Roberto Cavalli, legendary maximalist fashion designer, dead at 83

Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli has died. He was 83.

“It is with great sadness that today we say our final goodbyes to our founder Roberto Cavalli,” his namesake brand announced in a statement on Instagram Friday.

“From humble beginnings in Florence, Roberto succeeded in becoming a globally recognised name loved and respected by all. Naturally talented and creative, Roberto believed that everyone can discover and nurture the artist within themselves.

“Roberto Cavalli’s legacy will live on via his creativity, his love of nature and via his family who he cherished.”

Cavalli’s cause of death was not immediately shared.

The Florence native was beloved by celebrities for decades. WireImage
He worked closely with the Spice Girls, creating their tour costumes in 2007. WireImage

The legendary maximalist was known for his love of bright colors, animal print and bejeweled designs worn by celebrities from Zendaya to Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Rita Ora, the Spice Girls and more. His creations included skin-baring designs, embellishments, exotic motifs and all manner of bold accents that made a Cavalli look instantly recognizable.

Cavalli was a fan of the phrase “excess is success” — and the motto was apparent in his work as well as his personal sensibilities, including his purple metallic yacht, among many other cherished items.

He launched his brand in 1970 after studying at the Art Institute of Florence. He later invented and patented his own printing process on leather and quickly opened shop in St. Tropez, where he gained notoriety for his leather goods.

Cavalli gained notoriety for his innovation in leather before launching his own brand in the 1970s. WireImage
Sandra Nilsson-Bergman began dating the designer in 2014, and the pair welcomed a child together earlier this year. Luca V. Teuchmann

Cavalli shared children Tommaso and Cristina with his first wife, Silvanella Giannoni, whom he married in 1964. Ten years later, the couple divorced.


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He was married to pageant queen Eva Maria Düringer — whom he met while serving as a judge at Miss Universe in the Dominican Republic, where she was a contestant — from 1980 until 2010, and the pair share three children: Robert, Rachele and Daniele. Düringer was also a fashion designer and was named creative director of his brand in 1994.

Cavalli had been dating model Sandra Nilsson-Bergman, 38, since 2014, and, earlier this year, she gave birth to his sixth child, Giorgio.

Cavalli was known for his love of mega-yachts, often hosting parties on his own boats with models including Irina Shayk. Getty Images
He leaves behind six children. AFP via Getty Images
The star stepped away from the fashion world in 2017. AFP via Getty Images

The Italian star’s talents expanded well past clothing, with Cavalli opening up clubs and cafés as well as designing home furnishings like wallpaper, furniture, textiles and more. A penthouse he designed completely was even featured on “The Real Housewives of Orange County” when Heather and Terry Dubrow purchased the $14 million Los Angeles property — the first Cavalli had ever done in the United States — in an episode of the Bravo show last year.

He also penned an autobiography called “Just Me!” in 2014, discussing the hardships of his life and his rags to riches story.

In 2015, as Cavalli slowly exited the fashion industry, selling a majority stake in the eponymous brand and giving up creative control, Peter Dundas was named creative director and was succeeded by Paul Surridge in 2017. In 2020, Sicilian star Fausto Puglisi took over the collections.

Puglisi honored Cavalli on Instagram, 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.”