Ital­ian fash­ion de­signer Laura Bi­a­giotti dies at 73

‘Queen of Cash­mere’ con­quered global mar­kets with flow­ing de­signs while re­main­ing fiercely proud of her coun­try, and home city of Rome

The Hamilton Spectator - - STYLE - VANESSA GERA AND DANIELA PETROFF

Laura Bi­a­giotti, an Ital­ian fash­ion de­signer who con­quered global mar­kets with her soft, loose women’s clothes and lux­u­ri­ous knits that won her the nick­name “Queen of Cash­mere,” died Fri­day fol­low­ing a heart at­tack. She was 73.

Bi­a­giotti suf­fered the heart at­tack Wed­nes­day evening at her es­tate out­side of Rome. Doc­tors were able to re­sus­ci­tate her but by then se­ri­ous brain dam­age had oc­curred. She died in a hospi­tal in the cap­i­tal.

Her daugh­ter, Lavinia Bi­a­giotti Cigna, an­nounced her mother’s death on Twit­ter, con­vey­ing the news with a bib­li­cal pas­sage: “In the house of my fa­ther there are many places. If not, I would have told you. I am go­ing to pre­pare a place for you.”

Bi­a­giotti be­gan de­sign­ing women’s clothes in the 1960s and by the 1980s was mak­ing her mark.

In 1988, she be­came the first Ital­ian de­signer to put on a fash­ion show in China, pre­sent­ing dresses and blouses in silk and cash­mere, and in 1995 was the first to have a show in­side the Krem­lin walls in Moscow.

She ex­panded into men’s cloth­ing as well, and cre­ated a plus-size women’s line, Laura Piu, and a line for chil­dren.

Her com­pany pro­duced sun­glasses and other ac­ces­sories and per­fumes, in­clud­ing the pop­u­lar “Roma” fra­grance, named af­ter Bi­a­giotti’s home city.

Born Aug. 4, 1943, Bi­a­giotti stud­ied to be­come an arche­ol­o­gist but aban­doned those plans to help her mother run a dress­mak­ing busi­ness.

In those early years, she trav­elled fre­quently to the United States to learn busi­ness and tech­nol­ogy. Af­ter col­lab­o­rat­ing with fa­mous fash­ion houses such as those of Emilio Fed­erico Schu­berth and Roberto Ca­pucci, she pre­sented her own col­lec­tion in Florence in 1972.

“Be­ing a fash­ion de­signer is like tak­ing vows. It be­comes your re­li­gion for life,” she told The As­so­ci­ated Press in 1987.

She was al­ways deeply proud of her na­tive Italy, and for years wore a cash­mere shawl wo­ven in the red, white and green colours of the na­tion’s flag.

“I’m con­vinced that the true gold­mine in our coun­try is the ‘Made in Italy’ la­bel,” she said in 2011.

Bi­a­giotti was a pi­o­neer in the now-es­tab­lished prac­tice of fash­ion houses’ spon­sor­ing restora­tion of mon­u­ments. Her per­fume brand con­trib­uted to the restora­tion in 1998 of the ramp-like stair­case, de­signed by Michelan­gelo, that leads to the top of the Capi­to­line Hill. Years later, Bi­a­giotti con­trib­uted to the restora­tion of the de­light­ful 17th-cen­tury, twin foun­tains that top an­cient Egyp­tian gran­ite baths in front of Palazzo Far­nese, con­sid­ered the finest Re­nais­sance palace in Rome and home to the French Em­bassy.

Cul­ture Min­is­ter Dario Frances­chini on Fri­day paid trib­ute to her as a “gen­er­ous sup­porter, in­volved in a first-hand way, in car­ing for Ital­ian cul­tural pat­ri­mony.”

Bi­a­giotti lived in a medieval cas­tle on a hill­top out­side of Rome that she had re­stored, and which was the head­quar­ters for her busi­ness.

Her hus­band, Gianni Cigna, who had also been her busi­ness part­ner, died of leukemia in 1996.

She is sur­vived by her daugh­ter Lavinia, who works as the fash­ion house’s cre­ative di­rec­tor.

AN­TO­NIO CALANNI, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

De­signer Laura Bi­a­giotti in 2006 with Ital­ian world swim­ming cham­pion Mas­si­m­il­iano Rosolino, af­ter show­ing her Spring/Sum­mer 2007 men’s col­lec­tion in Mi­lan.

AL­BERTO PELLASCHIAR, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A cosy knit out­fit from Bi­a­giotti’s Au­tumn/Win­ter 2006/2007 col­lec­tion for women, un­veiled in Mi­lan.

AN­TO­NIO CALANNI, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

From the Bi­a­giotti women’s Spring/Sum­mer 2010 col­lec­tion, pre­sented in Mi­lan in Septem­ber 2009.

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