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Fashion Designer Ottavio Missoni Dies At The Age Of 92

posted 9 May 2013, 05:09 by Mpelembe   [ updated 9 May 2013, 05:10 ]

Missoni fashion house founder Ottavio Missoni dies at the age of 92.

VIENNAAUSTRIA (MAY 24, 25, 2003)  (REUTERS) -  Italian fashion designer Ottavio Missoni, famous for his zig-zag patterns and the first to put bra-less models on the catwalk, died on Thursday (May 09) aged 92, a spokeswoman for the family said.

The one-time Olympic hurdler founded his fashion empire with his wife Rosita.

Their partnership and empire began at the 1948 London Olympics.

Rosita was 16, going on 17, a shy Italian girl in London to improve her English. He was 27, a tall, strappingly handsome member of the Italian 400 metres hurdles team at the games where the world was trying to put the devastation of war behind it.

Speaking to Reuters in May 2012, the then 91-year-old Ottavio said: "I got to the 1948 Olympics after five years of absolute inactivity, and that is truly a record," explaining he had been fighting on the Italian side in the Battle of El Alemein before being captured by the British and held for four years in Egypt.

"It wasn't exactly a Club Med type of environment ideal for training," he said, laughing as he leaned back on a Missoni pillow.

"I was ..." And, like most couples who have been together for a lifetime, Rosita finished her husband's thought: "He likes to make fun saying that he was a guest of the Queen of Britain".

In 1948, much of Italy was still recovering from the war's devastation; the Marshall Plan to rebuild the country was in its teething phase and for many, the LondonOlympics offered a badly need chance to cheer national athletes.

Few people had televisions in their homes. Most watched the Games in bars and store windows or on news reels in cinemas.

"Those were beautiful Olympic Games because everything was natural and spontaneous, not like now, when everything is inflated, blown out of proportion," said Ottavio.

After she first saw him run at Wembley, Rosita and her school mates were invited to lunch with the Italian athletes in Brighton.

They married in 1953 and set up a small workshop making track suits in Gallarate, near Rosita's home village, and later moved on to knitwear, presenting their first collection in Milan in 1958 at the dawn of what was to become known as Italy's economic miracle.

"We sought to break the rules ... we lived in very favourable times because it was the beginning of what then came to be called Pret-a-Porter," Rosita said.

"High fashion was declining and there was this new thing, Ready-to-Wear, that was kicking off and we found ourselves in this situation in the early 1960s. With our ten years of experience, we knew what we wanted to do and tried to find our own way," she said.

Today, the company Ottavio and Rosita founded on a shoestring, has become a fashion dynasty run by their children Luca, Angela and Vittorio and some grandchildren.

Based in the northern Italian village of Sumirago and within sight of Monte Rosa, or pink mountain, Switzerland's highest peak, the company employs about 250 people and in 2011 had revenue of more than 150 million euros ($197.60 million).

Their oldest son, Vittorio, is believed to have died in January when a small plane that was also carrying his wife and four others disappeared off the coast ofVenezuela while they were on holiday.