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Roberto Cavalli passes away in Firenze, aged 83

Known for combining glamour and energy in modern fashion, Roberto Cavalli was often the life and soul of the party
April 12, 2024/23.37

Life Ball, Vienna
Eva and Roberto Cavalli and the house’s custom Mini Paceman at the Life Ball, Wien, 2013.

Roberto Cavalli has died aged 83, according to his company in an Instagram post.

Italian news agency ANSA reported Cavalli passed away in Firenze after a long illness.

He was born in Firenze on November 15, 1940 to Giorgio and Marcella Cavalli. His grandfather, Giuseppe Rossi, was a celebrated impressionist painter, and his mother was a seamstress.

Giorgio Cavalli was murdered by the Nazis in the Cavriglia massacre in 1944. Roberto enrolled at Academy of Art in Firenze, with the intent of becoming an artist, but in 1957, he began experimenting with applying painterly techniques to textiles.

He began with a silk printing business in the 1960s, and from there, he continued his painterly techniques on finished garments and experimented with garment dyeing.

His first marriage to Silvanella Gionnoni in 1964 produced two children, Cristiana and Tommaso, but the couple separated in the late 1960s and divorced in 1974.

His first collection in Paris in 1970 showed leather patchwork designs—he had invented a process of printing on leather, which he patented. Hermès and Pierre Cardin, Krizia and Emilio Pucci took an interest in his work.

In 1972, he presented his first eponymous collection at the prêt-à-porter shows in Paris, then the Sala Bianca di Palazzo Pitti in Firenze. The collection featured patchwork designs applied to jeans.

He opened his first boutique in St-Tropez in 1972.

In 1980, he married Eva Maria Düringer, a former Miss Austria and the Miss Universe 1977 runner-up, who became his main collaborator. They had first crossed paths when Cavalli was a judge in the Miss Universe competition that year.

After a period dedicated to their family—the second union produced three children, Rachele, Daniele and Robin—and breeding racehorses, they returned to fashion. In 1988, he showed printed jeans. In 1994, in Milano, Cavalli showed sand-blasted jeans, and tiger and wildlife motifs for autumn–winter 1994–5. In December 1994, they opened a boutique in St Barth, then Venezia, and again in St-Tropez.

Roberto Cavalli also was the first to show Lycra stretch jeans, which appeared in 1995.

Roberto Cavalli was the first major Italian label to reach out to Lucire, and enjoyed coverage in this publication since the late 1990s.

Spin-off lines were created: RC Menswear, Cavalli Jeans (later Just Cavalli) in 2000, and Angels & Devils for children, among others.

Six Cavalli watch lines appeared in 2002. The same year, the Museo degli Argenti in Firenze hosted Roberto Cavalli retrospective, celebrating his more excessive designs.

In 2004, Cavalli sponsored Wild: Fashion Untamed at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 2005, he redesigned the bunny costumes for Playboy. His brand diversified into vodka in 2005.

In November 2007, Cavalli joined the designers who created a mass-market collection for retail giant H&M. It was sold out within hours.

He created the costumes for the Spice Girls when they reunited for a world tour that commenced in December 2007.

Cavalli commented, ‘I have known Victoria Beckham for a long time, and have always admired her style and personality. When we talked about the worldwide tour The Return of the Spice Girls, she put forward the idea of me creating all their costumes to which I immediately agreed. At their début, the Spice Girls generated a trend with their individual looks and now, 10 years later, they have put their trust in me to get a new, unique and iconic appeal for the tour.’

Cavalli and Düringer divorced in 2010, the year where Cavalli celebrated his 40th anniversary in business with a Paris party, which Naomi Campbell, Taylor Swift, Kylie Minogue and Heidi Klum attended. He also created an eyewear collection with retail chain Salmoiraghi & Viganò, called Dea.

In 2012, Coty announced that Elisa Sednaoui would front the Roberto Cavalli fragrance campaign. A Just Cavalli fragrance followed, with Georgia May Jagger fronting the campaign.

In 2013, Cavalli customized a Mini Paceman and showed it at the Life Ball in Wien. Though divorced, he and Eva showed up together.

He was known for his use of animal prints and animal fur. Ingrid Newkirk, founder of PETA, noted, ‘People with a true reverence for nature choose to protect animals, not persecute them, as PETA entities made clear to the designer when they crashed his furry catwalks. Before he passed, his namesake brand finally embraced luxurious faux fur, proving that imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery.’

In 2015, Clessidra SGR, a private equity fund, along with several minor investors including Cavalli himself, acquired 90 per cent of the business.

In 2023, Cavalli announced the birth of his sixth child, Giorgio, with partner Sandra Nilsson, a former model.

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Filed by Lucire staff