International front-runner designer Roberto Cavalli, once nicknamed the King of Bling for his love for excess. Credited with being the creator of the sand-blasted jeans, Roberto Cavalli’s contributions to the global fashion circuit span across a duration of five decades
Quicksilver changes in the fashion world gives its players an adrenaline rush, urging them to excel in their creativity thereby making their world an exciting place to be in. To ride the crest though, one needs a creative fountainhead, from where ideas continue to flow and not all designers are so lucky barring the exception of few legends like Roberto Cavalli. From displaying his first collection of printed leather gowns in 1970 to gradually working his way to establish a desirable lifestyle empire, Roberto Cavalli has established several milestones in his career spanning five decades.
The ace designer’s extravagant Tuscan estate, stable of racehorses, yacht and a host of other elements clearly convey his embodiments of the extravagance and luxury that he so fondly sells. Fueling the red carpet drama for Hollywood actors like Jennifer Lopez and Victoria Beckham, Cavalli’s designs are best known for an exotic elegance, wild prints and bohemian glamour. In addition to his styles, Roberto Cavalli is also a patron of textile technologies and has often used them in his creations a swell. His unique and radical style makes his brand an all-time bestseller in clothing, jewellery, accessories and eyewear with over fifty countries worldwide selling his products.
The kaleidoscopic journey
Born on November 5th, 1940 in Florence, Tuscany to Italian parents (his father, Georgio was a mine surveyor and his mother Marcella, a seamstress), Cavalli’s interest in art started early in life and he joined the Florence College of Art. While still a student, a friend asked him to hand paint on the knitwear that he had launched. Cavalli made a series of flower prints that were an instant hit and so the sparks of his talent had begun to show.
Soon Cavalli realised that more than fine art, it was the love for fabric design and textile printing that obsessed him. Cavalli was the first to experiment with print on leather. It was while he was working with Mario Valentino, the Naples based designer known for his exemplary work on leather and suede that Cavalli first discovered that printed leather could look so divine. One of his first efforts was with pink leather and the results were stupendous. As was apparent from his first exhibition in Paris after which he started getting orders from Hermes and Pierre Cardin.
It wasn’t just the printed denim. Intarsia leather, brocade, wild prints, everything was being swallowed hungrily by a market that was seeing this for the first time. Cavalli opened his first boutique in a sleepy fishing village, Saint Tropez in 1972.
Over the years, Cavalli firmed up his brand identity even further. A series of stores opened across the US. But his desire and quest to create did not ebb. The fountainhead gurgled with incessant vigour. Then, in 1994, Cavalli burst into the fashion scenario with yet another mind boggling first. Sandblasted jeans.
Soon, he had opened boutiques in Saint Barth in the French Caribbean, followed by others in Venice and Saint Tropez. In 1998, Cavalli made the brand an integral part of everyday lifestyle.
Through his journey as a designer and creator, his family stood by him. His second wife Eva Duringer, a former Miss Austria, whom he met when she was 18 years old and a contestant in the 1977 Miss Universe pageant, where he was one of the judges, has been instrumental in the shaping of his brand.
Cavalli’s style, as one journalist was quoted saying, is, “nonconformist, sensual and always seductive”. The brand essentially caters to the audacious and experimental youth but also finds a large fan following amongst the traditional and conventional as well. But it’s the youth that fascinates him and has often admitted in his interviews that he created Just Cavalli for young people, who are always inspiring his designs.
Some of the leading film stars and other celebrities swear by his brand. These include David Beckham, Madonna, Beyonce Knowles, Britney Spears, Charlize Theron, and the list is endless.
Cavalli’s meteoric rise to fame was also followed by a period of lull from the 1980 to 1994. These years were a bad phase for the designer as this was the era of minimalistic fashion, a style alien to Cavalli. But instead of joining the herd and creating designs that he did not identify with, he lay low. It was his wife Eva who impressed upon him to relook at the business and soon fresh ideas and business plans came into place. By then, people were also tired of the minimalistic look. Bling was back and so was Cavalli!
Foraying into eyewear
Roberto Cavalli’s forte in design has always been into prints and graphics. When the expertise of the Roberto Cavalli brand extended to eyewear, it was natural for the brand statement to lend itself here too. Free-spirited and bohemian. While sunglass models like JC 6795 liberally adapt itself to his love for wild prints, models like JC 6715 reflect the vibrant hues of nature. The refined optical frames and stylish sunglasses with classy prints are a huge hit with Cavalli loyalists. But it’s the Iconic Snake Collection that really bells it. In all the models RC875S, RC890S, RC877S and the RC878S, the sinuous metal snake, covered with Swarovski crystals and coiled around the temples gave it a sophisticated yet sassy look.
The cat-eye front of RC871S and RC875S for instance has bold animal motifs around the rim. Snake head shaped hinges decorate the front of the metal RC883S model while the RC monogram sits stylishly on the double bridge and adds a diva look to the polarized mirror lenses. The RC885S model’s front profiles are lined in leather highlighted by tiny metal fasteners. While the RC monogram styles itself on the metal bridge and a snakehead detail decorate the sides. The RC886S also models the temples like the sinuous body of the snake. The RC927S model not just typifies his contemporary style, it also smartly incorporates the snake design by adding hinges in the shape of a snake’s head.
Surrounded by fame and fashion, Cavalli lives in Florence with his family, actively pursuing his passion to design. Even as his brand increases its equity value worldwide, Cavalli awaits the discovery of a material that is even more versatile than denim- a canvas to experiment more of his prints.
1957: Attended the Academy of Art, Florence, Italy
1960: Started his career as a textile printer for an Italian knitwear line and started a T–shirt, denim and leather design company
1972: Cavalli formally launched his own women’s line with a razzmatazz event at Florence’s Pitti Palace. French film star Brigitte Bardot was one of his first clients. He opened his first boutique in Saint Tropez
1979: Launched a men’s line that was short-lived
1979: Invented and patented a printing procedure on leather
1980: Married Eva Duringer
1986: Birth of his son Daniele Cavalli, now one of the premier international designers
1994: Presented the first sandblasted jeans show in Milan
1998: Launched Just Cavalli
1999: Re-launched the men’s line. Also launched Roberto Cavalli Casa, a housewares division
2002: Opening of the first café store in Florence
2004: Cavalli launched an undergarment range featuring Hindu Gods, leading to outrage amongst the Hindu community. He had to later publicly apologise and withdraw the range
2013: On June 18 he was awarded an Honorary Master Diploma in Fashion Management from Domus Academy in Milan
2014: In January, he returned to the role of men’s creative director of the company