Fashion Boss From Italy Lost in Flight Off Venezuela

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A small plane carrying four Italian tourists, including the head of the Missoni fashion business, disappeared off the coast of Venezuela on Friday morning, prompting a sea and air search that continued Saturday.

Vittorio Missoni, 58, an owner of the family-run label famed for its zigzag knitwear, and his wife, Maurizia Castiglioni, were aboard the plane, which was missing after takeoff from the island resort of Los Roques, the company confirmed Saturday. The plane was bound for the international airport near the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, normally a half-hour trip.

Venezuelan officials said that four passengers and two crew members were aboard.

The interior minister, Néstor Reverol, said Friday night on Venezuelan television that the plane, a BN2 Islander, took off from Los Roques at 11:29 a.m. and that its last known position was 10 nautical miles south of Los Roques, an archipelago that is a popular destination among wealthy Europeans, particularly Italians.

The Missoni family is widely revered in the Italian fashion industry for its kaleidoscopic patterns applied over the years to sweaters, home furnishings, beach towels and even water bottles. A wildly popular collaboration with Target in 2011, which revitalized international interest in the label, included a Missoni-print bicycle.

The company was founded in the 1950s by Ottavio and Rosita Missoni, who by the 1970s were among the most prominent designers in Italian fashion. Their three children -- Vittorio, Angela and Luca -- took over the company in the 1990s, when the family business had lost some of its appeal, and they are credited with turning it around.

Missoni's sales have been reported as modest, around $100 million annually, but the label has the prominence of a far bigger business as a result of the family's dashing personalities. Mr. Missoni spearheaded the brand's global expansion, first as general director of marketing and then as the company's top executive in Italy and the United States.

A spokeswoman for Missoni said that the family had been informed by the Venezuelan Consulate that the plane had disappeared, but that they had not given up hope as the search continued. Italian news media staked out the company headquarters in Sumirago, Italy, in the foothills of the Alps, where the management met on Saturday. The news agency Ansa reported that family members were congregating in their nearby villa, while Luca Missoni had flown to Venezuela.

The company's offices in Milan were closed on Saturday, but an employee, who declined to give her name, was answering the phones "because a lot of employees are calling to get information," she said. "But we have very little news to tell them."

Several Italian news broadcasts led with the disappearance of Mr. Missoni, noting that small planes have repeatedly taken Italian tourists to their deaths off Los Roques. One plane, carrying 14 people, 8 of them Italian, disappeared five years ago, on Jan. 4, 2008.

Mr. Missoni, an avid sport fisherman, and his wife were on vacation with friends, according to the company. The other passengers have been identified in Italian news reports as Elda Scalvenzi and Guido Foresti.

The Missoni siblings jointly own the company. Vittorio has managed the company's commercial and manufacturing operations; Angela is the designer; and Luca the creative director.

Part of Mr. 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. 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.

In 2005, the company created a successful fragrance business with Estée Lauder and, under Mr. Missoni's direction, expanded into the hotel business with the Rezidor Hotel Group. The first Hotel Missoni opened in Edinburgh in 2009.

William Neuman contributed reporting from Caracas, Venezuela, and Elisabetta Povoledo from Rome.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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