Robert Cavalli, Italian fashion designer, dies at 83


Roberto Cavalli, whose fashions have been a red-carpet staple for decades, has died, the company bearing the designer’s name announced Friday. He was 83.

Cavalli died Friday in Florence, Italy, where he was born and where he made his home. He had been ill for some time and his health had worsened in recent days, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

“It is with great sadness that today we say our final goodbyes to our founder Robert Cavalli,” the company said in a statement Friday on Instagram. “From humble beginnings in Florence 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. Roberto Cavalli’s legacy will live on via his creativity, his love of nature and via his family who he cherished.”

Beyoncé, Zendaya, Lady Gaga, Ciara, Priyanka Chopra, Nicole Kidman, Bella Hadid, Naomi Campbell, Kim Kardashian and Rita Ora are among the celebrities who have worn Cavalli designs, preceded by the likes of Sophia Loren and Brigitte Bardot. Christina Aguilera and Jennifer Lopez sought him for concert-tour wardrobes, and Madonna was seen in a three-piece, emerald green Cavalli suit in Miami as recently this week.

Cavalli, who was born Nov. 15, 1940, launched his brand in the 1970s, first collaborating with others and then going it on his own. He became known for his use of printed leather — animal prints were a staple. “I copy the dress of an animal because I love to copy God,” Cavalli said in a quote posted Friday in his company’s Instagram stories. “I think God is the most fantastic designer.”

In 1995, he collaborated with Lycra to create the first stretchy jeans. He redesigned Playboy’s famous Bunny costumes in 2005, put his name on a line for H&M in 2007 and spun up a limited-edition Diet Coke bottle in 2008, per Vogue. In 2011 his “signature leopard print and heavily gilded stamp” landed on a series of stationary exercise bikes.

That same year, he explained to Vogue that he was reluctant to retire. “Well, sometimes I say when I’m completely tired … but I feel a lot of responsibility to my fans: what they expect from me,” he said. “They expect a lot, but at the same time fashion is a part of my DNA. I could never live without it.”

The designer finally stepped aside as creative director of Roberto Cavalli SpA in 2013. He was married to Silvanella Giannoni from 1964 to 1974, and Eva Marie Düringer from 1980 until their divorce in 2010. He dated Sandra Nilsson starting in 2014 and welcomed a child with her in 2023. Cavalli had two children, Tommaso and Cristina, with his first wife and three — Robert, Rachele and Daniele — with his second.

“Cavalli had a taste for Ferraris, fat cigars and tailored shirts unbuttoned to expose his tanned chest,” Le Monde wrote Friday about the designer. “He married a Miss Universe runner-up, owned a purple helicopter and a Tuscan vineyard, and was on a first-name basis with Hollywood A-listers.”

Sergio Azzolari, chief executive at Roberto Cavalli, said in a statement that the company “shares condolences with Mr. Cavalli’s family loss. His legacy remains a constant source of inspiration.”

“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 Cavalli since October 2020, said in a statement. “It is the greatest honour of my career to work under your legacy and to create for the brand you founded with such vision and style. 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.”


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