Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli, renowned for his opulent creations and vibrant patterns, passed away in Florence at 83.

His lavish aesthetic, characterised by striking prints drawn from exotic flora and fauna and daringly high hemlines and waistlines, exuded an unapologetically sensual allure. Reflecting Roberto Cavalli opulent lifestyle, his primary abode sprawled across a 13-hectare (32-acre) Tuscan estate, boasting a vineyard, tanning machine, racehorses, Ferraris, and an eclectic menagerie encompassing parrots, iguanas, a Persian cat, a monkey, and even a tiger.

Cavalli introduced his eponymous label in 1970, and he swiftly garnered attention by pioneering a novel method for printing on leather. His groundbreaking technique debuted in his premier collection in Paris, notably highlighted by a striking pink leather evening gown. This innovation promptly attracted commissions from esteemed French fashion houses, including Hermès and Pierre Cardin.

Transitioning his expertise to denim, Cavalli expanded his creative horizons. His autumn/winter ’94 collection marked a milestone by introducing the first-ever sand-blasted jeans. Building on this innovation, the subsequent year saw him collaborate with Lycra to pioneer stretch jeans, quickly gaining popularity for their snug fit. This success spurred the launching of a dedicated denim line, initially known as Cavalli Jeans and later rebranded as Just Cavalli.

Cavalli embarked on a prolific expansion of his fashion empire, diversifying into a myriad of product categories. Beyond clothing, his brand extended to include branded underwear, eyewear, footwear, watches, and perfumes. This expansion continued with ventures into homeware, pet attire, vodka, wines, restaurants, and exclusive members’ clubs, solidifying his presence in various aspects of lifestyle and luxury.

Roberto Cavalli
Cavalli during Milan fashion week show in 2014 Photograph Luca BrunoAP

Despite its widespread popularity, the business faced financial challenges starting in 2014, with annual losses becoming a recurring issue. In 2015, the family decided to sell a 90% stake to the Italian private equity firm Clessidra, reportedly valuing the business at €390 million. However, the company’s financial woes persisted, leading to a filing for bankruptcy protection in March 2019. Subsequently, the Dubai-based Vision Investment Company acquired the brand in the same year, signalling a new chapter in its ownership and management.

In October 2020, the Sicilian designer Fausto Puglisi assumed the role of creative director. Following Cavalli’s passing, Puglisi conveyed a heartfelt message in a statement from the brand, saying, “Dear Roberto, though you may no longer be with us in body, I know your spirit will always be with me.”

“It is the greatest honour of my career to work under your legacy and to create for the brand you founded with such vision and style. Rest in peace, you will be missed dearly, and countless admirers will cherish your memory. Your name will endure as a beacon of inspiration for others, especially me” he added.

The Early Life of the Famous Italian Fashion Designer

Born in 1940 in a small village in Tuscany, Cavalli hailed from a lineage of creativity. His grandfather, Giuseppe Rossi, was a renowned artist and a notable figure in the Macchiaioli movement. Following the tragic loss of his father, who was killed by German soldiers, Cavalli relocated with his mother, a talented seamstress, and his siblings to Florence. During his time at the Academy of Art in Florence in 1957, Cavalli first delved into the realm of textiles, igniting his lifelong passion for design and innovation.

Roberto Cavalli

In 1964, Cavalli married his first wife, Silvanella Giannoni, with whom he had two children. However, their marriage ended in divorce in 1974. In 1980, he tied the knot with Eva Duringer, a former Miss Universe contestant whom he had met while judging the pageant in 1977. The couple welcomed three children together, and Eva became his business partner. Both of them remained as business partners until they sold the business. However, their marriage ultimately ended in divorce in 2010.

In 2023, Cavalli announced the joyous arrival of his sixth child, a son, with his partner, Swedish model and actor Sandra Nilsson.

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