Iconic Fashion Designer Dead at 83

Roberto Cavalli was known for animal prints, other inspiration from natural world
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 13, 2024 5:00 AM CDT
Roberto Cavalli Dead at 83
Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli, center, acknowledges the applause of the audience after presenting the Roberto Cavalli men's Spring-Summer 2015 collection, part of the Milan Fashion Week, in Milan, Italy, June 24, 2014.   (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File)

Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli, known for a flamboyant, glamorous style and textile innovations, has died at age 83, his company announced Friday, per the AP. "Dear Roberto, you may not be physically here with us anymore but I know I will feel your spirit with me always," Fausto Puglisi, creative director at Roberto Cavalli since October 2020, wrote in an Instagram post. In its own statement, Cavalli's company called its founder "a globally recognized name loved and respected by all." Cavalli stepped back from designing about a decade ago, after ceding 90% of the company to a private equity group. Cavalli is survived by model Sandra Nilsson, who has been his partner since 2014, and six children. He became the father of his sixth child at the age of 82.

Born in Florence on Nov. 15, 1940, from a family of artists, Cavalli was orphaned of his father at just four years old, as he was killed in a Nazi roundup known as the Cavriglia massacre in 1944. Cavalli became renowned in the early 1970s for his animal prints and an excessive, sexy style that remained his trademark throughout his long career. After founding his own fashion house in the early 1970s, Cavalli quickly became an iconic brand, loved by top celebrities like Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Beyoncé.

Cavalli patented a new printing method for leather and debuted the patchwork denim that was one of his trademarks in Florence's Palazzo Pitti in 1972. He revolutionized jeans, creating a sandblasting technique to give denim a distressed look, and adding Lycra to jeans to make them sexier, stretchy. Cavalli took frequent inspiration from the natural world, featuring animal prints and fish-scale sequins. The Cavalli woman ranged from hippie to slick rocker, in diaphanous gowns that caught the air, seductive beaded dresses or sexy skinny suits. As his fashion house recalled on Friday, Cavalli's explained once his "animalier" inspiration with a popular quote: "I copy the dress of an animal because I love to copy God. I think God is the most fantastic designer."

(More Roberto Cavalli stories.)

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