Ottavio “Tai” Missoni, founder of his eponymous Italian knitwear company, Missoni, died peacefully in his home in Northern Italy at the age of 92.
Mr. Missoni has left behind a compelling legacy. His unexpected fashion narrative began during his time as a track and field star, when he and fellow teammate Giorgio Oberweger produced the “Venjulia” wool tracksuit for the Italian team in the 1948 London Olympics. In London, Mr. Missoni enjoyed the opportunity of qualifying for the 400 meter hurdle race, as well as meeting his future wife, Rosita, whose family ran a shawl and embroidery business.
The artisan duo set up a workshop where they developed machinery that would produce the distinctive and now-iconic Missoni zigzag pattern. Though they worked in tandem, Ottavio was the technical half, masterfully concocting vibrant and animated designs that took influence from folk textiles and Art Deco paintings. Their allegiance with fashion editor Anna Piaggi put the company’s name on the map in the mid-60s and in the birth of the read-to-wear era of the 1970s, “Missoni-ism” had found mass appeal. The knitwear company has since then diversified to home decor and fragrances under the management of the Missoni children, but the hallmark space-dyed and melange knits remain highly covetable and collectable.
The patriarch’s death comes as an untimely second blow to a family that is still mourning the disappearance of Ottavio and Rosita’s son, Vittorio, whose plane went missing off the coast of a Venezuelan island four months ago. But the legacy of Ottavio Missoni is one of family and artisanship, and surviving family members will continue to preserve these values.