Roberto Cavalli — passion, leather, and sex appeal

Roberto Cavalli — passion, leather, and sex appeal

On April 12th, 2024, legendary Roberto Cavalli died at 83. The designer started out in the 1970s but became famous in the 2000s. It’s safe to say that his designs full of sex and glamor largely determined the 2000s fashion. We decided to pay tribute to Cavalli’s talent and dedication to fashion. In this digest, we’ll tell you his story. Keep scrolling!

Roberto Cavalli was born at the beginning of World War II, in 1940. His father was killed by the Nazis when the boy was just 4. To survive, his mother had to take the kids – Roberto and his sister – and move to Florence, where they started selling coal. Roberto wasn’t very good at studying and barely finished school. He wasn’t very successful in college either, but then he became interested in rock’n’roll and started throwing parties for fellow students. His gatherings were really popular and profitable.

Trying to find himself, Cavalli tried working in hospitality and even accounting, but in the end, he got accepted to Istituto d’Arte in Florence where he studied textile print. While still a student, he experimented with printing methods and techniques. Although he did not graduate from the Institute, it all led to starting his fashion business where he managed to use the acquired knowledge. In the early 1970s, Roberto Cavalli patented a revolutionary printing procedure on leather that was later used by Hermès and Pierre Cardin.

Cavalli loved working with leather. His debut collection was released in 1970 – it was fully made with leather (even the bikini!) and defined his style: close-fitting silhouettes, bright colors, animal prints, and sex appeal.

Roberto Cavalli experimented with textures and invented several techniques that allowed printing on leather. If you enjoy wearing leopard- or python-print pants, you should know it was his invention. He also proposed wearing total looks that featured one print, which made them look seamless. 

His debut wasn’t really successful, but he never gave up working with leather. He purchased a container of jeans from an American prison and then created a patchwork mix of denim and leather. This collection was released in 1972 and became an instant hit in the US. And that’s how Roberto Cavalli earned his first million.

Did you know we owe him the idea of wearing distressed jeans, jeans embellished with rhinestones, and all kinds of printed denim?

In the late 1980s, the success of Cavalli started to decline. The public became interested in minimalist fashion, and the designs by Roberto Cavalli didn’t go well with the new aesthetic. Moreover, the designer couldn’t call himself a king of sexy fashion anymore as he faced competition from the newcomer, Gianni Versace.

However, Roberto Cavalli managed to make a comeback thanks to his interest in new technology and fabrics. He was the first to add lycra to denim, which is how he came up with skinny jeans that fit like second skin. In 1993, the world saw top model Naomi Campbell walk the runway wearing skinny jeans by Roberto Cavalli – and since that moment they became an item wanted by everyone.

The first decade of the 2000s was defined by glam. And Roberto Cavalli was the one to deliver it: his animal prints, daring cutouts and necklines, rhinestones, unforgettable micro dresses, and low-rise jeans became the hallmark of the time. Now that the Y2K fashion trends are slowly crawling back into the fashion spotlight, fashionistas are willing to pay crazy money for vintage Roberto Cavalli.

Needless to say, the world has lost a legend. We are left to follow the news and wait for what happens to the brand after the passing of its founder. We’ll see.

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