Vittorio Missoni, 58, an owner of the family-run Missoni fashion business who is generally credited with expanding the Italian company into a global brand, was aboard a small plane that has been missing off the coast of Venezuela since Friday morning. He was traveling with his wife, Maurizia Castiglioni, two friends and two crew members from the resort area of Los Roques to the Simon Bolivar International Airport in Caracas, normally about a 40-minute journey.
Search teams were using a plane and two helicopters as well as several Coast Guard vessels and 29 divers, the Associated Press reports, in an area popular with scuba divers for its white beaches and coral reefs. Vittorio is said to be an avid fisherman.
"I saw them right in front of me as they were swallowed up by a huge cumulus cloud," the pilot of a nearby plane told Turin daily La Stampa in an interview published today, according to Reuters. "It was a lightning bolt. It must have been a lightning bolt." But, Jennifer Clark reports, the family believes Vittorio is still alive “and begged rescuers to find him.”
“All the authorities involved in these tasks are not reducing the intensity of the search until they locate the plane as well as its crew and passengers,” the Venezuelan government said in a written statement yesterday.
Ottavio, an Olympic sprinter, and his wife, Rosita, Missoni founded the business in 1953 in the Lombardy region of northern Italy. Vittorio, his younger brother, Luca –- who flew to Venezuela to monitor the search operation -- and their sister Angela are now joint owners of the company whose celebrity clients include such trendsetters as Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, Kate Moss and Kate Middleton.
“Missoni knitwear is known for its multitude of patterns, which feature colored stripes, geometric patterns and abstract florals,” report Bloomberg News’ Sonia Sirletti and Jose Orozco, but it has diversified into such projects as a fragrance business with Estée Lauder, five-star hotels with Rezidor Hotel Group (with interiors designed by Missoni) and a 2011 agreement with Target to sell Missoni-branded products such as clothing, housewares and bikes.
Target’s web site “sputtered, wheezed and went on life support for most of the day as cybershoppers turned out in droves to purchase items from the Missoni for Target limited-edition collection of fashion and home décor items,” we reported when the collection made its debut in September, 2011.
The siblings, who have equal ownership of the company, have well-defined roles. “Vittorio has managed the company’s commercial and manufacturing operations; Angela is the designer; and Luca the creative director,” reports Eric Wilson in the New York Times.
“‘Vittorio was the helmsman of the company,’ according to Italian Vogue editor Francesca Sozzani, who tweeted ‘Bring Vittorio home’ in the hours after the plane disappeared,” reports Barbie Latza Nadeau in a Daily Beast piece carrying the hed, “Missoni Brand’s Future Uncertain as Search Continues for Company’s Helmsman.”
But the story also carries a quote from Luca Solca, head of luxury goods research at Exane BNP Paribas, that originally ran in Bloomberg: “As tragic and unfortunate as this is, Missoni will find a way to appoint a new head, while operations should go on largely on a business-as-usual manner.” One reason is that despite its outsized reputation, it’s a small company, “which should make it feasible to manage a transition.”
The company has estimated annual sales of between $75 million and $100 million, CNN reports.
“Vittorio played a key role in marketing the Missoni family's creations in Asia -- especially in Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea -- as general director of marketing for Missoni SpA,” according to an AP report in the Wall Street Journal with contributions from Christina Binkley. “He also spearheaded a push for the company's products in the U.S. and France. His efforts to expand the brand abroad led Missoni to be dubbed the company's ‘ambassador,’” the story says.
“Part of Missoni’s strategy has been to focus on the Missoni lifestyle, opening about 40 stores around the world and creating advertising campaigns featuring many of the family’s glamorous members,” writes Wilson in the New York Times. “In one image, Margherita Missoni, a daughter of Angela, appears with Ottavio and Vittorio, who are relaxing on a zigzag weave couch. The family’s compound in Sardinia has been featured in countless articles.”
“It’s quite a family business and we have also a new generation who’s been involved,” Missoni said on a video that was posted on YouTube earlier this year, reports ABC News’ Alyssa Newcomb.