Monday, January 29, 2007

The Cavalli Empire

The Cavalli Empire
By Rachel Galvin

Fashion designers today aren’t content with just designing dresses; they want to be bigger. Their name itself becomes a brand and they slowly begin saturating the market with sleek new products that exemplify everything that their brand represents. One such marketing and design genius is Roberto Cavalli, who, at the age of 66, has conquered not only the runway, but also delved into the world of fine spirits, dining, chocolates and interior design; has created beauty and fragrance lines as well as taking on making his own shoes, watches, eyeglasses and even undergarment collection.

Now he is turning his designing eye to the real estate world with the Nicky O. Hotel on South Beach. He already has his textures available on everything from bedspreads to plates so why not a boutique condo hotel? After all, opulence and Cavalli have become synonymous. Cavalli’s fingerprints will be all over the 5000 square foot penthouse suite.

It is appropriate that Cavalli is working in tandem with such a project right in the center of SoBe—a party hotspot. Cavalli is well-known for his star-studded extravagant parties. He is very popular among the uber-trendy, including celebrities and fashion plates like Victoria & David Beckham, Beyonce Knowles, Mischa Barton, Paris & Nicky Hilton, Kate Moss and Cindy Crawford.

Cavalli lives a lush lifestyle, traveling the world and cruising in his beloved 132 foot yacht. On his downtime, he relaxes in his palazzo, with his wife, former Miss Universe, Eva, and his many exotic animals, taking his private helicopter to his office in Milan. But he also jet sets around the world checking in on his conquests and planning for more.

Despite his artistic kingdom today, this “Sultan of Bling” began as a humble artisan in a very fitting hometown, Florence; he would roam the streets where masters like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo once ruled the art world, strolling through artistic masterpieces that stand as proud monuments yet today. But his connection was even more personal—his grandfather, Giuseppe Rossi, was a famous painter in his own right. Rossi used the Macchiaioli technique—which focuses on color, the texture of a painting more so than the message and meaning behind the paint. The paint itself became an art form.

Cavalli took this notion with him as he specialized in textile applications, including knitwear with floral motif, Italian hosiery and later, through his own invention, printing on leather. By the age of 30, Cavalli was projecting his own artistic collection, letting silky textures, exotic patterns and sophisticated design re-define the word woman.

His style is forbidden, foreign, glamour and glitz all rolled into one. He has been known to infuse taboo materials like denim into a couture ensemble. His jeans (and shoes) were coveted by the girls of “Sex in the City,” helping his re-immersion after an early ‘90s downturn during the shapeless grunge era. Cavalli is flamboyant; it shouts, not whimpers—and that is a statement that makes today’s divas shiver with anticipation.

So without further adieu, CitySmart looks at Cavalli’s fall line. It is luxurious and form fitting as usual. Some pieces are transparent, others cover in plush velvet; many top, as usual, with fur. Some play with paisley and other complex patterns. His signature animal print crops up everywhere and it is just as trendy as ever. Dresses and coats are long, wrapping the body with a regal quality. Some sport dragon designs or add on feathers for flair. All ooze extravagant and ferocious sexuality. Grrrrowl.

His less expensive Just Cavalli line this fall is similarly ornate, lush and exotic. But the feel is darker and mysterious, Asian-inspired, adding flowing sleeves, rope belts and neck adornments and pairing with a few dainty umbrellas and red lighting on the runway. The patterns are intricate, either floral with a gothic air or dragon-like with inter-looping serpentine motion; the colors are bold, although he adds some basic black pieces. He dots the fabric with unlikely combinations—some are vibrant and flashy, pairing bright blues, greens and salmon pinks—others more muted. Some pieces give a nod to Spanish design with tight fit coats over a scarf with thin jeans overlaid with gold design—powerful like a matador ready to take on the world.

With a designer as flamboyant as Cavalli, there is only one word that describes his future machinations—more—and that is something that appeals to the inner-vamp in all of us.

Reprinted from my original article in CitySmart Magazine October/ November 2006 (

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