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Roberto Cavalli, the extravagant Italian fashion designer, has passed away at the age of 83.

The designer founded his own label in 1970, introducing innovations in leather and denim, and his exotic and flamboyant style gained celebrity followers in the 1990s.

Roberto Cavalli, the iconic Italian fashion designer celebrated for his vibrant prints and celebrity endorsements, has passed away at the age of 83 in Florence.

Known for his glamorous and bold designs, Cavalli’s fashion sensibility featured exuberant prints drawn from exotic plants and animals, and his clothing often highlighted daring hemlines and plunging waistlines, epitomizing a sexy appeal. Living a life as colorful as his designs, Cavalli resided on a lavish 32-acre estate in Tuscany equipped with amenities like a vineyard, tanning machine, racehorses, Ferraris, and a diverse collection of pets including parrots, iguanas, and a tiger. His luxurious assets included a personal helicopter and a superyacht named Freedom, which boasted a Batman-inspired design.

Victoria Beckham with Cavalli in 2005. Photograph: Lionel Cironneau/AP

Cavalli’s fashion journey began in 1970 when he pioneered a unique leather printing technique, first showcased in Paris with a pink leather evening gown. This innovation brought him immediate acclaim and collaborations with prestigious French fashion houses such as Hermès and Pierre Cardin. He later expanded into denim, creating the first sand-blasted jeans in 1994 and subsequently inventing stretch jeans with Lycra, leading to the successful launch of Cavalli Jeans, later rebranded as Just Cavalli.

Cavalli’s designs were a staple among celebrities from the early days, attracting stars like Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren to his store in Saint-Tropez. His fame skyrocketed in the 1990s, bolstered by high-profile admirers such as David and Victoria Beckham, Britney Spears, and Jennifer Lopez. This era marked a significant expansion of his brand into various sectors including branded underwear, eyewear, footwear, watches, perfumes, homeware, pet attire, vodka, wines, restaurants, and exclusive clubs.

Cavalli takes a bow after a Milan fashion week show in 2014. Photograph: Luca Bruno/AP

Despite its initial success, Cavalli’s company faced financial challenges, posting annual losses by 2014. In 2015, the family sold a major stake to the Italian private equity firm Clessidra. The company sought bankruptcy protection in 2019 and was subsequently acquired by Dubai-based Vision Investment Company. In 2020, Sicilian designer Fausto Puglisi took over as creative director, continuing Cavalli’s legacy.

Tributes poured in from across the fashion world, including from Giorgio Armani, who admired Cavalli’s artistic flair despite their differing styles. Victoria Beckham and Adriana Lima expressed their condolences through social media, celebrating Cavalli’s unapologetic style and legacy. Jennifer Hudson also paid homage to Cavalli as a favorite designer and a true artist.

Born in 1940 in Tuscany, Cavalli was profoundly influenced by his artistic heritage, his grandfather being a notable member of the Macchiaioli movement. After studying at the Academy of Art in Florence, Cavalli embarked on his illustrious fashion career, marked by personal and professional milestones, including multiple marriages and the recent birth of his sixth child in 2023.

Roberto Cavalli’s legacy will remain a beacon of bold and inspired fashion, remembered for both his innovative designs and his vibrant personal life.

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