Roberto Cavalli, a Life Out Loud

Roberto Cavalli, the Italian designer who made a name for himself as the couturier to the rock ‘n roll St. Tropez set and who died this week at age 83, lived as he designed: in his own Wild Kingdom of parrots, Persian cats, monkeys, racehorses and assorted toys (Ferraris, a helicopter). He founded his own brand in 1970 and almost from the beginning loved zebra, giraffe, leopard and lynx; tiger stripes and leopard spots, and put them not just on the runway but on his poolside loungers and motorcycle seats — often all at the same time.

His animal prints did not always originate from nature but from his own imagination, chimeras of exotic skins that telegraphed excess, sex and aspiration. He roamed further afield, of course — into lace, sequins, studs and denim — but it was his love of an over-the-top sartorial menagerie that made his name. If Gianni Versace was the id of Italian fashion, Mr. Cavalli made it roar, hitting mass saturation in the late nineties as an antidote to the minimalism of Jil Sander and Helmut Lang.

He stepped into the vacuum created by the murder of Mr. Versace in 1997, was further buoyed by the frothy stock market, and soon, Paris Hilton was wearing him. So was Candace Bushnell, creator of “Sex and the City.” Victoria Beckham was a fan during her Posh Spice era. Little wonder he was the main sponsor of the 2004 show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute: “Wild: Fashion Untamed” — or that Ben Stiller wore Mr. Cavalli’s designs for “Zoolander,” Mr. Stiller’s fashion satire.

PETA would have been horrified (protestors crashed a show in 2005), and the biggest fashion magazines held their noses a little, but celebrities flocked like migrating birds in his brightly branded plumage to Mr. Cavalli’s shows and modernist estate outside Florence. There he played host to them all, lord of the leopard print jungle.

Mr. Cavalli with his wife, Eva Düringer Cavalli, a former beauty pageant title holder.Credit…Ron Galella Collection, via Getty Images

From the designer’s spring 2000 ready to wear runway show.Credit…Penske Media, via Getty Images
At Mr. Cavalli’s fall 1995 show during New York fashion week.Credit…Getty Images/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Mr. Cavalli with model Carol Alt at the 18th annual Night of Stars Awards in 2001 in New York.Credit…Getty Images/Getty Images
At New York’s 2003 Columbus Day Parade, Mr. Cavalli was its Grand Marshall.Credit…Timothy A. Clary/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The designer’s spring 2004 Just Cavalli show in Milan.Credit…Mauricio Miranda/Penske Media, via Getty Images
Mr. Cavalli with the actress Julianne Moore at the Metropolitan Museum’s 2004 exhibition “Wild: Fashion Untamed.”Credit…Getty Images
Mr. Cavalli, with his wife Eva, in Milan in 2005. Credit…Getty Images/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Mr. Cavalli, center, poses with Playboy playmates, from left, Cara Zavaleta, Stacy Sanches and Tiffany Fallon, who are modeling his new Playboy Bunny costumes in Las Vegas in 2005. Credit…Ethan Miller/Getty Images
A look from the Roberto Cavalli spring 2005 collection.Credit…Roberto Barreti/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Mr. Cavalli with the singer Christina Aguilera in Los Angeles in 2005 for the opening of the brand’s new boutique.Credit…Amanda Edwards/Getty Images
Mr. Cavalli with the model Jessica Stam in New York City during the launch of his collection at H&M in 2007. Credit…Amy Sussman/Getty Images
Mr. Cavalli preparing for his Just Cavalli fashion show in Milan in 2013. Credit…Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images
The model Cindy Crawford with Mr. Cavalli in 2012. Credit…Casey Kelbaugh for The New York Times
Mr. Cavalli at a fashion show in 2013.Credit…Savo Prelevic/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
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