Roberto Cavalli was born on November 15, 1940 in a humble family of a weaver and a tailor. Grandson of a prominent Italian artist Giuseppe Rossi, Roberto grew up influenced by art, beauty and creativity. His father died during the World War II impacting the lifestyle of the family. It was common for young Roberto to hang out with bad guys and to pick up fights on the street. After he finished high school his mother put up a condition to either find a job or to leave home permanently. Roberto chose the latter, however, after some time he made up his mind and enrolled into the Florence Academy of Art.
Roberto was a dreamer. He dreamed of glory. He made his first money painting on fabric. After he gained some skills in this field, his friend, who owned a small factory, commissioned him to do a large number of signature T-shirts. One of the models demonstrating the T-shirt was Bridget Bordeaux, who still young and unknown cheerfully walked along to the Cote d’Azur coast creating buzz. This was an official starting point in the career of Roberto Cavalli.
70’s were years of laying the foundation for his fashion empire. While he hasn’t gained as much recognition as Armani and Missoni, he used this time to develop his style and to obtain maximum creative edge for his designs. He became popular among local Bohemia elite.”This was the prime development time for the Italian fashion industry, we were all so free. The memory of war was still fresh, this is why people wanted to live to the fullest “, he remembers.
In 1972 Roberto Cavalli demonstrated his first collection in the grand Palazzo Piti in Florence. At that time his style was already clearly defined. Fashion for him was part of contemporary art. But his creations were criticized as a bad taste. You bet! Leopard and zebra printed suits, tight pants and rainbow coloured evening dresses. Chosen fabrics were not usual cotton and silk. It was coloured denim with lycra additives. Clothing looked more like a second skin.
The public reaction didn’t stop Roberto. In fact it encouraged him to experiment with fabrics even further. In the hands of a master, leather, another not so popular material at that time, has evolved into a flexible, lightweight and soft material to be used for regular clothing. Dresses made out of this processed leather looked completely natural. And again deception. Again Innovation: use of a laser to create drawing on the leather.
In the 80’s Cavalli’s name has been neglected. He just got lost among the many young designers and rivals such as Gianni Versace, who managed to win the glory of the “celebrity” fashion designer. Loud sexy dresses, bright colors, rich details and finishing took the center stage making Versace uber popular brand taking over runways and stealing critics’ attention.
But in the early 90’s fashion world has undergone slowdown. These were the years of minimalism, which followed a global economic crisis. A short era of supermodels has begun. Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell – no matter what they wore as long as they did. They took the podium during the show. By the end of the decade a meaning of “brand” emerged in the new light. Focus has shifted to the business element of fashion and through the efforts of Tom Ford, brand that stands behind every garment, started to dictate the collection direction. And then many turned to Roberto Cavalli as a consistent designer who had a persistent style and it turned out that his style was associated with elements of brightness and flashy pop, rap, punk and rock’n roll.
In 1994, after 30 years, at the age of 54, Roberto opened his first boutique in San Barthelemy and 4 months later the second one in St. Tropez.
After the death of Versace Cavalli took the celebrity designer status. Celebrities lined up to get his gowns for Oscar ceremonies. Of course who else could surprise with color and associative animal decorative prints making star bodies centre in all magazine coverages. His client list counts a huge number of celebrities: from Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Ricky Martin to Sting, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sharon Stone. Many singers commissioned designer to dress their entire performance tours.
The success of the 90’s was so swift that by the early 2000’s, the company Roberto Cavalli SpA has expanded into several more lines, among which are youth line Just Cavalli, knitwear line, a collection of children’s clothing, accessories, eyewear, watches, perfumes and interior decorations. By 2001 revenues reached 147 million Euros (up to 10 times more than in 1996), 100 million of which came from licensing his brand name.
Today Cavalli is a self made millionaire, husband of a former miss Universe, Austrian model Eva Duringer, who was behind the scenes orchestrator of rapid growth of Cavalli empire. They live in their famous villa in Tuscany. Same place also houses the headquarters of the company, studio and a showroom. More than 2 million Euros has been spent on reconstruction and modernization of the house. Tax authorities has charged Cavalli family for writing off the house renovation as business expense in 2007. Court hearing stretched on for months, and witnesses were Madonna, Jennifer Lopez and Cindy Crawford. Cavalli argued that the villa is indeed part of his business, it is used as an office to create new collections, as a studio for advertising campaigns and as a banquet hall for holding business entertainment functions.
However parties is not only a part of his business, it is the essence of his life. In his 70 years Roberto Cavalli sustained childlike enthusiasm and amazement to everything new. Latest creations feature floral pattern and snake symbols. Roberto dresses alike. Always jeans and elegant jacket, riders’ boots and a cigar. He sees the world through rose coloured glasses. “I do not understand people who to the question “How are you?” answer “So so”. I always say “Excellent!” even when it is not the case. You can only achieve something in life by tuning it to the positive channel “.