I first came face-to-face with Roberto Cavalli back in 2005. He was overly tan, flanked by half naked women and oozing as much charm as the day is long. I met him poolside in the back of a famous South Beach hotel, where a handful of Miami movers and shakers had gathered to sample his new vodka.
As I tossed one back (for journalistic purposes, of course,) Roberto turned to me and asked in his thick Italian accent: “What do you think of my vodka?” Through watery eyes and a burning throat, I managed to blurt out: “It tastes like fashion.” He laughed out loud, grabbed my face, kissed both of my cheeks and exclaimed: “Have another!”
I did and so did everyone else. Needless to say, it turned out to be a great day and Roberto’s vodka launch was an even better story; just like the man himself. He was born in Florence, Italy, where he grew up in an artistic family. He studied painting, textiles and would later become what he calls a “fashion artist.”
His first claim to fame was in the 70’s, when he mastered a special technique to print on leather. Hermes and Pierre Cardin took notice and hired him. His mainstream success would be short-lived, though, as 80’s high fashion ushered in a stark, minimalistic look. The trends were monotonic with clean, neat, strict lines; the complete opposite of Roberto’s style. He readily admits it just wasn’t his time to shine.
Instead of altering his designs to suit the fashion world, Roberto decided to perfect the stylings that he loved. In fact, during that time, he concentrated on his custom-made order business, which consisted of colorful, flowing pieces with a haute hippy, bohemian flare. His individuality and creativity would be rewarded as he quietly fell into favor with fashionistas like Sophia Loren and Brigitte Bardot.
It took almost a decade, but as the minimalistic look faded and the excessive nature of the 90’s surfaced, Cavalli would finally become King. His provocative patterns, eye-popping colors, decorative denim and gorgeous gowns would steal the fashion spotlight. His designs were unapologetically intriguing, movie star glamorous and beyond sexy. His clothes were the center of attention on red carpets, award shows, concerts, and fashion runways everywhere.
It wasn’t just his clothing, though. Cavalli would become just as famous for the way he fashioned his life. He extravagantly lived out-loud, showing off his yacht, helicopter, expensive cars, clubs, racehorses, winery and mansions. Although married twice with kids, he appeared to be the ultimate latin lover. The public couldn’t get enough of its newly minted fashion King and it’s a good thing, too, because Roberto had a lot more to give.
In the early 2000’s, after launching his eyewear and fragrance lines, he solidified his name (yet again) by opening a Cavalli boutique on Madison Avenue in New York City. He also decided to give guys a go by designing menswear. Roberto’s been quoted as saying: “Women don’t need me as much as men do. It’s the men that have nothing to wear.”
As he built his fashion empire, Roberto branched out and opened the Cavalli Cafe in Milan. It was something that he loved and something he was good at. By 2010, the “excess is success” designer had celebrated forty years in the fickle fashion industry, which, by the way, is no easy task. Remaining “Oh, So Roberto!” without ever going out of style is nearly impossible, but he’s done it by combining years of knowledge, undeniable skill and a passion for fashion.
His new restaurant and lounge on South Beach, “Cavalli Miami,” is the perfect example. It’s a place where food, fashion and design meticulously merge together. The patio is open and welcoming, the main dining room is sleek and sophisticated and its upstairs lounge is sexy and seductive.
Everything in the venue is Cavalli and I do mean everything. From the table dressings, furniture, flatware, dishes, corkscrew, decorations and wine to the vodka. It’s all either created, designed or made by the fashion King himself. It’s simply “Oh, So Roberto!”
It may sound a bit self-obsessive or overwrought with self importance, but actually it’s not. Strangely enough, the all things Cavalli creation works. I found the entertainment venue whimsical, dreamy and decadent. The food is deliciously Italian with a Tuscan flair. I enjoyed a clean heirloom tomato salad, fresh octopus carpaccio and a pared down pasta dish (I’m allergic to truffle oil.) The portions were perfect: not to big, not to small, just right.
My favorite part of the place is the bar. Besides being beautiful, the mixologists are extremely friendly, talented and creative. Using Cavalli vodka and wine, they concoct the most unusual, yummy drinks. You can order off the menu or better yet, let them surprise you.
The night that I dined at “Cavalli Miami,” Roberto was there with his family. His posse sat outside at a big, long table talking, drinking and laughing their way through a five course tasting (paired with wine from Roberto’s vineyard.) Despite recent leg surgery, Cavalli happily greeted fans during dinner and posed for pictures. He was definitely in his element, literally and figuratively speaking.
As evening turned to night, “Cavalli Miami” started glowing in ways I haven’t seen South Beach do in a long time. It seemed the cool, classy and fashion-forward coalesced all at once, or maybe it was just the vodka.
When midnight struck, I called it a night and kissed the King, like he had kissed me all those years before. When he asked what I thought of “Cavalli Miami,” I smiled and replied: It’s “Oh, So Roberto!” And that’s why it’s one of my favorite things.
Jill Zaleski ~ FB & IG
“One of a Kind Jewelry”
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photography by tod p/t4twophotography
Hair & Make-up by Odette Hernandez