Feb 24, 2019
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Roberto Cavalli returns to its roots as rumours of an imminent sale swirl

Feb 24, 2019

Roberto Cavalli has been reunited with its flamboyant, sexy spirit, in a new and contemporary way. With his fourth womenswear collection for the Italian fashion house, Paul Surridge appears to have struck the right balance between dazzling, luxurious sensuality and a more modern, everyday precision. This could be one way of getting the label back on track as its principal shareholder, Italian investment fund Clessidra, is reported to be about to sell its majority share to a new investor. 

Roberto Cavalli - Fall/Winter 2019-20 - Milan - ph Dominique Muret

According to reports published on the eve of the show by Italian daily newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, German designer Philipp Plein is waiting in the wings to take over with the backing of an investment fund, probably Blue Skye Investment Group. The deal could give him control of 70% of Roberto Cavalli's capital, while the other 30% would remain with Clessidra. However, as pointed out by the business newspaper, Plein's is not the only offer on the table. Renzo Rosso's holding company OTB, which has held the licence for the label's Just Cavalli youth line, and another US-based group are also reported to be interested. A deal could come together by the beginning of March. 

Although he did not wish to comment on the reports, Roberto Cavalli CEO Gian Giacomo Ferraris spoke to FashionNetwork.com after the show, stating that the brand "needed future investments."

"The problem was stabilising the business because the sales were declining. That's what we did. For 2018, revenues should see a slight increase," he explained. 

In 2017, sales at Roberto Cavalli fell 1.8% to 152.4 million euros but the company managed to narrow its operating loss from 26.2 million in 2016 to 7.1 million. Following a comprehensive restructuring that included numerous layoffs, a reduction in its distribution network and the reorganisation of its offering and production, the brand set about repositioning itself in terms of its image and style, notably relaunching menswear last summer. Indeed, the latest Fall/Winter 2019-20 men's collection was presented in Milan on Saturday alongside womenswear. 

The two wardrobes had similar colour palettes, graphic patterns and materials, even featuring some interchangeable his and hers pieces, but each collection had its own distinct character. Taking to the catwalk in white boots, the men wore suits in shades of amaranth, petrol blue and washed-out sage with flamboyant silk shirts and python-print jumpers. 

The women, on the other hand, sported thigh-high stiletto boots with metallic golden heels, alternating long pleated skirts with flowing silk gowns and loose-knit dresses in dark wool or colourful lurex and rhinestones. Whether long or ultra short, they clung tightly to the models' bodies, at times leaving their backs uncovered. 

Paul Surridge colourfully reinterprets the Roberto Cavalli animal print - ph Dominique Muret

The animal print so dear to the label's eponymous founder ran through the whole collection, recomposed in a graphic contemporary style featuring intense shades of turquoise, golden yellow, mauve and burgundy, a palette not dissimilar to that of Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka. This "lifestyle tiger" print, as Paul Surridge defined it backstage, appeared not only on floating dresses but also on trousers, suits, bustier jumpsuits, velour tops, fur coats and down jackets. 

For the evening, the men opted for jackets covered in silver sequins, worn over black trousers, while the women donned dresses decorated with a shimmering golden rain that ran down to partially cover the pieces' colourful animal prints. 

The collection also spotlighted precisely tailored coats: mini redingotes, pieces in blueish snakeskin, others in ultra-light cashmere falling delicately around the models' bodies, as well as a series of more austere, but no less spectacular, coats in black leather. 

"I went back to house codes like animal prints but with a very modern twist. In the same line of thought, I modernised the label's sexy side by making it more sophisticated. The main idea is the power of luxury as status, which comes across in the whole collection through the materials, the choice of colours and prints, and the artisanal finishes, all while maintaining a certain rigour," said the designer. 

Roberto Cavalli's retail channel, which operates through 28 stores around the world, currently accounts for 40% of the company's sales, while wholesale represents 30% and licences make for a further 30%. Europe is the brand's principal market, where it makes 45% of its revenues (20% in Italy alone), followed by the US (27%). 

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