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GALLARATE, Italy — Rarely could a funeral be more colorful than Ottavio Missoni’s, as his family, friends, several members of the fashion industry, employees and the city’s well-wishers filled Gallarate’s Basilica and its facing square on Monday, wearing multihued zigzagged, twirly and patterned scarves, lightweight knits and shirts.
Missoni’s strong personality trickled through the words of the minister, Don Giulio Della Vite; the reminiscences of his daughter Angela and his granddaughter Margherita, among others, and in music that wafted through the 19th century frescoed vaults. Ludwig Van Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” — the European anthem and a soundtrack of the Olympics — and Giuseppe Verdi’s “Va, Pensiero” chorus on the Jews in exile filled the church — Missoni’s own exile from Dalmatia a painful memory for the designer, entrepreneur, prisoner of war and former athlete who died last week at age 92.
“He challenged God by kneading colors, and he once asked me what kind of a designer God would be, ” said Della Vite of Missoni, whom he praised for his vision and talent, describing him as taking “dreams’ designs to make them into clothes.”
Della Vite continued: “Fashion passes but style remains. We are here to take lessons in style from a man of style.”
Della Vite had the audience giggling as he recounted a conversation last June with Missoni, who said: “‘If God exists, he is an artist; actually he is a designer. But God is not how you priests tell us, because either we turned out badly or he is not that good at drawing.’”
Missoni’s son Vittorio, who went missing in January, was also referenced during the ceremony. “At times in life, soft threads can become intricate knots,” said the priest.
Among those assembled in the Basilica were Brunello Cucinelli, Roberta Armani, Lavinia Biagiotti, Alberto Aspesi, Valentino’s chief executive officer Stefano Sassi, Mario Boselli, Beppe Modenese, Carla and Franca Sozzani, Maria Luisa Trussardi, Joyce Ma, Joan and Caroline Burstein, and luxury consultant Armando Branchini.
“I was very proud as a child to have him as a father, but as an adolescent not as much, as I perceived him as absent,” said Angela Missoni. “But then, with my brothers, we realized that he was there for us and that he had enlightening words for us: He was a free man and he left us free, he never judged us.”