his heart failure.

      Aww, I love that your mum handed you down a Missoni jumper and that you wore it. You know, I went to a Bloggers Meetup and also wore my Missoni cardigan as homage.

      Thank you so much:-)

  • Reply Chi@106 May 10, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Dear Tina, I know how touched and saddened you are by the death of Ottavio. I remember reading this post last year and feeling your very personal connection to the brand leap out at me. It was a treat to read then and a fitting tribute today.

    This is such sad news not just for the family but for the fashion industry. There aren’t many trailblazers left and Ottavio was certainly a rare breed – innovative, hugely talented and a man for whom family clearly came first.

    I still hope against hope that Vittorio will be found. I cannot imagine how they have lived in limbo for so long.

    Do take time to spoil yourself and have some fun this weekend in spite of how you’re feeling. I’ll be thinking of you and saving an extra special hug for when we meet on Sunday. xo

    • Reply tina May 14, 2013 at 9:57 pm

      Thank you Chi. Last year it was mainly a ‘love letter’ to the Missoni Brand. I felt strongly to re-release it as a homage to Ottavio and the whole family.

      I so agree. You know a friend of mine, a weaver who is 80 often tells me lots of stories about the Missonis. He taught at the RCA and the Missonis would come each year for the Degree Shows and asked for the most talented students, whom they took back to Italy. When the knitting industry changed, the Missonis bought up all the last machines and that’s what’s given them the edge. I love listening to his stories..

      Chi, love, hate to tell you but they found remains of the little plane, some of the luggage et cetera. Nothing further has been reported and as expected, it’s a private matter, not to be aired publicly.

      It was great to see you and your bump on Sunday xx

  • Reply Gerard @WalnutGrey May 10, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Thanks for reposting this and I’m really sorry to hear the sad news. I know how much you admire and love Missoni.

    Gxx

    • Reply tina May 14, 2013 at 9:57 pm

      Thanks G xx

  • Reply Doris May 10, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    I’m sorry to hear of the passing of Missoni. It’s always sad to hear the passing of an icon to which he was to many including yourself. He left a wonderful legacy and inspired many. xD

    • Reply tina May 14, 2013 at 9:58 pm

      Yes, and their Home range is fabulous. Rosita Missoni still heads the Missoni Hotels.x

  • Reply geraldine May 11, 2013 at 8:10 am

    So sad to hear about the passing of an era, a legend. I have a few Missoni outfits that I bought for my daughter that she had outgrown. I’m going to keep them now. Your Missoni inspired decor is wonderful Tina. Take care lovely and see you tomorrow xx

    • Reply tina May 14, 2013 at 10:00 pm

      Oh yes, Geraldine, you must keep those outfits. They will never date. When I went to their 50th anniversary Fashion show at the V&A, they showed key pieces of every year. You could have worn any of them and look current. Just fabulous. xx

  • Reply Alison Sye May 11, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    What a lovely post, Tina. You’re right, they haven’t dated at all. Love the fact that you still wear the clothes today. I especially like the cardigan – both inside and out. Your home is lovely. Is that Marilyn I see?
    Enjoy the rest of the weekend. x

    • Reply tina May 14, 2013 at 10:01 pm

      Thanks A. Yes, love the cardigan. Bit scraed to wash it. It’s falling apart a little so I’m careful.
      Yes, haha, it’s Marilyn. Well spotted Sleuth. Thanks love x

  • Reply Catherine Bedson May 12, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    So sorry to hear about the passing of Ottavio. How much can a family bare. So so sad. I walked past a store yesterday with a Missoni display in the front window and instantly thought of you. The repost of your wonderful story last year is a very fitting and lovely tribute Tina. Catherine xxx

    • Reply tina May 14, 2013 at 10:02 pm

      Haha. Many people tell me that when they see Missoni they think of me:-) Thanks Catherine xx

  • Reply noreen May 13, 2013 at 1:05 am

    wow, tina, that was very interesting! i’ve always enjoyed seeing missoni – it’s so recognizable. your previous blog was all new information, and i love the way you decorated your home. i can’t believe rosita was 79 and opening hotels!

    so sad about the passing of ottavio, and the tragic loss of their son. you’re right about the clothes being timeless!

    • Reply tina May 14, 2013 at 10:11 pm

      Yes, I think so too. Although many people copy, it’s the colours that stand out. It’s difficult to copy great colour!
      Oh, glad you hadn’t seen the post and found it interesting. As a teacher you will understand how something like this can influence you. I was instantly smitten when I walked into the shop at tender 15 years of age. It left an everlasting impression on me and my fixation with colours/patterns started back then. Texture came later for me.

      Can you believe it? 79 and starting on a hotel in Edinburgh and now in many more countries. Didn’t she look radiant? I believe that a good attitude in life will keep you young. I hope that the tragic death of her eldest son and now the loss of Ottavio will not throw her off course but maybe give her more fire in her belly to steer forward this wonderful legacy of the Missoni brand. I think she’s still very much needed! Wishing her lots of strength and love!

  • Reply leah of sang the bird May 16, 2013 at 6:26 am

    Thanks for reposting this T. It is a beautiful tribute. Ottavio was an amazing man, and Rosita is so elegant and beautiful and full of life and creativity. So much sadness for one family in such a short period of time…. So sad. I know the timeless pieces of beauty they create will live on xx

    • Reply tina May 16, 2013 at 6:22 pm

      Thanks Leah. Don’t think we knew each other when I first posted it?

      Rosita is pure Italian chic. Sending them much love and strength. You are right, the legacy will live on and on into many generations. xx

  • Reply Holly May 17, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    Such sad news for the design world. This was a perfectly appropriate post.

    Thanks Tina. Xx

    • Reply tina May 17, 2013 at 9:47 pm

      Thnaks Holly. I’m sure you read it when I first posted it. Mike just gave me the obituary written in the Financial Times…xx

  • Reply hello, my name is paul smith colourliving November 28, 2013 at 3:10 pm

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