Roberto Cavailli dies at 83 news photo of Roberto Cavalli

Roberto Cavalli Dies at 83

Best Known for his Animal Prints, the Iconic Italian Designer Also Pioneered Luxury Denim and Defined the Era of Maximalist Fashion

Roberto Cavalli, the iconic Italian fashion designer known for his maximalist aesthetic that made bold use of animal print and innovative denim techniques, has passed away at the age of 83. The eponymous brand he founded confirmed the news via an Instagram post that was met with an outpouring of remembrances and celebrations by those who knew him and admired his work, which was always unapologetically fierce, eye-catching, and distinct.

Fashion is part of our life. When you wake up in the morning you say, ‘What do I have to wear to look beautiful, fantastic, sexy, special?’ That is the reason I love being a fashion designer because I can use it to measure your mood, your life.”

– Roberto Cavalli

Born in Florence in 1940, Cavalli was steeped in artistic heritage from a young age. His grandfather, Giuseppe Rossi, a prominent painter, influenced his early artistic pursuits. Cavalli enrolled at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze, where he began his experiments in painting, patchwork, and textiles, and soon was developing innovative takes on these disciplines from his silk printing shop.

Cavalli presented his debut collection in 1970, which showcased the designer’s use of patchwork leather. His first runway show in 1972 expanded to include patchwork denim, and Cavalli quickly caught the attention of international fashion houses like Hermès, Pierre Cardin, Krizia, and Emilio Pucci, who commissioned work from the designer, which in turn supported his own label’s gradual path to success.

Nonetheless, Cavalli wasn’t well-known outside of European circles until the 90s. It was then, at a show in 1994, that he introduced his signature animal prints that would soon come to be emblematic of his maximalist and bold vision. Soon after he began his experiments with denim, becoming one of the leaders in the luxury denim movement. He was the first to develop sand-blasted jeans, and was the first to add Lycra to jeans, inventing stretch denim – which exploded after Naomi Campbell wore them on the runway. New lines were soon launched, and the first Roberto Cavalli mono-brand boutique opened in Venice in 1996. At the end of 2001, the brand was distributed in more than 30 countries.

Cavalli himself stepped back from the brand in 2015, whereupon Peter Dundas took the reins for a few seasons. was succeeded by Paul Surridge, who remained until 2019. In the same year, after a period of financial struggles that led to bankruptcy, the business was acquired by a Dubai-based private investment firm, which appointed current designer Fausto Puglisi, who has done strong work to maintain that signature Cavalli boldness and innovative fabric treatments.

Puglisi paid tribute to Cavalli via a post from the brand’s Instagram account, writing, “Dear Roberto, you may not be physically here with us anymore but I know I will feel your spirit with me always. It is the greatest honour of my career to work under your legacy and to create for the brand you founded with such vision and style. Rest in peace you will be missed and you are loved by so many that your name will continue on, a beacon of inspiration for others, and especially for me.”