Vittorio Missoni, the second-generation chief executive of Italian fashion house Missoni, has disappeared off the coast of Venezuela, after the airplane he was travelling on vanished.
The plane, which was carrying the family business heir, his wife Maurizia Castiglione, two friends of the couple and two crew members, was reported missing late on 4 January. A large-scale search involving over 385 military personnel, divers and volunteers began over the weekend and remains ongoing.
Missoni, who took over the private family-owned business with his siblings in 1996, was travelling between Caracas and the luxury destination of Los Roques, an archipelago famed for its rich aquatic life.
"The small plane they were travelling on has disappeared,” the company confirmed in a statement released on 5 January.
“The company awaits news from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and all other institutions involved… As more information becomes available the company will issue further statements.”
The family business was established by Missoni’s parents Ottavio and Rosita in 1953.
Missoni, 57, learnt the process of making yarns and fabrics firsthand as a child, before moving on to production and distribution.
Struck by the European recession in 2009, Missoni was forced to centralise its operations and fire five senior managers in order to cut costs; sales dropped by 15%.
Figures improved by 2011. The group finished the year with revenues, including its wholesale licensing business, of €150 million, a 10% increase on 2010. In an interview with CampdenFB in 2010, Missoni said his company would combat the recession without using competitive pricing.
"Even though we love to sell, we need to concentrate on selected distribution,” he said. "A piece of Missoni is something that you keep for longer than six months. It is fashionable, but its quality and Italian tradition give it greater value.”
In a 2012 interview with the Italian press, Missoni attributed the company’s resilience to its international reach. “We’ll be able to compensate for the fall in sales in Italy, thanks to exports which now make up 80% of our revenues.”
Vittorio is also credited with integrating the third generation of Missonis into the business. Vittorio’s son Ottavio works on production, while his niece Margherita has moved from a career in modelling and acting in New York to work alongside Missoni’s fashion design team in Italy. Margherita, 27, has been active on Twitter following her uncle’s disappearance, retweeting requests for further information and messages of support since Saturday.