Roberto Cavalli, Legendary Italian Fashion Designer, Dies at 83

Roberto Cavalli, former designer and founder of the eponymous fashion brand, has died. He was 83.

The famous fashion designer had been ill for a long time, leaving and entering the hospital more and more often for ritual checkups, his family told The Hollywood Reporter.

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The company also shared the news on its official Instagram, writing, “Roberto succeeded in becoming a globally recognised name loved and respected by all. Naturally talented and creative, Roberto believed that everyone can discover and nurture the artist within themselves.”

In 1970, he made his debut in Paris with the brands that still bear his name today. Art has always been in Cavalli’s DNA. His grandfather was a painter of the Macchiaioli current and his works are still on display in the Uffizi Gallery in Italy.

As a young man, the Florentine fashion designer also followed an artistic vocation: He studied at the Florence State Institute of Art, specializing in textile applications of painting. His works attracted the attention of big names in French fashion, such as Hermès and Pierre Cardin, but the big leap came when he presented the first collection bearing his name at the Salon du Prêt-à-Porter in Paris. Then, it was the turn of Florence and Milan. It wasn’t long before his career was on the rise.

Cavalli imposed himself with a seductive and bold new style of ripped jeans, patchwork, leather and brocades, but his trademark was — and still is — animal prints: spotted, tiger, zebra. He imagined the women who wore his clothes as wild creatures: lionesses, panthers, tigers, charming and wild.

Immediately, the Cavalli brand became associated with the idea of luxury, wealth and hedonism. The designer opened his first boutique in St. Tropez, France, the most exclusive vacation destination for VIPs, in 1972.

His gritty, super glamorous fashion defined the style of the 1990s: skinny jeans, slip dresses and bright prints inspired by nature, including snakes and flowers. If Coco Chanel’s motto was “less is more,” Cavalli’s motto might have been “more is more.” In his transgressive collections, silk is juxtaposed with leather, suede and denim.

Alongside the designer’s signature haute couture and ready-to-wear collections, the RC Menswear brand and the youth line Just Cavalli — launched in 1998 and offering accessories, sunglasses, watches, fragrances, lingerie and swimwear — had also been born. Then, in the 2000s, the Roberto Cavalli Home division was born, presented at the Salone del Mobile in 2012.

The designer leaves a huge void in fashion even though, in 2015, he had sold the eponymous company founded in the 1970s. Today, it belongs to Dubai billionaire Hussain Sajwani’s Vision Investments and is designed by Fausto Puglisi, who continues the path designed by Cavalli.

His survivors include his longtime partner Sandra Bergman Nilsonn and his six children, Tommaso, Cristiana, Robert, Rachele, Daniele and Giorgio.

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