Ottavio Missoni’s life was a lot like the signature knits in his Missoni line: colorful, instantly memorable and zigzagging beautifully along an eclectic, kaleidoscopic path. The fashion icon, who founded the design powerhouse Missoni with his wife Rosita, died this week at 92. Here are a few quick facts about the fashion visionary’s colorful, patterned life:
1. Ottavio was an Olympic athlete.
He competed in the 1948 London Olympic Games as a hurdler for team Italy, coming in sixth. Decades later, at age 90, he won a gold medal in a track and field event for nonagenarian athletes.
2. He was a prisoner of war in Egypt during WWII, which interrupted his blossoming athletic career.
3. Ottavio’s wife, Rosita, was one of his greatest fashion inspirations.
The couple met when Ottavio was operating a knitwear factory in Trieste. Rosita was a schoolgirl from a knitwear family; Ottavio a garment factory owner establishing his penchant for fashion. Five years later, the couple married and launched their own knitwear business together — the roots of the modern day Missoni line. Ottavio and Rosita designed together, building the Missoni brand and pioneering the easy-to-wear knitwear style and vibrant patterns that are the design house’s signatures to this day.
4. Ottavio created the first Missoni zigzag pattern.
Although he and Rosita collaborated on design and fit, Ottavio was the creative vision behind the iconic Missoni print. He used graph paper to create the precise zigzag patterns.
5. Ottavio could navigate a cocktail party conversation with three words.
“You can handle any conversation with just three words,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “ ‘Really,’ ‘sometimes,’ and ‘maybe.’ ”
6. Ottavio loved color.
In his famous quote, Ottavio described color with these eloquent words:
“I like comparing color to music: only seven notes and yet innumerable melodies have been composed with those seven notes. … How many tones or shades does each color have? An infinite number, just as always endless are the hues and nuances composing a work of art.”
Words worth remembering from a designer worth celebrating.