Missoni was born in 1921 in Dubrovnik, Croatia, son of an Italian sea captain and a Austrian countess. After being stationed with the Italian army in Egypt during WWII, he spent four years as a prison of war, captured by the British. In Italy after the War, he was a track and field star who made wool track suits, even competing for Italy in the 1948 Olympics in London. When he married Rosita Jelmini, he learned her family’s knitting business. Rosita and Ottavio first showed their trademark knits under the Missoni name in 1958.
In the 1990s, the Missonis’ children—Vittorio, Luca and Angela—joined the business. Daughter Angela has designed the collection since 1996. Vittorio, who ran the business side of Missoni, was among four Italian tourists who disappeared in a plane off the coast of Venezuela in early January.
The family-run company does about $100 million in sales, according to industry estimates.