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Roberto Cavalli Has Died

The Italian designer, best known for vibrant animal prints and sand-blasted denim, was 83.
A man sitting on a chair
Roberto Cavalli, whose brand became synonymous with bold, brightly-coloured dresses oozing in sex appeal, has died. (Getty Images )

Roberto Cavalli, the Italian designer best known for vibrant animal prints and sand-blasted denim, has died in his hometown of Florence. He was 83.

Cavalli studied textile printing before launching his fashion brand in 1970. The same year, at the age of 30, he presented his first ready-to-wear collection in Paris, where his work — including a revolutionary leather printing technique that he invented and patented — attracted the attention of fashion industry mainstays like Pierre Cardin. Cavalli open his first boutique in Saint-Tropez in 1972.

Cavalli was a savvy marketer and over the years the Roberto Cavalli brand became globally recognised for its sexy, brightly coloured dresses, heavy use of animal prints and innovative approach to fabrics.

Over time, the brand’s offering grew to include diffusion line Just Cavalli, as well as menswear, accessories, watches, jewellery, fragrance, eyewear and underwear. The company also expanded into hospitality, opening Cavalli Café in Florence in 2002, a concept it eventually brought to other cities, including Milan and Miami.

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In the last decade, the brand faced challenges. In 2014, it began posting annual losses. In 2015, the Cavalli family sold 90 percent of the business to private equity firm Clessidra Capital Partners. In 2019, the brand closed its US stores and laid off 93 employees. It filed for bankruptcy in Italy in March 2019 and was acquired by real estate developer Hussain Sajwani, the chairman of Dubai’s Damac Properties. Sajwani’s plan for relaunching the brand has included extending the Cavalli name to real estate projects like a luxury apartment tower in Dubai’s harbour.

Giorgio Armani was among those to pay tribute to Cavalli. “Roberto was a true artist, wild and wonderful in his use of prints, capable of transforming fantasy into seductive clothes,” Armani said in a statement.

Cavalli’s collections are currently designed by Fausto Puglisi, a Sicilian-born designer who previously worked in the US dressing pop stars like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. “Dear Roberto, you may not be physically here with us anymore, but I know I will feel your spirit with me always,” Puglisi said in a statement circulated by the brand.

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