Roberto Cavalli, Designer Who Celebrated Excess, Dies at 83

Roberto Cavalli, the Italian fashion designer who celebrated glamour and excess, sending models down the runway and actresses onto red carpets wearing leopard-print dresses, bejeweled distressed jeans, satin corsets and other unapologetically flashy clothes, has died. He was 83.

His company announced the death on Instagram but provided no details.

Mr. Cavalli’s signature style — “molto sexy, molto animal print and molto, molto Italiano,” as the British newspaper The Independent once described it — remained essentially unchanged throughout his long career. But he skillfully reinvented his clothes for different eras, enjoying several renaissances and building a global lifestyle brand in the process.

In the 1970s, Mr. Cavalli designed jackets, jeans and minidresses made from patchwork denim, selling his upscale hippie frocks in a boutique in St. Tropez, on the French Riviera, to actresses like Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren.

For the next two decades, he remained largely unknown outside Europe. Then, in the 1990s, he reinvented luxury denim, first with the sandblasted look and then, in a stroke of invention, by putting Lycra in jeans to make them fit more snugly and look sexier. When the model Naomi Campbell wore a pair during a runway show in 1993, stretch jeans became a huge trend.

Before that breakthrough, Mr. Cavalli’s business was floundering, and he had considered closing his factory. But from the mid-’90s onward, he was one of the biggest names in fashion, with stores around the world, celebrity admirers like Lenny Kravitz and Cindy Crawford and licenses for everything from jewelry, perfume and sunglasses to children’s clothes, housewares and a Roberto Cavalli-branded vodka, which came packaged in a snakeskin-covered bottle.

Like (Gianni) Versace or Calvin (Klein), Cavalli achieved single-name status: He stood for an immediately recognizable aesthetic.

“Roberto loved excess, but he never lost his point of view,” Nina Garcia, the editor in chief of Elle magazine, said in an email in 2020. “Even when minimalism was the norm, he believed in maximalism. He dressed us thinking that life — and fashion — should be lived at full speed.”

A full obituary will follow.

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