Roberto Cavalli (born 1940, Florence) designs some of the most glamorous clothes in fashion: baroque combinations of exotic feathers, overblown florals, animal prints and incredibly lightweight leathers comprise the signature Cavalli look for day or night, which is always shown on his Milan runway atop the highest heels and with the biggest, blow-dried hair in the city. In winter collections, fur - the more extravagant the better - is dominant.
And to think it all started on a ping-pong table. This is where, as a student at Florence's Academy of Art, Cavalli first began to experiment with printing on leather, later patenting a similar technique. The son of a tailor and the grandson of a revered painter (of the Macchiaioli movement), Cavalli is an expert embellisher and decorator of textiles.
After founding his own fashion company in the early '60s, Cavalli was one of the first to put leather on a catwalk, patchworking it together for his debut show in 1972, which was staged at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. Cavalli was an outsider to high fashion during the '80s, but staged a remarkable comeback in the '90s. In this renaissance period, Cavalli has become the label of choice among the R&B aristocracy, not to mention any starlet with both the bravado and the body to carry off one of his attention-seeking frocks.
Assisted by his second wife Eva Duringer, a former Miss Universe, Cavalli brought his distinctive look - a unique combination of thrusting sex appeal, artisanal prints and frankly eccentric themes and catwalk shows - to the Milan collections, where press and clients alike received him with open arms. The collections bearing his name now include Just Cavalli, a menswear line, a childrenswear line and perfume licences, among others. In 2003 his company scored a turnover of ˆ 289 million and its collections are distributed in over 30 countries. Cavalli also owns one of Italy's best racehorse stud farms.