Roberto Cavalli (born 15 November 1940) is an Italian fashion designer from Florence. He is known for exotic prints and for creating the sand-blasted look for jeans. He is the father of fashion designer Daniele Cavalli. Artistic talent ran in the family as his grandfather was a celebrated Impressionist painter and his mother a seamstress. He stuttered as a child, which as he would later tell Colin McDowell was cured by a surge in confidence and a new-found fascination with girls.
While studying at the Academy of Art in Florence in 1957, Cavalli decided not to become an artist, instead experimenting by applying painterly techniques to textiles in ways that had not been practiced before. “My dream, maybe because of my family, was to be a painter. I chose in one moment the direction of textiles; from textiles I went to fashion,” he later reflected.
Roberto married his first wife Silvanella Giannoni in 1964 and had his first two children. After 10 years of marriage, Silvanella and Roberto divorced in 1974.
In 1970, Roberto Cavalli showcased his revolutionary materials for the first time in his debut collection. Having patented his leather printing technique, he earned commissions from other design houses including Hermès and Pierre Cardin.
Cavalli opened his first boutique in Saint-Tropez in 1972, foreseeing the potential of the fishing village as a desirable destination for the fashion elite. The rich aesthetic that Roberto had coined did not chime with the minimalistic and deconstructive fashions presented by the new wave of Japanese and Belgian designers in the mid to late 1980s. As a result, business was quieter and Roberto concentrated on family life, marrying beauty queen Eva Duringer and having three more children. Eva became creative director of the Roberto Cavalli collection and the couple have worked together since.
Cavalli’s career entered an exciting new phase at the start of the Nineties. Applying artistic techniques to denim, he presented his first printed jeans in 1988, showed the first sand-blasted jeans in his autumn/winter 1994 collection, and worked with Lycra to invent stretch jeans in 1995. These innovations in textile technology consequently exploded in popularity and have diversified the denim market dramatically.
Confirming his status as a pioneer in the denim world, Roberto Cavalli launched Cavalli Jeans (later renamed Just Cavalli) in 2000.
In December 2004 Cavalli sponsored ‘Wild: Fashion Untamed’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York, an exhibition that examined the human fascination with animal skins, and animal references in clothing throughout history.
Set in a snakeskin-covered bottle, Roberto Cavalli Vodka was launched in September 2005. Followed by wines, restaurants and members’ clubs, these brand expansions confirmed Cavalli as the go-to designer for an elite lifestyle.
2007 saw the designer collaborate with some of the music industry’s leading female artists. Christina Aguilera and Jennifer Lopez both asked the designer to create costumes for major concerts, while the Spice Girls wore a custom-made Cavalli wardrobe for their global reunion tour. That November, Cavalli launched his first high-street collection for H&M.
Cavalli celebrated 40 years of business in 2010. The company was named the number one women’s fashion label on the Luxury Brand Status Index, released a celebratory coffe-table book and held an extravagant Parisian party attended by Heidi Klum, Kylie Minogue, Naomi Campbell and Taylor Swift.
October 2012 will see the launch of Cavalli’s second high-street line, this time for Australian Target. Georgia May Jagger is also confirmed to be the face of the Just Cavalli perfumes from March 2013. At 71 years old, the designer is reluctant to retire, despite all that he has achieved.
ROBERTO CAVALLI LOOKS: