By  on January 30, 2012

MILAN — Leonardo Servadio, founder of sportswear company Ellesse that was a major force in the Seventies and Eighties, died last week in his hometown of Perugia, Italy, at age 87.

Servadio founded his company in 1959 as a manufacturer of pants, naming it Ellesse after his own initials. He invested heavily in production techniques and in research and development. Servadio believed in the need to innovate fabrics and technology and the company became a leader in the production of skiwear and tenniswear globally. Ellesse reached its peak in the Seventies and Eighties, as top-ranking tennis players worldwide, including Chris Evert and Boris Becker, donned the brand on the courts.

Last September, Evert — who stayed with the Italian sportswear brand for about 15 years — became a shareholder in Ellesse’s North American operation and a brand ambassador, involved with design, promotion and marketing, as well as the development of a capsule collection called Chris Evert for Ellesse.

The collection is part of a relaunch of the brand in North America being overseen by former Danskin executive Byron Hero.

In 1993, Servadio sold Ellesse to English holding firm Pentland Group. Ellesse North America acquired the license for the Ellesse brand in all product categories for the North American market from the group.

Servadio remained very close to Perugia throughout his life, and when he retired he turned to the development of the city’s iconic Caffè di Perugia restaurant, coffee and wine bar — one of the 14 most important cafes in the country.

In 1999, Servadio bought the Collection of the Toy Museum of Stockholm, aiming at making it into a cultural, commercial and entertainment park in Perugia.

Brunello Cucinelli, whose namesake firm stands in Solomeo, outside Perugia, said Servadio “was a very elegant gentleman who loved beauty but also the dignity of man.”

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