Roberto Cavalli, Iconic Italian Designer, Passes Away at 83

Iconic designer Roberto Cavalli leaves behind a lasting legacy.

by Nouman Rasool
Roberto Cavalli, Iconic Italian Designer, Passes Away at 83
© Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Roberto Cavalli, the Italian fashion designer known for his exotic animal prints and for introducing new treatment of textiles, has died at 83. His death was announced through the official Instagram account of the brand he founded but did not mention a cause of death.

He died peacefully at his Florence home, according to the Italian news agency ANSA, after a long battle with illness. Roberto Cavalli came to fashion in the 1970s through the launching of his label that rapidly gained appreciation from many famous personalities.

His unique designs graced the likes of Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren, Kim Kardashian, and Jennifer Lopez, making him a rare designer, dressing elite with their special flair. Fausto Pjsonuglisi, who is currently the creative director at the house of Cavalli, said he greatly admired Cavalli, and working with him was the highlight of his career.

Puglisi posted on Instagram, praising Cavalli as "a lighthouse of inspiration," referring to the way Cavalli's pioneering art lingers on.

Cavalli's Pioneering Beginnings

Born on November 15, 1940, in Florence—a city famed for its leather craftsmanship—Cavalli was a pioneer from the start.

He revolutionized the fashion world with his patented leather printing techniques and was known for his daring approach to design. In 1972, he opened 'Limbo,' his first boutique in the French resort town of Saint-Tropez, which became a crucible for his iconic styles.

Cavalli's designs extended beyond leather, including ethereal hippie dresses, sand-blasted jeans, and intricate patchwork on denim. His creative prowess was also sought by Playboy in 2005 to revamp the Playboy Bunnies’ uniforms, introducing an audacious leopard print version.

In a reflective 2011 interview with Vogue, Cavalli shared the inspiration behind his use of animal prints: "I like everything that is of nature," he said, admiring the "fantastic colored 'dress'" of fish, snakes, and tigers.

He credited the natural world as his muse, humorously noting that he sought to "copy God," the ultimate designer. Tributes poured in from fashion luminaries, including Giorgio Armani, who lamented the loss of Cavalli's "Tuscan verve." Armani praised him on social media as "a true artist, wild and wonderful in his use of prints, capable of transforming fantasy into seductive clothes." The legacy of Roberto Cavalli is considered and marked not only by aesthetic innovation but also by mingling with fashion like art; it marks the industry and the people he had the pleasure to dress in his creations.