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Ottavio and Rosita Missoni


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Missoni is an Italian fashion house based in Varese. It is notable for its knitwear designs, made from a variety of fabrics in colorful patterns. The company was founded by Ottavio (“Tai”) and Rosita Missoni in 1953.

Ottavio “Tai” Missoni was born in 1921 in Dubrovnik (Ragusa in Italian).His father, Vittorio Missoni, was an Italian sea captain (and son of a Furlan magistrate transferred in the then Austrian- ruled Dalmatia) and his mother, Teresa de’ Vidovich Countess di Capocesto e Ragosniza, was a Dalmatian noblewoman.  Before World War II he was an international athlete, but spent most of the war as a POW in Egypt.  After the war he set up a workshop with his friend Giorgio Oberweger, making wool track-suits.

His “Venjulia” tracksuits were adopted by the Italian team at the 1948 Olympics in London, and Tai himself qualified for the final of the 400m hurdle race.   At Wembley he met Rosita Jelmini, daughter of a family of shawl makers in Golasecca in the province of Varese.

They married in April 1953, and set up a small knitwear workshop in Gallarate, not far from Rosita’s home village.  In 1958 they presented in Milan their first collection, called Milano-Simpathy, which was the first to bear the Missoni label.  The business prospered, with the support of legendary editor Anna Piaggi, then at Arianna.  On a trip to New York, Rosita met the French stylist Emmanuelle Khanh in 1965, which led to a collaboration and a radical new collection the following year.  Their fame was assured in April 1967, when they were invited to show at the Pitti Palace in Florence.  Rosita told the models to remove their bras, supposedly because they were the wrong colour and showed through the thin lamé blouses.  The material became transparent under the lights and caused a sensation.

The Missonis were not invited back the following year, but the business went from strength to strength, building a new factory in Sumirago in 1969.  With their designs being championed in the US by Diana Vreeland, editor of Vogue magazine, they opened their first boutique there, inside Bloomingdales.

In the early 1970s Missoni reached the peak of its influence in the fashion world. Tai Missoni then became more interested in other projects, everything from designing costumes for La Scala, to designing carpets and tapestries. Rosita has admitted that in the 1990s she lost interest in fashion, before handing over to her daughter Angela in 1998. Rosita now is responsible for overseeing the design of all home projects. Missoni knitwear is known for its multitude of patterns such as stripes, geometrics, and abstract florals, in a kaleidoscope of colours.  They are also known for the liberal use of many different fabrics such as wool, cotton, linen, rayon and silk.

On September 13, 2011, Missoni made headlines briefly when Target Stores offered low-cost variants of Missoni products in their stores and on their website.  Most items sold out within 24 hours, with lines up to 100 people long waiting for restocking, and Target’s website crashed repeatedly. Many items appeared on eBay within hours, at two to three times markup.

The three children of the founders play a large part in the business. Vittorio (born 1954) is the Marketing Director, Luca (born 1956) was responsible for the design of the menswear collection through to the Spring/Summer 2008 collection. Angela (born 1958) was only the womenswear designer but took over menswear beginning with the Fall/Winter 2008/2009 collection. Luca in turn became the head Creative Director/Director of the company from then on.

Luca’s daughter, Jennifer Missoni, is an actress who has appeared in Off Broadway theatre productions, and in episodes of Damages and the Law & Order series.  Angela’s daughter, Margherita, designs accessories at Missoni and is also a model, signed to [Marilyn Agency]. She is the unofficial muse of the Missoni collection and the face of their two perfumes and was the face for Missoni for Target collection. Creative Director Angela Missoni brought her entire family and some friends to London for one of their latest campaigns, shot in London’s Museum of Everything.

Aside from the main Missoni line, the company has diversified into a variety of luxury goods. Missoni Sport was initially licensed out but production and marketing was brought in-house in January 2002 and has since been discontinued.  M Missoni is a less expensive line introduced in 1998, manufactured and distributed by Marzotto (now Valentino Fashion Group S.p.A). It has achieved remarkable success in being able to reach a larger number of consumers and is now being sold at premier department and specialty stores across the world.

The Missoni Home collection has its roots in furnishing fabrics produced in 1981 in collaboration with Rosita’s family firm.  They launched their first perfume in 1982,  although that product has nothing to do with the license now held by Estée Lauder.

In November 2005, Missoni and the Rezidor Hotel Group signed an agreement to create Hotel Missoni, a lifestyle hotel chain, with plans to have 30 hotels open or in development by 2012. As of March 2011, five properties have been confirmed.

  • Hotel Missoni Edinburgh – Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom – opened June 8, 2009
  • Hotel Missoni Kuwait – Kuwait City, Kuwait – opened March 1, 2011
  • Hotel Missoni Jebel Sifah – Muscat, Oman – opening Q1 2012
  • Hotel Missoni Ilha de Cajaíba – Bahia, Brazil – opening Q1 2012
  • Hotel Missoni Belek – Belek, Turkey – opening Q1 2013
  • Hotel Missoni Mauritius – Baie du Cap, Mauritius – opening 2014

The first property, Hotel Missoni Edinburgh, opened on June 8, 2009 in a prime location on the city’s Royal Mile. The second property, Hotel Missoni Kuwait, will open in a luxury mixed-use development on the seafront in early 2010. A property was previously announced for Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah island, but has since been cancelled. The third announced property for the chain will be the 300-room Hotel Missoni Jebel Sifah, a beachfront resort located outside of Muscat, Oman; it is planned to open in the first quarter of 2012. A fourth property, Hotel Missoni Cape Town, was announced on June 9, 2009; the 157-room property was due to open in 2010 shortly after the FIFA World Cup, but has been placed on hold and temporarily scrapped. The chain’s fifth property, the 150-room Hotel Missoni Ilha de Cajaíba, will debut in northeast Brazil in early 2012. A new 138-room golf and spa resort in Belek, Turkey, was announced in 2010; it is due to open in 2013.

 

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