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Roberto Cavalli: Wild Composer of Design

Johnny 2017-11-01 09:27

Among the mass of designers, a certain number of them are not confined by the pragmatics of “designs”. In their minds, design is about turning their wildest dreams into reality. Roberto Cavalli, the distinguished Italian designer, is one of them. 


Roberto Cavalli 【by BOB KRIEGER

Textile Printing Knocks Up the Door to Fashion World

Observers will note that Cavalli’s ancestry could explain a lot about his artistic development of fashion design; Cavalli’s family earns a living from paint brushes and palettes. His grandfather, Giuseppe Rossi, is a prominent practitioner of the Macchiaioli School that was popular in 19th century Florence. The familial origin asserted influence on the later styling of Cavalli’s fashion designs to a great extent but the initial motivation of entering the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze came from the influence of his mother - Marcella.

After graduating from the academy in the mid-1960s, Cavalli started his career in painting, naturally. Different from other art students, Cavalli didn’t have a taste for sitting and painting in front of an easel. Rather, he frequently visited Como, the Italian city known for its silk industry. Cavalli loved watching the workers operating looms and printing patterns on the silk. Cavalli seemed destined to be a fashion designer - during the research of textile printing to improve painting techniques, he accidentally created a new textile printing method which prints patterns on the whole fabric while secluding sections with only ornaments and stitches. To his own surprise, the silk industry at that time warmly welcomed his creative invention and directly kick-started his fashion career. Soon after, he established and registered his own brand - Stampa Cavalli. He opened his own studio and hired 16 workers to practice his craftwork. Meanwhile, he devoted himself fully to the studio and supervised every business he took. 


In 1977 Roberto Cavalli met Eva Duringer. One of the lucky meetings in his life. He met her during the Miss Universe contest in Santo Domingo, where he was on the jury. Former Miss Austria, she was taking part in the contest.

The fashion world coveted Cavalli’s genius. Not long after he started his print business, opportunities came knocking; in the year of 1969, a large-scale international shoe exhibition was held in Florence. There, Cavalli became acquainted with the designer who would bring him success in the future - Mario Valentino. At that time Mario Valentino had won critical acclaim with his finely designed leather clothes. Valentino clicked with Cavalli after he saw the techniques Cavalli invented and adopted it for leathers.The cooperation was a successful one and critics praised their efforts. Later, Cavalli’s unique textile printings were also seen on Pierre Cardin and Hermès clothing.

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Roberto Cavalli with a group of models 1977

If Roberto Cavalli had been content with his initial achievements, then there wouldn’t be the “Wild Fashion Archbishop” that we know today. Based on the previous successes, he started to design evening dresses and beachwear based on printed leather and branded his works with his own name. The series was debuted in February, 1970, at the Paris Salon du Prêt-à-Porter and won immediate success and critical acclaim. 


First Roberto Cavalli Fashion Show, Paris 1970

Back in Florence, he expanded the creative idea to multiple styles of clothing. One of the examples is an adoption on the jeans. His creative mind represented the ordinary-looking jeans with a brand-new style.

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Roberto Cavalli Fashion Show – Sala Bianca, Florence 1972

The success was ascertained with the popularity collected on the 1972 Sala Bianca catwalk in Pitti Palace.


Left: Saint-Tropez; Right: Presentation of Roberto Cavalli collection – Hotel Plaza, New York 1976


Roberto Cavalli 1975 and 1978


Model in Roberto Cavalli 1976

Change of Trends Molds Designing Styles

By this time, Cavalli was assured of his place in the fashion world. Nevertheless, the establishment of his own personal styles took place in the 1990s.


Left: Roberto Cavalli 1980; Right: Eva Cavalli 1980

Though in the 1980s the widely adopted New Baroque and maximalism gave free rein to his artistic talents, the fashion changed. The once extolled hedonism in the fashion circle only lived a transient life but was replaced with the exaltation of simplicity and minimalism.


Model in Roberto Cavalli 1982 and 1983

Facing the outrageous turbulence of fashion, Cavalli didn’t waver. He raised horses and managed business at the same time to understand the truth of fashion designing and exploring new styles. 


Roberto Cavalli 1985


Roberto Cavalli Fashion Show, Studio 54 – New York 1985


Presentation of Roberto Cavalli collection, New York 1986

As is often the case with fashion trends, simplistic design eventually lost popularity and new fashion arose. Cavalli took his chance to show his brand-new interpretation of fashion designs to the world after long deliberation.


Creative Tableaux 1987


Left: Model in Roberto Cavalli 1989; Right: Workmanship on denim, Roberto Cavalli 1988

At the 1994 Milano Collezioni, Cavalli debuted a series of sand-blasted jeans to create a vintage effect. Through this catwalk, the fashion industry witnessed the matured Cavallistic style. The signature charismatic style could be condensed with two words - sexy and seductive. 


From left

Opening of the first boutique in Italy, Venice in San Marco 1314;

It is soon 1994 and meanwhile the Roberto Cavalli story moves on and also moves in different directions. It is time for his first official fashion show at Milano Collezioni, where the look of his new jeans created using a special ageing sand jet technique opens the way to what is to become new glamour by Roberto Cavalli: sexy, sexy, sexy

The powerful return of Cavalli molded the never coquettish style of the brand, which accentuated the graceful figures of female. The trend soon spread to worldwide. However, to differentiate from the fashion styles in the 1980s, Cavalli’s new success was based on the basic elements of daily life instead of chasing the everchanging fashion trends.


“It was 1999 and I was about to start the tour to promote my album “Flash”. I was fascinated by the way Miles Davis used to dress and therefore I needed someone to recreate for me a style that could express urban class as well as street vibe. I met Roberto and saw his creations: great, he had everything I was looking for.” - Lenny Kravitz

Meanwhile, imagination, creativity, research, science and technologies were perfectly combined to create an enduring fashion style. While in fact, the fashion circle has always been friendly to Cavalli: his textile printings are timeless, fashionable and delicate, even the classic Animalier remains a unique symbol of design and it can regenerate itself into new forms with modern traits. This is what the fashion world recognized.


Roberto Cavalli in his studio 1995

Cavalli’s establishment of his distinctive personal styles based on his own interpretation of fashion also won him the acclaim of “Wild Fashion Archbishop”, as a landmark figure in the fashion world.


Left: Launch of the Roberto Cavalli Menswear collection; Right: Roberto Cavalli F/W ’99-’00 Advertising Campaign

This has been recognized by celebrities’ reaction to the brand from different industries. A number of celebrities and stars have been loyal followers of Roberto Cavalli, some even becoming renowned business partners. Most of them are well recognized.


Left: Naomi Campbell – Roberto Cavalli F/W ’94-’95 Fashion Show;  Right: Eva Herzigova – Roberto Cavalli F/W ’95-’96 Fashion Show

To name a few, Sharon Stone, Madonna, Cindy Crawford, Drew Barrymore, Demi Moore, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Gwyneth Paltrow, Beyoncé Knowles, Lenny Kravitz, Charlize Theron, Victoria Beckham, and Kate Hudson, etc.,  have all been “celebrity ambassadors” to Roberto Cavalli.


Left: Roberto Cavalli S/S 1998 Fashion Show; Middle: Roberto Cavalli F/W ’96-’97 Fashion Show; Right: Roberto Cavalli F/W ’97-’98 Fashion Show


Left: Roberto Cavalli and Kim Cattrall; Right: Roberto Cavalli and Shakira

In the 2006 Golden Globe Awards, Emma Thompson wore a set of Cavalli. Adrien Brody premiered King Kong with Cavalli and also at Chopin Awards in Cannes back in 2008.


Left: Roberto Cavalli S/S 1997 Fashion Show; Middle: Roberto Cavalli S/S 1999 Fashion Show; Right: Roberto Cavalli S/S 1995 Fashion Show

All these big names are both loyal customers of Cavalli as well as his good friends.

The Creative Mind Born from Personalities

People say that art designs are all labeled with distinctive traits of personalities, and so too are fashion designers. Maybe it is because he was born in Italy where the lifestyle is quite wild. Cavalli brings his wild Cavallistic lifestyle into every single piece of design.


Caffè Giacosa – Florence

In his personal life, Cavalli pursues perfection. He experts in entertainment and cuisines. He is fond of luxury and joy, as well as beautiful things of any kind. He pursues a life of wonder and infinite livelihood.

In 2001, Cavalli ventured for the first time into the F&B business with Caffè Giacosa. The illustrious cafe has a history dating back 200 years and remains a Florence institution popular with the city’s fashionable elites.

Inspired from the feature of that time era of the city famous for its glory in renaissance, he restored the original cafe while maintaining many of its original features - Burgundy banquette seating and glass top round tables, while black and white prints featuring models and celebrities wearing Cavalli designs adorn wood panelled walls. This way to do new things while respecting the tradition clearly shows that he has talent to establish relation between various things, making them something creative.

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