Missoni founder dies, leaves Italian fashion dynasty

Missoni founder dies: The patriarch of the iconic fashion brand of zigzag-patterned knitwear, Ottavio Missoni, passed on. The Missoni fashions have a reputation for wearability and for surviving many seasons of changing fashion whims

(AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File)
Ottavio Missoni, right, and his daughter Angela in Milan, Italy in 2011. Italian fashion company Missoni says its co-founder, Ottavio Missoni, has died in his home earlier on Thursday, May 9, 2013 in northern Italy.

Ottavio Missoni, the patriarch of the iconic fashion brand of zigzag-patterned knitwear that has added a classy touch of color and style to countless well-dressed women, died Thursday in northern Italy. He was 92.

A statement issued by Missoni SpA said he "passed away serenely" in his home in the town of Sumirago on Thursday. The town, near the city of Varese, is also home to the company headquarters.

It was a second sorrow for the family in a matter of months. Earlier this year, Ottavio's eldest child, company CEO Vittorio Missoni, 58, disappeared with his wife and four others while flying in a small plane during a vacation to a Venezuelan island. They were never found, and the cause of the disappearance remains a mystery.

Ottavio Missoni founded the company in 1953, along with his wife, Rosita Jelmini, who survives him. They went on to create a fashion dynasty, with the couple's three children and their offspring involved in expanding the brand.

The company's creative director is the couple's daughter, Angela, while a third child, Luca, works in a technical role in the company. Family-run companies are a hallmark of Italian businesses, commonly beginning with a small company and slowly expanding with the help of often fiercely loyal employees.

Born on Feb. 11, 1921, in what is now Dubrovnik, a picturesque Adriatic coastal city in Croatia, Missoni was fond of saying he came into the fashion business practically by accident. His wife's family owned a textile factory and produced shawls. The couple started their own business with an artisan's shop producing knitwear in Gallarate, near Milan.

At the beginning, they produced athletic wear, likely inspired by Missoni himself, who had been a track-and-field star, specializing in 400-meter races and hurdles. He won several national medals, and competed in the 1948 Olympics.

The company expanded, eventually constructing its main factory in Sumirago. But the philosophy of applying an artisan's eye to detail and precision continued to shape its fashion output, on the runways of Milan and in stores worldwide as their brand went global.

The Missonis, who often wore their own creations in everyday life, first showed their collection in Milan in 1966. The next year, a show in Florence of transparent tops sparked outrage, but they were ahead of a fashion trend that would later sprout in Europe.

Their signature fashions have a reputation for wearability and for surviving many seasons of changing fashion whims. Among the exhibits honoring them was one by the Whitney Museum in New York. New York's Metropolitan Museum has also showcased their creations.

The Missoni fashion house has also created costumes for La Scala, the Milan opera house.

Expanding the fashion dynasty, Ottavio and Rosita Missoni's granddaughter, Margherita, has promoted Missoni perfume and has starred in advertising campaigns.

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D'Emilio and AP Fashion Writer Daniela Petroff contributed from Rome.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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