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Roberto Cavalli was born in Florence, Tuscany. His grandfather, Giuseppe Rossi, was a member of the Macchiaioli Movement, whose work is exhibited in the Uffizi Gallery. Cavalli decided to enroll at the local Art Institute, concentrating in textile print. While still a student, he made a series of flower prints on knit that caught the attention of major Italian hosiery factories.
In the early 1970s, he invented and patented a revolutionary printing procedure on leather, and he started creating patchworks of different materials. He debuted these techniques in Paris, immediately getting commissions from the likes of Hermès and Pierre Cardin. At age 30, he presented his first namesake collection at the Salon for Prêt-à-Porter in Paris. He brought it to the catwalks of the Sala Bianca of Palazzo Pitti in Florence, and later on those of Milano Collezioni, jeans made of printed denim, intarsia leathers, brocade and wild prints. He then opened his first boutique in 1972 in Saint-Tropez.
In 1980 Roberto Cavalli married Eva Düringer, who has been his lifelong companion and business partner. In Milan in 1994 Cavalli presented the first sand-blasted jeans. By December of the same year, he had opened boutiques in Saint Barth, in the French Caribbean, followed by others in Venice and Saint-Tropez. Besides the main line, which is sold in over fifty countries worldwide, Roberto Cavalli designs RC Menswear as well as the youth aimed line Just Cavalli, launched in 1998 and comprising today men’s wear, women’s wear and accessories, eyewear, watches, perfumes, underwear and beachwear. There is also the Angels & Devils Children Collection, the Class line, two underwear collections, shoes, eyewear, watches and perfumes. In 2002 Cavalli opened his first café-store in Florence, revamping it with his signature animal prints. This was shortly followed by the opening in Milan of the Just Cavalli café at Torre Branca and another boutique on Via della Spiga.
Roberto Cavalli was a judge at the Miss Universe 1977 pageant where his future wife (Eva Duringer) was a contestant, who represented Austria and won second place. The girl that won was the first Black Miss Universe( Miss Trinidad and Tobago: Janelle Commissiong). In July 2011 his company collection was presented at the catwalk of The Brandery fashion show in Barcelona.
Cavalli has five children: Tommaso and Christiana from his first marriage, and Robert, Rachele, and Daniele from his second marriage.
On June 18, 2013 he was awarded an Honorary Master Diploma in Fashion Management from Domus Academy in Milan, during a ceremony after which he held a lectio magistralis.