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Roberto Cavalli with his models

Roberto Cavalli Shares His Inspirations

During my last visit to New York, I treated myself to lunch with some friends at Cipriani at 5th Avenue & 60th Street. I glanced around and noticed such faces as Ron Perlman, CEO of Revlon, Henry Kravis, and Barbara Walters. I smiled and began scanning the menu for my feast of fancy. Looking around for the waiter, my eye caught on a sassy leather skirt and a dazzling colorful blouse with a diving tattered neckline meant to be noticed. I lingered on the outfit a moment, thinking, "Oohhh...Too Cute!!" I started guessing labels in my head, but before I could even impress myself with my fashion expertise, the designer's face appeared in front of me, gentle and happy. I'd know that face anywhere! Italian salt & pepper gruff coiffure, dark jacket and eyes smiling to the world, wise with the stealth of creation, glanced up to meet me.

It was Roberto Cavalli sitting there and I was surprised to bump into him on this coast. It seemed more normal to spot him at the fashion events I often attended in L.A. than in the metropolitan fashion mecca of N.Y. (What a great coincidence!) Upon seeing me, he warmly delivered a smile and nodded before approaching. We shared a brief conversion amongst the lively lunch crowd and tiny restaurant symphony of utensils. He was here for business, of course, to tend to his boutique, located just a few blocks over on Madison. I bubbled that I would have to get a word out of him for the upcoming premiere for POWER and he graciously agreed to oblige. We agreed to continue later, and I tingled all the way through my salad at his enthusiasm. I gazed once more upon the outfit making her exit and sighed as to his gracious talent, with a gracious appeal to intrigue the fashion buff in all of us. I phoned my director in Los Angeles to follow up with him the next week in keeping with our chat. The only elementary thing I wanted from a Q & A with Cavalli was for him to share a hint of his own personal inspirations. It's evident to see what creative volumes his designs speak, but I wondered what private evolution occurs in fashion designers to reach such admirable heights.

PM: Mr. Cavalli, how did you originally get into the fashion business? We know that you were a struggling artist in the '60s. What was your passion then that determined that you make the leap?
RC: I was originally a painter. I studied art in the Florence Academy of Arts. I started painting T-shirts to pay my bills when I was a student and then...

PM: How did and does your art background influence you in the design business?
RC: Living in Florence, I breathe art every second. It's a unique influence for my fashion vision.

PM: Did you have a mentor in the business? Please tell us who your main, original influences were and how they shaped your perception and talents.
RC: I always loved Mother Nature and all her amazing creations.

PM: Have you had any partners in the business?
RC: My wife and design partner, Eva Duringer, a great support and endless inspiration.

PM: Is your family involved in your business? If so, what do they do?
RC: So far, only my oldest daughter, Cristiana, takes care of the legal aspects of the company. She's a lawyer.

PM: Your empire includes men's wear and women's fashion and accessories. What other areas of design have you considered expanding to, and when do you anticipate a chance to show them?
RC: I'm now launching a new men's fragrance in Fall, and I will keep expanding my lingerie line with a new surprising project.

PM: Outside of your celebrity clientele, what group do you think your clothes appeal to the most?
RC: My clients are jet setters. They travel the world, enjoy different cultures, love to party and all the the best things in life... they live "la dolce vita!"

PM: Excluding yourself, who is your favorite designer today and why?
RC: I love Jean Paul Gautier. He is a real fashion designer. Gianni Versace was also a great talent.

PM: How would you describe your own design style?
RC: Happy, colorful, lucky and energetic!

PM: How do you divide your time between the United States and Europe?
RC: I love the peace of my Tuscan estate and the energy of New York. The combination of the places is very inspiring for my fashion.

PM: What is your greatest extravagance?
RC: My whole life!

PM: What are your favorite cities and why? Where do you feel the most within your element?
RC: Florence, New York and Paris. I love Sardinia for my summer holidays. I absolutely love the ocean.

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