Lost: The Tragic Disappearance of Vittorio Missoni
The Missoni fashion label is one of the most iconic in the world. Starting as a small knitwear company in 1953 by Olympic hurdler Ottavio Missoni and his wife Rosita, the brand has exploded into one of the most influential fashion houses in the industry. Their use of knitting machines and combining the lightweight fabrics with Ottavio’s activewear designs led to a renaissance of Italian sportswear on a scale that challenged the American industry. Not to mention the fact that we modernly consider Milan to be the capital of Italian fashion, all due to Missoni moving their manufacturing from Gallarte to Milan. With the mod movement of the 1960’s, the brightly colored stripes and iconic zigzag patterns of the Missoni designs exploded and became a coveted look around the world. Over the decades the brand grew on an international scale, being featured in fashion magazines around the world. Ottavio and Rosita had three children, Vittorio, Angela and Luca. When Ottavio and Rosita made the decision to step down from the throne of the Missoni empire, it was passed down to their children. Vittorio took the role of Marketing Director and eventually CEO, while Angela and Luca took over the Creative and Technical Direction of the brand. The designs remained popular and a household name through the decades, but the expansion of the brand throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s is all thanks to Vittorio’s marketing finesse. He expanded the brand out of clothing and into hotel chains and housewares. He also set up the partnership with Target in 2008, allowing the brand to become accessible to lower income fashionistas at an affordable price. The Target launch was so successful that the collection sold out in minutes and broke down the Target website for multiple hours.
One of the most lovable things about the brand from the beginning was that the Missoni family was the face of it. There were no mysterious millionaires pulling the strings from behind a curtain. While they partnered with celebrities and supermodels, they mostly used their own family members as models and often invited the press into their homes to take photos and videos of the family together. They were open and honest about the importance of their family and running the business together, making the brand itself feel relatable and real to the average consumer. Which is why what would happen to Vittorio, his wife, and their friends in January of 2013 that much more tragic.
After a New Years vacation in the resort islands of Los Roques, the fashion mogul, his wife Maurizia, and their friends Guido Foresti and Elda Scalvenzi boarded a small private jet that was headed for Venezuela. Less than 30 minutes into the flight, the plane disappeared. The event has been shrouded in mystery since the beginning, leaving the Missoni family, as well as the label’s fans, with more questions than can be answered, even now ten years later.
Below are the 5 most curious details about the disappearance of the Fashion Icon, Vittorio Missoni:
1.The plane disappeared almost immediately.
The flight was only supposed to be about an hour long. Vittorio, his wife, two of their friends and two Venezuelan pilots boarded the private BN-2 Islander plane, leaving the Los Roques resort towards Caracas. They had only flown about 11 miles before the plane suddenly veered to the right and dropped off the radar completely. There was no communication from the pilots other than when they had confirmed to have reached about 5500 feet a few minutes earlier. The plane was claimed to have been in pristine condition and the pilots were very skilled. Because there was zero communication before the plane fell off the radar, there is no way to know exactly what may have gone wrong without investigating the plane itself.
2. Suitcases washed up, but they were completely empty.
In the months after the plane disappeared, three suitcases eventually washed up onto nearby islands. One was recovered near Curacao, but it didn’t belong to anyone on the actual plane. Ironically, it had been placed on the private jet while the owner took a separate flight from Los Roques. About six weeks after the disappearance, two of Missoni’s personal bags were found washed up on the island of Bonaire. What’s most chilling about this is that the bags were reported to have washed up in an opened state. They had been unzipped and were completely empty. While the insides were badly damaged, it was noted that every pocket was completely unzipped. Not ripped…just opened.
3. The route they were on is notorious for disappearing air and sea craft.
It’s hard to ignore the region’s closeness to the Bermuda Triangle. Sitting just outside of the notorious triangle of mystery, the route Missoni and his friends were travelling exists in what locals refer to as the Los Roques Curse, famous for its many reports of drug dealers, piracy, and sudden weather changes. While the U.S. Coastguard claims that the loss of air and sea craft within this zone is no more than any other area of ocean (surprise, surprise), there is no denying the number of strange disappearances which span back hundreds of years and include crafts of all sizes. Conspiracy theories about aliens, vortexes, and portals pile up and spread around, and I mean, who doesn’t love a good paranormal conspiracy? However, fun conspiracies can quickly turn sad and tragic when you consider just how much organized crime exists within this region. The fact that the plane only flew 11 miles and then suddenly dropped to the right before disappearing completely points more to a sudden malfunction, or a high jacking situation.
4. A mysterious text message was sent after the disappearance.
Giving more support to the idea that Vittori’s plane was highjacked, his son, Ottavio told reporters that the cellphone of Guido Foresti, one of the passengers on the missing plane, sent a text message that was received by Foresti’s son. It read “Call now. We are reachable.” It came two days after the plane disappeared. Okay, okay. This could be some unfortunately timed glitch. The message got lost in the ether of cellphone service and took 48 full hours to travel from one phone to the other. It happens. BUT. It’s puzzling and it’s no wonder why it would have sent Ottavio into a frenzied search as to the reason why his mother and father’s plane disappeared without a trace. Unable to accept the possibility of an accident and convinced it was the result of foul play, he even began reaching out personally to every enemy Vittorio had to question them. Eventually, with no new information, and no plane or bodies found, the search for answers went cold.
5. The plane was eventually found, but no bodies were confirmed.
Nearly six full months after the disappearance, the plane was found in pieces about 76 meters under water just north of the Los Roques Islands. An American Deep Sea Ship was coincidentally searching the area for the ruins of a plane crash from January 2008, when they came across the destroyed remains of the BN-2 plane that Missoni was on. Originally when the plane was located, it was reported that five of the six bodies were present and identified as Vitorrio, his wife Maurizia and their friends. Shortly the report was changed to having only recovered three bodies and none had been identified. Reports changed again when the Missoni family came forward with a statement that there was no confirmation that Vitorrio was among those recovered, and it still has not been verified. For all we know, he is still missing, swept away by the ocean’s current. And we may never know exactly what happened either. Reports stop after the plane was found. There was supposed to be an investigation as to why the plane crashed, but the findings of that have not been published. Ottavio’s last statements on the matter claim that an accident is the “least plausible” explanation and continues to believe foul play was involved.
Reports literally stop after August of 2013. Whether the family has chosen to close that chapter and keep the details private, or there are just no more answers to give, we don’t know. Today, the brand has continued to flourish. Maintaining their innovative aesthetic of bright, cheery colors and whimsical zigzags, the brand continues to dominate the runways, show rooms, and home décor. In 2018, the family sold a majority stake of the company to an Italian investment firm, a move that allowed for expansion and public trading. The Missoni family remains in control of 58.8 percent of the company, and the third generation of Missoni family members have stepped in to continue the legacy of the nearly 70-year-old brand.
While the tragic disappearance of Vittorio remains a mystery, the influence of the Missoni label and the legacy of international growth he started remains intact, and its empire still stands among the greatest of Italian fashion.