Roberto Cavalli’s Florence Life & Funeral

Roberto Cavalli in 2000

Roberto Cavalli passed away in the comfort of his own home at the age of 83 on Thursday, April 11. His funeral was today, April 15, at the church of San Miniato. A world-renowned designer who never let his long-term health problems stop him from enjoying life, he leaves behind his partner, Sara Bergman Nilsson, and his six children, one of whom was born in March 2023.

Cavalli was a successful fashion designer who captivated the world at the end of the 1990s with his colorful and provocative collections, featuring embroidery, animal prints, corsets, very small minis, and low-waisted pants bordering on decency. His aim was for women to feel sexy and wanted those who felt intimidated to know that a dress can change your life.

During the peak of his over-the-top style, not everyone appreciated it, but today his aesthetic is highlighted everywhere like never before, with fashion lovers scouring for his original garments in vintage markets.

Cavalli’s life was anything but calm. Born on November 15, 1940, in Florence, just four years later his father Giorgio was killed by German troops during the Cavriglia massacre. As he grew up, he became more and more interested in art and studied at the state art institute in Florence, where he developed a passion for dyeing fabric. As a student, his floral prints on a sweater attracted a lot of attention from sock and tights manufacturers, but Cavalli turned them down because he wanted to start his own business.

In the early 1970s, he became particularly interested in leather, his favorite material, and patented a method for printing on the fabric. This led him to collaborate with two big names in the fashion design industry, Pierre Cardin and Hermès.

He showcased his designs at fashion shows in Palazzo Pitti and opened his first boutique in Saint Tropez in 1972. Five years later, in 1977, Cavalli divorced his first wife, Silvanella Giannoni, with whom he had two children, and met his second wife, Eva Duringer, when she was representing Austria in the Miss Universe pageant, with Cavalli as a judge. The two fell in love and got married in 1980, subsequently having three children together. Eva turned out to be an important creative partner for Cavalli, and in 1994, and together they launched a line of aged, faded, and colored jeans, which were highly popular.

While his styles were already trendy, the director of Vogue Italia, Franca Sozzani, gave Cavalli the push he needed to enter the fashion Olympus, and with help from stylist Anna Dello Russo, they completely redesigned the Cavalli look. There were more colors, more outrageous dresses, more prints, and overall, more fashion. His fashion shows featured the most beautiful models in the most vibrant colors with spectacular sets, making them the most coveted of the Milanese fashion shows.

He invented animal prints. Cavalli said he realized that all animals have a beautiful “dress,” such as the scales on a fish, the stripes on a tiger, or the different designs on snakes. He said, “I understood that God is an extraordinary stylist and therefore, I copy from him.”

Cavalli bought and modernized Florence’s Caffè Giacosa in 2002, a historic café right next to his boutique, but 15 years later both closed. Today, visitors can find traces of the café’s previous reincarnation, such as original iron chairs, and porcelain cups at Caffé Lietta near Piazza Libertà . In 2007, he collaborated with H&M, which became a very popular selling point for his brand, and in 2012, he published his autobiography. However, his brand began to report a decrease in revenue because, in fashion, designs go in and out of style. In 2014, the family sold the majority of the brand to the Clessidra fund, which ended badly with the group filing for bankruptcy in 2019. Clessidra was replaced by Vision Investment Co. of Dubai.

Although Cavalli’s vision of fashion remains, with the collection being designed by Fausto Puglisi, who loves colors, shapes, and sensuality as much as Cavalli did. Puglisi has updated the brand’s version, combining it with the passion among younger people for the look of the early 2000s, which is what Cavalli would want. (Sophia Koch)