By  on April 10, 2009

MILAN — Designer Jean Baptiste Caumont died last week after a gardening accident in his villa on Lake Como, a friend said. He was 82.

Caumont studied fine arts in Paris and worked at Balmain before going solo with a namesake collection in 1966.

A man of refined social skills and old-world taste, Caumont moved to Italy in the early Sixties and consulted for La Rinascente. He lived in Milan, the villa on Lake Como and kept an apartment in New York.

Alongside the Missonis, Mariuccia Mandelli of Krizia, Walter Albini and Ken Scott, the Frenchman helped raise the profile of Italian fashion.

Tai and Rosita Missoni remembered him as a man with a refined style, recalling their recent encounters as moments of reciprocal pleasure, esteem and friendship.

“We will remember him with affection because we shared the experience and enthusiasm that characterized the beginning of the Italian fashion shows,” said Rosita Missoni. “It was a great and fortunate adventure that turned Milan into a fashion capital.”

Caumont favored polished, understated and timeless confections highlighted by skilled tailoring and muted earth tones. He expanded his men’s and women’s offerings to include luggage, accessories, jewelry and a fragrance called Jib.

“I’m very upset because we were very close in the Seventies and Eighties,” said Mariuccia Mandelli, owner and designer of Krizia, who described Caumont as “very chic and quite classic.”

Beppe Modenese, former president of the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, said Caumont had a “sophisticated and elegant mind.”

“His fashion was, yes, classic and refined but never boring and always infused with a French taste,” Modenese said.

The regalia worn by well-bred women in the early 20th century particularly fascinated Caumont, though his inspiration ranged from his travels on the Orient Express to British school uniforms.

Details on the funeral services and survivors were not available at press time.

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