Founded by Ottavio and Rosita Missoni in 1953

Ottavio Missoni Designer Biography

Ottavio Missoni, born in 1921, initially pursued a career as an international athlete, fueled by his early passion for sports. After World War Two, Ottavio ventured into business alongside his friend Giorgio Oberweger, specializing in the production of wool track-suits. These track-suits gained popularity and were chosen by the Italian team for the 1948 Olympics held in London.

Ottavio’s life took a significant turn when he crossed paths with Rosita, the daughter of a shawl producer. Their marriage in 1953 marked the beginning of a remarkable journey in the world of fashion. Together, they established a modest knitwear boutique in Gallarate, a town in Northern Italy.

The turning point arrived in 1958 when the couple unveiled their inaugural collection, named ‘Milano-Simpathy,’ in Milan at La Rinascente. This collection, characterized by bold colors and stripes, signaled the birth of a distinctive aesthetic. The same year brought the arrival of their first child, Angela.

As the 1960s unfolded, their designs began to grace the pages of fashion magazines. Anna Piaggi, an editor at Ariana magazine, took a keen interest in their work in 1965, providing a significant boost to their brand recognition.

Rosita’s trip to New York in the same year led to a collaboration with French stylist Emmanuelle Kahn. Together, they designed a groundbreaking collection that defied traditional knitwear conventions.

In 1967, they received an invitation to showcase their creations at the Pitti Palace in Florence. At this memorable event, Rosita asked models to remove their bras, creating a sensation as the clothing became transparent under the catwalk lights. The same year marked their first cover appearance, gracing the front page of Arianna magazine. By the end of 1967, they had established a presence in the Parisian fashion scene.

Recognition in the United States came in 1968, with French Elle featuring their design on its front page.

1969 was a milestone year, as Woman’s Wear Daily dedicated its opening page to them. That same year, they crossed paths with Diana Vreeland in Rome. Impressed by their style, Vreeland arranged meetings with buyers in the USA, culminating in the opening of their first boutique in Bloomingdale’s, New York, in 1970.

In 1973, they received the prestigious ‘Neiman Marcus Fashion Award.’ Three years later, they opened a boutique in Milan, further cementing their presence in the fashion world. In 1979, they unveiled their first menswear collection.

The year 1980 marked the debut of their first fragrance and the opening of a new boutique in Paris. In 1984, another boutique was added in New York. In 1986, Ottavio received the ‘Commendatore al Merito’ award from the Italian Republic.

In 1998, Rosita handed over the reins of the business to her daughter Angela. The same year, they introduced a new line for both men and women, ‘M Missoni.’ The year concluded with the opening of a flagship store in New York.

The new millennium brought the creation of an internet site in 2000, and in 2003, they celebrated their 50th anniversary in fashion with a retrospective show featuring over 100 archive pieces. This retrospective traveled to the Yoyogi Stadium in Tokyo and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Today, the brand boasts a global presence with stores worldwide and is celebrated for its exceptional knitwear. Renowned for its fine yarns, vibrant color palettes, and intricate patterns, it has become an iconic Italian fashion and knitwear brand.

Between 2007 and 2009, Massimo Gasparini briefly held the position of CEO, implementing a new organizational structure and refining the product offering.

In September 2011, the brand gained widespread attention when Target Stores released affordable versions of their products, causing a frenzy of sales both in stores and online.

Tragedy struck on January 4, 2013, when Vittorio Missoni, then CEO of the company, went missing in a plane crash off the coast of Venezuela. His body, along with those of other passengers, was later recovered.

Designer Patricia Urquiola was responsible for redesigning their stores starting from 2013. In February 2014, Rossella Jardini, former creative director of Moschino, was hired as a consultant.

In 2018, the family sold a 41.2% stake in the company to investment fund Fondo Strategico Italiano (FSI) for €70 million, retaining a 58.8% share. Angela Missoni, then CEO, announced plans to list the company on the Borsa Italiana within three years.

The brand encompasses several lines, including Missoni Sport, M Missoni, Missoni Home, and Missoni Kids. Missoni Home collaborated with Dar Al Arkan Real Estate Development Company to decorate the Urban Oasis building in Dubai with its line. The company’s involvement extends to the hotel industry with the launch of Hotel Missoni, although the agreement ceased in 2014.

Missoni Baia, their first residential real estate development, was initiated in Miami, Florida, in 2017.

They have collaborated with various manufacturers for eyewear and watch collections and engaged in philanthropic initiatives, such as fundraising for cancer research with Jennifer Lopez.

Missoni Biography

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Written by Saxony Dudbridge

Saxony Dudbridge was one of the first contributors to the Catwalk Yourself project, Saxony studies International Fashion Marketing and she is responsible for our great History and Designers Biographies sections.

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