Jenny Hewett meets the man behind the growing fashion and lifestyle brand to talk shoes and lavished pets as he touches down in Dubai for the unveiling of Cavalli Caffè.
When I meet Roberto Cavalli at his slick new dining concept, Cavalli Caffè, at The Beach in JBR, the 74-year-old Italian designer is glued to a smartphone, propped up on the table in front of him. Oblivious to the fact that I have sidled up to talk shop, Roberto is pre-occupied with the football match streaming on the device and seems concerned with the state of play. The first words he utters are instantly recognisable to anyone who has ever learnt to swear in a foreign language. You certainly don’t have to be fluent in Italian to know that things aren’t going well for his team.
And so it’s an awkward situation I find myself in. Pressed for time with the fashion king, but well-versed on the etiquette of interrupting a man during a match, I know I need to act quickly. I make the decision to interrupt him and introduce myself.
Fortunately, Roberto doesn’t bite back and immediately turns it on, even stopping for a moment to turn the interview back onto me. He’s small in stature, with a beaming smile and solid head on his shoulders. Here, he chats about his lifestyle brand, beloved pets, his fascination with Dubai and photography.
You must be very business-savvy; how do you go about turning a fashion label into an empire?
I think my power is lifestyle. My success came after the minimalist phase, when the fashion was boring – everything was minimalist and grey. I came out with my fashion, which was colourful, sensual and stylish. All the women loved me because they started to feel that to wear a Cavalli dress was a positive thing.
Then I started to understand that I needed to create a place where they could enjoy being with their friends and have the best food. Hospitality, I believe, is a natural extension of my brand. After many years in fashion, I wanted to become a complete lifestyle brand. What you eat, where you dine and where you decide to entertain yourself are fundamental to expressing your lifestyle. And in my case, it is a lifestyle of glamour, elegance and sensuality, mixed with good food, great beverages and good company in an incredible setting.
There is a very small Cavalli Caffè in Florence, where I was born, near my store. Everybody says it is the best café in Italy. But I don’t believe it so much [laughs].
How do you define style?
Style means you have the life that gives you satisfaction. I love accessories, big watches, nice shoes and scarves. Accessories are always essential to personalise your style.
Italians are known for doing many things well; leather, fashion, food. What is something that you think Dubai does well?
Dubai is a rich city, inside and out. When I say that I’m also talking about inside and outside of the person. When I see the women, even though they are covered, I can tell from their eyes there is a smile inside. They are satisfied with who they are and how they live. That is the reason they appreciate my fashion.
I love to go around the city, taking pictures, trying the food, observing people. It is one of few places in the world where you can have fun and at the same time enjoy the beauty of nature.
Karl Lagerfeld is renowned for lavishing his cat. Do you have any pets and how do you spoil them?
My house is full of animals. I spoil them, but maybe they also spoil me. [Laughs]. I have two cats that I allow to sleep on my bed. They hate each other because they are jealous. I have a big German Shepherd and, oh my gosh, he is my big baby! I have eight parrots, they’re the biggest parrots in the world. I also have two iguanas, which are very wild and I used to have a tiger. Lots of animals. I also have her, my favourite panther [pointing at girlfriend Lina Nilson].
This issue of Time Out Style is the shoe issue. The saying goes you can tell a lot about a person by the shoes they wear. What do you think your shoes say about you?
I understand what you mean. It’s true, but I don’t know how to answer it. I cannot expect to know what other people think about a woman who wears Cavalli shoes or bags. I want to pay attention to your questions and answer it, but I want to investigate first.
Find Cavalli in Dubai
Infinitely more understated than his Sheikh Zayed Road nightspot, this small yet smart café-style venue serves up delicious food and features only snippets of the designer’s signature animal print.
The Beach, JBR (email@example.com).
Furry walls and all, the elaborate nightspot is as extravagant as it is OTT.
Fairmont Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 332 9260).
Stocks the designer’s latest range of ready-to-wear fashion, shoes, handbags, sunglasses and other accessories.
The Dubai Mall (04 339 8893).