August 12th, 2008, 08:15 PM #1
Roberto Cavalli interview with the Observer Food Monthly. He's crazy!
Italian clothing designer Roberto Cavalli recently shared his view on models in an interview with Observer Food Monthly. The 68-year-old designer criticizes Kate Moss, saying he doesn't think she "has what it takes to be a true star." He goes on to say, "For me, models are just pieces of wood that I carve to make clothes look beautiful," he says. "There are thousands of models like all other models. Naomi Campbell is the same way."
Here's the article:
A man with a nose for a sexy red
Fan of leopard print, friend of the Beckhams, fashion designer Roberto Cavalli is branching out into wine. He tells Elizabeth Day about his passion for parrots, beautiful women and full-bodied reds
The Observer, Sunday July 20 2008
Roberto Cavalli has a lot of love to give. It spills out of him indiscriminately like an overflowing fountain. As he walks through the rooms of his sprawling Tuscan villa, a paean to the decorative qualities of animal fur and trailing purple orchids, it is difficult to find anything that does not provoke a new burst of passion.
He loves his blue-and-yellow macaw, which is quietly minding its own business on a large gold birdstand in the dining room. 'I love you I love you I love you!' Cavalli shrieks ecstatically, as the bird squawks. He brings his face up close and tries to kiss it. The parrot swipes its beak perilously close to Cavalli's nose.
Outside, sitting down for lunch on a leopard-print garden chair, he professes ardent devotion to the pine nuts in his bowl of fresh pasta. 'I love them - the taste! I love the small things,' he continues, breathlessly plucking a white flower from a nearby trellis. 'What you see in one flower is so fantastic. The detail on this one leaf ...'
But most of all, the 68-year-old Cavalli loves women. 'I love the skin,' he says, clasping my arm. 'I love to be watched from beautiful eyes.' He gazes at me intently through reflective sunglasses, leaning forward so that his unbuttoned black shirt gapes open. The giant diamanté crucifix he wears round his neck bangs gently against the table.
But as well as loving women, parrots and pine nuts, Cavalli has developed another outlet for his considerable reserves of passion: he is about to launch his own red wine. 'I love it,' he says, not entirely unexpectedly. 'I drink only this and nothing else.'
The Cavalli Selection wine is the culmination of an eight-year collaboration with his son, Tommaso, who manages the 70-acre Tenuta degli Dei family estate in the Panzano region of Chianti. The first 2004 vintage, limited to 500 cases, has been on sale locally since last November but the family is now on the verge of international expansion.
It is for this reason that I find myself eating an al fresco lunch with Cavalli in Il Poggio, his spectacular 14th-century Tuscan villa, surrounded by Bengal cats, half-empty bottles of Moët and poodles wearing pink bows. The thudding bass-line of Lenny Kravitz's 'American Woman' reverberates through the corridors. Several glamorous Italian women waft about chain-smoking and wearing fabulous jewellery. The floors are covered with soft rugs that appear to be made from fur. The whole thing feels like an elaborate stage set for a film shoot.
That Cavalli is a man of extravagant extremes comes as no surprise. Since launching his own collection of women's clothing in 1970, with a modest line of animal print T-shirts and patchwork jeans, his dresses have become synonymous with a certain kind of gilded excess (think tight satin brocade with a dash of tiger stripe) and his business empire is now thought to be worth in the region of £350 million. He has dressed Brigitte Bardot, Sharon Stone, Victoria Beckham and Jennifer Lopez.
'When I create clothes, I do it to help you,' he explains. 'In the moment, you must feel sure that you want the dress, that you love the dress. I became a designer to have more of a chance with beautiful women.'
In that, at least, he succeeded. He met his Austrian-born wife, Eva, when she was the 18-year-old runner-up in the 1978 Miss Universe contest. Cavalli, then 37, was a judge. It is Eva who has been credited with turning around Cavalli's fortunes after sales slumped in the 1980s, edged out by yuppie business suits and minimalist trends. She still oversees much of the day-to-day running of her husband's burgeoning empire - everything from branded espresso cups to beaded bikinis. And now, of course, there's the wine.
If Cavalli's wine were a woman, I ask him, who would it be? 'Oh my God,' he says, clapping his hands together. 'I hate to speak names because all the others will be jealous.' Perhaps Eva is his muse? 'Next question,' he says, waving his hand dismissively. 'She used to be.' Ouch. 'My wine is like me; it breathes art. Have you tried it? You must try it!'
A member of staff suddenly materialises to pour us two glasses of Cavalli Selection 2005, each one the size of a small goldfish bowl. Cavalli takes a sip. 'It's too hot. No, no, no, this is no good,' he says, seizing my glass and pouring the wine theatrically into a nearby flowerbed. Another bottle is instantly produced.
It is delicious: velvety, earthy and, it must be said, surprisingly subtle given that it bears the name of a man who probably thinks restraint is a type of handcuff. But Cavalli has taken the production of this wine very seriously indeed. That is to say, he has handed the responsibility for it over to Tommaso, his eldest son from his first marriage, a mild-mannered 40-year-old who seems more mature than his father.
'Oh yes, we are completely different!' says Cavalli, cheerfully. 'I am more impulsive, but we love each other. I used to try and take him backstage at catwalk shows when he was just 18 and he wouldn't go. He was too embarrassed to see the models naked.
'He makes me very nervous; he's so strict with me. When he started making wine, I was begging him to let me try some and he kept saying: "No, you can't drink that, it's not ready."'
When I meet Tommaso in his family home, a renovated farmhouse overlooking the Chianti hilltops, it is almost impossible to believe they are father and son. Tommaso shows me round the family vineyard dressed in a white shirt tucked neatly into slightly too-short black trousers. 'Yes, they are all Roberto Cavalli clothes,' he says, slightly defensively. 'If you can save money, then why not?'
For 20 years, Tommaso has been breeding racehorses on his estate, where he lives with his wife, Dorothy, and their two young daughters. In 2000, his father decided to cultivate the land for wine production, having already successfully launched his own brand of vodka, marketed in a frosted glass bottle with a snake wrapped around it (a big hit, apparently, in the nightclubs of Dubai and Russia).
The wine-making has become, under Tommaso's guidance, an extremely professional enterprise. He sought the advice of Carlo Ferrini, one of the most respected wine consultants in the region, and then oversaw the planting of 25 hectares of vines, divided equally between Panzano and the grounds surrounding his father's villa, 15 minutes south of Florence. The resulting Cavalli Selection is a blend of mostly French grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Alicante Bouschet. Each variety is harvested and aged separately in oak barrels in the cool expanse of a stone-walled cellar for 18 months. The Cavallis then taste the grapes and decide on the final blend, ageing the wine for a further 12 months in the bottle. Eventually, they aim to produce 50,000 bottles a year.
'Wine is my passion,' says Tommaso, as he walks through the rows of lush, green vines. It is an idyllic setting. The vineyards are bordered on all sides by dense poppy fields. In the distance, you can make out the silhouettes of horses grazing and the aquamarine of a swimming pool built into the edge of the mountainside.
'I never wanted to follow my father into fashion,' Tommaso says. 'That's why I started with breeding horses. It was important for me to do something without his help. Now, my aim is for this wine to be considered first for the quality and second for the package. I would like it to be elegant, a joy to taste and, like the dresses of my father, to have its own personality. I want it to be more about the wine than the name.'
So far, it has been well received: Wine Spectator rated it 'beautiful, well-crafted' and gave it a respectable 90 out of 100. The Roberto Cavalli touch is in evidence none the less. Each new vintage carries a different animal-print label: cheetah for 2004, zebra for 2005 and butterfly for 2006. An extra-special limited edition Cavalli Collection wine comes in a unlabelled black bottle, with the 'RC' logo embossed on it in brass.
Does he ever disagree with his father? 'No, we get on very well. But I tell you one thing that's very funny. Once, we had an important wine journalist doing an interview. The journalist asked my father what kind of wine it was. My father said: "This wine is sexy." I wanted to jump across the table and stop him.' Tommaso laughs quietly, then shrugs his shoulders. 'Maybe he's right. At least sexy is not banal.'
In the grounds of his villa, Roberto Cavalli is doing his utmost not to appear banal. He poses for photographs in front of his swimming pool, eating handfuls of fresh cherries in a flirtatious manner.
'It is a pity I don't have a banana to eat,' he says suggestively, suddenly leaping off his chair and lying on the ground. 'You are not wearing knickers mio amore!' he screams delightedly at the mortified female photographer, who is most definitely wearing full underwear. 'I can see!'
Despite this, he is rather charming, unthreatening, a bit like your favourite uncle. 'I try to change my expression in photos,' Cavalli explains, brushing a hand through his hair. 'I try not to be like other people.'
In fact, he doesn't seem to have much time for professional models. Although he publicly defended Kate Moss after she was filmed allegedly snorting cocaine, he now dismisses her as 'not having what it takes to be a true star'.
'There are thousands of models like all the other thousands of models. Naomi Campbell is the same way. For me, models are just pieces of wood that I carve to make clothes look beautiful.' He admits that he prefers to spend his time hanging out with music stars - he counts Victoria Beckham and P Diddy as close friends. 'Oh Puffy!' he says, before launching into a long anecdote involving a party on board P Diddy's yacht in St Tropez. 'He has such a big heart. He is so sweet.'
It seems Cavalli surrounds himself with younger, more beautiful people because they are the only ones who can keep up with him. 'What keeps me young is that I love women and my work - these are the two ingredients to a good life.'
He shows no signs of slowing down, despite being two years shy of his 70th birthday. 'I give you my mobile numbers,' he says at one point. 'I can show you a crazy time.'
He says that his interminable energy comes from an innate desire to prove himself. Cavalli is a self-made man with a troubled past - his father was killed by the Nazis when he was two and the young Roberto did badly at school, developing a severe stutter in his adolescence. At 21,
he enrolled at the Florence Academy of Art where he began designing prints for T-shirts. Soon, he had sold enough to buy himself a Fiat 1500 sports car - 'Open top,' he says proudly, 'English style'.
'I don't feel myself important most of the time,' he says, in a rare moment of reflection. 'I'm still like a little boy in my mind. I think I have a lot of wish to make money and to show my mummy I was not like she thought I was.'
There is something rather moving about this admission, as if he is still trying to shore up his place in the world all these years later. The wine, he says, will be his most lasting legacy - that is, if he doesn't drink it all first. 'To create a good wine is to create something you can pass into the future. For me, it is the best wine because my son created it and he loves his work with a big passion. Love is the most important ingredient when you do something.'
But then, just as it's all getting a bit poetic, Cavalli leans towards me. 'My wine,' he says, patting the back of my hand, 'is sexy.' Poor Tommaso. I can almost see him rolling his eyes, arms folded like a schoolteacher dealing with a naughty child.
I think he might be fighting a losing battle. Whatever else it might become, the family wine is forever destined to be 'sexy'. After all, Roberto Cavalli simply wouldn't want to be associated with anything that wasn't.
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