• Shria Nene

The Rise and Fall of Roberto Cavalli

In the wake of the news of Milan court granting 120 days to the troubled Italian Fashion house for presenting a “turnaround plan”, the brand once hailed to be a leader in luxury is now grappling to find new investors. The Tuscany based business group demanded for a Chapter 11 protection at the end of March 2019, to look for new investors.

Roberto Cavalli was born in Florence, Tuscany. He was influenced by his artist grandfather and enrolled himself in an art school, focusing on textile printing. After creating and launching revolutionary printing techniques in Paris, he was immediately commissioned by the likes of Pierre Cardin and Hermes. Cavalli earned tremendous success and opened his first boutique in Saint Tropez in 1972. This brand is now well-known for Haute Couture, ready-to-wear, accessories and interior designs.

So, what went wrong with this iconic brand?

The brand, in its heydays – the 1970s – earned a name due to the bold and sexy silhouettes, and patchwork fabrics. And who can forget its undeniable association with animal prints! With the evolution of fashion, the brand started bowing down to the competition and by mid 2010s, the designer wanted it to sell it off. In 2015, the Cavalli family sold 90% of the business to Clessidra, a firm with a reputation of owning Italian family-run businesses across different domains. During this acquisition, Clessidra stated their objective behind owning this brand – supporting the “made in Italy” stamp in the global market. The deal was worth €390 million, out of which Mr. Cavalli earned €230 million. But surprisingly, he has managed to stay mum throughout the recent mayhem.

Clessidra went through its own share of upheavals and wanted to come through by overhauling the brand identity. And thus, Dundas was hired. He was given a free rein – creatively and financially – to reinvent the brand and its collections. But Dundas’ expensive changes did not go well with the customers and the finances suffered substantially. The loss in their biggest market – Russia, especially affected the brand paving a destructive path for Dundas.

The appointment of the turnaround specialist Gian Giacomo Ferraris in 2016 was looking hopeful for the successful revival of the brand. He did do his job by hiring a new design lead: Paul Surridge. This appointment puzzled the critics, considering his aesthetics, which were vastly different from the brand image of maximalism. And though his new designs brought in sales, (where the brand recorded a 3% increase in direct sales) they failed to keep the critics interested.

The year 2018 was an antithetical year for the luxury market. Where fashion houses like Gucci and Versace earned record results, many others suffered. Roberto Cavalli did not escape this loss, and it was once again estimated that the brand would need €50 million to €100 million to revamp its image. Ferraris asked for more money and was given with a promise to double it. But the losses worsened over fall and Clessidra decided to start looking for investors interested in buying this failing fashion house. The final blow was the resignation of Paul Surridge in March 2019.

According to the documents submitted to the Italian Court, the brand lists six potential investors that include Plein and OTB, Interparfums Inc. and Marquee Brands. Their current hopes are resting on Bluestar Alliance, a US based brand management company.

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