Founder of Italy's fashion house Missoni dies at 92

Thu May 9, 2013 9:16am EDT
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By Isla Binnie

MILAN (Reuters) - Ottavio Missoni, founder of the global family fashion empire that spawned the no-bra look and revolutionized textile patterns with its trademark bold stripes and zig-zag patterns, died on Thursday aged 92.

A company spokeswoman said Missoni, commonly known by his nickname "Tai," died during the night in the northern town of Sumirago, at the family home next to the company's factory. He had been recently hospitalized for heart problems.

"When I think of Missoni, I like to paraphrase a song by Mina: 'colors, colors, colors'," Milan Mayor Giuliano Pisapia in one of many tributes.

Pisapia, likening Missoni's designs to a rainbow, praised his cheerful disposition and said the company had made a major contribution to raising the global profile of all things made in Italy.

Missoni, who was born of Italian parents in what is now Dubrovnik, Croatia, founded the company with his wife Rosita, whom he met while competing in the 1948 London Olympics, where he ran the 400 meters hurdles.

His promising early athletic career was interrupted by World War II. Ottavio, fighting on the Italian side in the Battle of El Alamein, was captured by the British and held as a prisoner of war for four years in Egypt.

"He likes to poke fun (at the English), saying that he was a guest of His Majesty the King of Britain," Rosita said during an interview with Reuters last May, in which Ottavio also took part.

"I started running again with the little that was left in me because naturally, after four years as a prisoner of war I was not in top physical form, but I must have had something left in me and I won the Italian (4 X 400) title and was chosen to go to the Olympics," he said.   Continued...

Ottavio Missoni, 91, poses with his wife Rosita, 81, at their company headquarters in Sumirago, northern Italy April 24, 2012. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi