Roberto Cavalli

Roberto Cavalli
Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Roberto Cavalli’s relentless search for beauty has been the driving force behind his innovative work for more than four decades. A groundbreaking fashion designer and entrepreneur, Cavalli was born in Florence, Italy, in 1940, the grandson of prominent painter Giuseppe Rossi. Following in his family’s creative footsteps, he studied at the Florence Academy of Art, where he decided his future lay in the world of imagination and invention.

During the 1960s, after observing Italy’s most renowned silk makers at work, Cavalli developed an innovative printing technique that enabled him to print his patterns on whole garments, interrupted only by adornments and seams. This was the beginning of Stampa Cavalli (Cavalli Printing), which is recognizable beyond all attempts at imitation. In 1969, he began using the same printing technique on leather, and success followed when his evening gowns and swimsuits made of printed leather were shown in Paris in 1970.

But for Roberto this was not enough. He decided to transfer his creativity onto an unexpected item: jeans, which took center stage on the prestigious catwalk of the Pitti Palace in Florence in 1972. Word of mouth from industry insiders turned into fame among the wider public, and Roberto Cavalli quickly became the most popular trademark in both traditional European venues and the emerging U.S. market. Then came his first official fashion shows at Milano Collezioni, presenting a new jean which opened the road to what would become glamour by Roberto Cavalli: sexy, sexy, sexy. Roberto Cavalli became a true fashion star of the ’90s, a phenomenon that was destined to last for a long time, as it was built on the pillars of lifestyle rather than the quicksand of passing trends.

In the years since, Cavalli has reinvented the Playboy Bunnies’ uniform, designed the costumes for Shakira’s first world tour, and created an exclusive collection for the popular fashion chain H&M that sold out within just days of its launch. Roberto Cavalli boutiques are found around the world—from Milan, London, and New York to Sao Paulo, Seoul, and Mexico City—and his appreciation for the epicurean moments of life is on display at his Giacosa Café in Florence, Just Cavalli Café in Milan, and Cavalli Club in Dubai. In 2007, he received the Bambi prize in Stuttgart for his outstanding contribution to international fashion, and in 2009, Paris named Cavalli as one of its notable citizens as he opened a seven-story boutique in the Rue du Faubourg-Saint- Honoré.

Cavalli has used his fame and good fortune to support causes close to his heart. amfAR is the charity most important to him, and he has supported the Foundation’s events in Cannes, Milan, and New York. More recently, Cavalli has become involved with the Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education, a New York-based organization empowering youth through social, cultural, and educational opportunities. Cavalli has five children: Tommaso, Cristiana with his first wife, and Rachele, Daniele, and Robin with Eva Düringer.