Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
Roberto Cavalli Clothing, Perfume and Accessory Line
Currently Known For:
Fashion Designer and Inventor
Roberto Cavalli Clothing, Perfume and Accessory Line
“Leopard is an animal design, and my designs come from nature.” Undeniably one of the biggest names in the fashion industry, Roberto Cavalli is a fashion designer and inventor whose career spans over four decades and is marked by timeless pieces and countless trends. The Italian designer is known for inventing exotic prints, sand-blasted jeans, and unique leather work as well as many other luxury items from clothing and accessories to luxurious perfume. Along the way, he’s dressed some of the world’s hottest stars from Brigitte Bardot and Kate Moss to Jennifer Lopez and Gisele Bundchen, all of whom praise Cavalli’s designs and his ability to make women feel sexy and empowered.
Apart from his impeccable eye for design and his stellar reputation in the industry, the 78-year-old Cavalli is full of surprises as one of the few heterosexual designers in the industry! In fact, that’s part of why Cavalli says he’s been so successful throughout his career—his passion and appreciation for beautiful women. Of course, no woman can outdo his wife of 30 years, former Miss Austria and Miss Universe 1977 runner-up Eva Düringer. So, beyond his lasting marriage and his obvious talent, what are Cavalli’s secrets to success and how exactly did he get his start in the fashion industry? Let’s find out!
Long before he was known as the king of excess and animal prints, Roberto Cavalli came into this world on November 15, 1940, in the great city of Florence, Italy. Coming from a long line of artists and creators, Cavalli had no shortage of inspiration growing up as his mother worked as a seamstress while his grandfather, Giuseppe Rossi, was a well-known impressionist painter associated with the Macchiaioli Movement of the 19th century. In fact, the Uffizi Gallery in the Historic Centre of Florence continues to showcase Rossi’s work today.
Thanks to his grandfather’s influence, Cavalli’s interest in artistry blossomed and, for a long time, he envisioned his future as a professional painter. At the age of 17, he enrolled at the Academy of Art in Florence with the hopes of making his dream come true. However, his skills as a painter paled in comparison to his passion for textiles. He honed his talents in textile development, applications, and prints knowing that his growing passion would set a new course for his future career. “My dream, maybe because of my family, was to be a painter,” Cavalli said. “I chose in one moment the direction of textiles; from textiles I went to fashion.”
While at the Academy of Art, Cavalli designed several flower prints on knit that caught the attention of many high-profile Italian hosiery factories who were interested in using his designs for their products. This marked an early turning point in Cavalli’s career as he got to work on his next invention—patenting a printing procedure on leather that allowed him to create a patchwork of different materials. “I had this idea to print on leather,” Cavalli said. “I used glove skin from a French tannery, and when I started to print, I saw it was possible to make evening gowns in leather… in pink—unbelievable.” Patenting the technique, he showcased his debut collection in Paris and was instantly one of the biggest names of the show as he earned commissions from luxury manufacturers like Hermés and Pierre Cardin.
By 1972, Cavalli accumulated enough of his own designs to launch his first collection in Saint-Tropez where he opened his boutique on the French Riviera. Later in the year, he showcased his women’s fashion line at the Pitti Palace where wealthy Europeans and celebrities from around the globe swooned over his designs and signature patterns. French film actress Brigitte Bardot was among Cavalli’s earliest fans and signed on to model his designs, which gained Cavalli even more attention on the international fashion scene. Thanks to his wild prints, brocade, intarsia leathers, and denim designs paired with Bardot’s glowing endorsement, it wasn’t long before Cavalli was one of the most sought-after designers in the world.
The rest of the decade went very well for Cavalli on the professional front as he became a household name in the industry; however, his personal life was a different story. In 1964, he married his first wife, Silvanella Giannoni, and had his first two children. “I met a girl, the first girl I loved, and I married her with the first money I got,” Cavalli later said. “We first made love the night we married after knowing each other for four years, and we had my first daughter nine months and ten days later.” After a decade of marriage and two children—Tommaso and Christiana—the couple divorced in 1974 as Cavalli’s career took up more and more of his time.Fashion Hiatus and Cavalli’s Return to the Catwalk
By the end of the 1970s, Cavalli’s career leveled off and he had more time to promote his brand at events like the Miss Universe pageant in 1977 where he happily served as a judge. Coincidentally, the pageant set the stage for romance as well. Cavalli met his future wife, Miss Austria and Miss Universe runner-up Eva Düringer, behind the scenes. Thanks to their instant chemistry, romance blossomed as the couple started dating and eventually married three years later in 1980. By this time, Cavalli’s fashion career slowed down as designers from Belgium and Japan took over the industry with more minimalistic designs that forced Cavalli’s lavish designs and iconic excess out of fashion. This gave the Italian designer more time to focus on his life at home with Düringer as they started a family with the births of children Robert, Rachele, and Daniele.
The changing trends of the 1980s pushed Cavalli out of the spotlight and into a 15-year break as he settled into life in Paris with his family. “Because I was putting up resistance. I felt more creative living in Paris in those years, and I didn’t want to become an industrialist,” Cavalli said of his hiatus. “I refused to get on board with the industrialization of fashion. Then in the latter half of the 1990s when there was an opening, I understood that I had to start playing this part. I had to become an actor… When I do an interview, I have to say things my audience will like. And to the general public, I have to say that I go out at night. That I only drink Dom Perignon champagne or that I only spend time on the French Riviera. The reality is that when one becomes a personality, he needs to play the part of the person people want him to be.”
Appointing Düringer as Creative Director of the Roberto Cavalli collection, Cavalli and his wife worked side by side on new designs before he reemerged as a key player in the fashion industry in the early 1990s. Once again, his innovative designs turned heads as he showcased sand-blasted jeans in Milan, debuted the first ever printed jeans, and collaborated with Lycra to create the first pair of stretch jeans. These innovations were so well received throughout the fashion world that Cavalli opened several new boutiques throughout Saint-Tropez, Venice, and along the French Caribbean while his fashion line—the Roberto Cavalli collection—was sold in over 50 nations across the globe.
Cavalli’s second wave of success also brought numerous celebrity ambassadors for him to dress. “Maybe they don’t need my dresses to show their personality, so I can only help a little,” he said of working with some of the biggest names in the fashion and entertainment industries. “I remember working with Sharon Stone: she has such a strong personality, but she started to appreciate very much what I’m doing, and so I can help her, a little. I can tell you that just now I love to dress women from the music world because I feel as though the singers often have more personality than the actresses. I also enjoy… for example when I first designed for Jennifer Lopez—now she’s a friend—but in the beginning I used to make for every event two dresses, one for the red carpet and one for the stage performance. One should be special, sexy, and the other has to be free, for movement and dancing.”
Amid dressing beauties like Lopez, Stone, Bundchen, and Moss, Cavalli took his creations in a new direction in the new millennium and launched Cavalli Jeans, which he later renamed Just Cavalli, in 2000. The collection includes a full youth line of clothing as well as special pieces and accessories including jewelry, beachwear, underwear, perfumes, and eyewear. The collection’s instant success further established Cavalli’s talents and inspired his next move in 2004 when he sponsored Wild: Fashion Untamed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York. The exhibition showcased the human fascination with animal prints throughout history, which certainly fit the bill for Cavalli and his love of leopard print.
“It’s not really that I love to use animal print, I like everything that is of nature; anything natural that is around me,” Cavalli later said. “I started with flowers, in the beginning it was orchids; I enjoyed seeing the movement—and it’s so white. It’s sexy also. I play a lot with my small camera, and I started to appreciate that even fish have a fantastic colored dress, so does the snake and the tiger. I started to understand that God is really the best designer, so I started to copy God.”
On the heels of the exhibition, Cavalli expanded his reach and launched Roberto Cavalli Vodka, aptly marketed in a snakeskin-covered bottle, in 2005. He’s since added wines, restaurants, and members’ clubs that promote the elite and lavish lifestyle that many assume the designer himself enjoys. However, Cavalli quickly proved that his designs weren’t just for some of the world’s most beautiful women when he launched his first collection with H&M in 2007. The collection sold out within hours of launching.Life Today
Over the last decade, Cavalli has continued making waves in the fashion industry in addition to discussing his interests in photography. “My dream in the near future is to create a big exhibition that would showcase my photographs from Africa and other exotic places,” he told Martha Stewart during an interview in 2009. “I used to shoot subject for my prints and my passion has evolved.”
In 2010, Cavalli celebrated 40 years in the fashion business and saw his career come full circle when the Roberto Cavalli line was named the top fashion label on the Luxury Brand Status Index. In 2012, he launched another high-street line for Australian Target and, in 2013, brought Georgia May Jagger on board as the new face of Just Cavalli perfumes. Later in the year, he was awarded an Honorary Master Diploma in Fashion Management from the Milan Domus Academy.
With Cavalli’s career spanning over four decades, many are curious about his plans for the future—will he retire and what’s a normal day like for the designer? For now, the 78-year-old says he doesn’t have any plans to leave the industry, at least not just yet. “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 says. “They expect a lot, but at the same time fashion is a part of my DNA. I could never live without it.”
To stay fresh and energized, Cavalli says he carves out some alone time each day at the office. “I can be creative, concentrate on working at my computer and listen to music, which really helps me in all creative aspects,” he says. “I also work closely with my style office where I love to see how my ideas become reality. Most of my prints are born from computer elaborations of pictures that I take during my travels. I love to see how my photographs come alive on fabrics.”
Beyond his work ethic and his commitment to his fans, Cavalli is an inspiration for emerging designers and happily shares some sage advice. “Try to be different, and that’s not easy,” he says. “I think that the suggestion that I would give [to new designers] would be to have their own personality, but it’s not easy.” Cavalli undoubtedly makes it look easy as one of the biggest names in the fashion world!