Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli dies aged 83

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“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.

“Rest in peace, you will be missed and you are loved by so many that your name will continue on, a beacon of inspiration for others, and especially for me,” Puglisi added.

Born in Florence on November 15 1940 from a family of artists, Cavalli lost his father at just four years old after he was killed in a Nazi round-up known as the Cavriglia massacre in 1944.

Fashion designer Roberto Cavalli and his wife Eva Duringer acknowledge the applause of the audience after a show (Antonio Calanni/AP)

Cavalli became renowned in the early 1970s for his animal prints and an excessive, sexy style that remained his trademark throughout his long career.

“It is with deep regret and a great sadness the Roberto Cavalli Maison participates in the passing of its founder Roberto Cavalli,” his company said in a statement.

“From humble beginnings in Florence, Roberto succeeded in becoming a globally recognised name loved and respected by all. (His) legacy will live on via his creativity, his love of nature and via his family who he cherished.”

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 Beyonce.

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.

Obit Roberto Cavalli
Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli welcomes the applause of the audience after presenting the Roberto Cavalli men’s Spring-Summer 2015 collection (Luca Bruno/AP)

He revolutionised jeans, creating a sandblasting technique to give denim a distressed look, and adding Lycra to jeans to make them sexier and 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 explained 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.”

He stepped back from designing about a decade ago, after ceding 90% of the company to the Clessidra private equity group. The company is now controlled by Auriel Investment SA.

“Don’t call me a designer. My talent is rather finding what makes a fabric, a dress, a woman special, thinking always of fashion as if it is dream of ready-to-wear, something ready to be worn,″ he wrote in his autobiography, Just Me, published in 2013.

He told The Associated Press in an interview that the woman he dressed was “a woman who believes a lot in herself. A woman who can show she is strong but at the same time soft and romantic”.

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.

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