Ottavio Missoni was born February 11, 1921 in what is now Dubrovnik, Croatia. In his youth, Ottavio was a track-and-field star, winning national medals and even competing in the 1948 Olympics. His wife Rosita was the daughter of a shawl manufacturer, and the newlyweds followed in the textile business in 1953, opening a small factory in Gallarte (near Milan), producing athletic jersey knitwear. As the company expanded in size and product line, the main factory was moved to Sumirago.
The Missonis showed their first eponymously named collection in 1958 in Milan, the emerging centre of the Italian ready-to-wear industry. In 1967 the company became famous when they unwittingly showed a scandalous high fashion line at the Pitti Palace in Florence. The lame tops worn by the braless models appeared transparent under the catwalk lights. Although the Missonis were not invited back to the Pitti Palace the next year, their clothes soon graced the covers of all the top fashion magazines. By 1970 the Missoni lightweight silk knitwear, in its trademark Art-Deco inspired geometric patterns had become one of the leading luxury brands Italy became known for in the 1970s.
Ottavio passed away May 9, only four months after his eldest child and CEO of the Missoni company, went missing when his plane disappeared off the coast of Venezuela.