By  on October 25, 2007

MILAN — Whether a customer will be teetering down a red carpet is beside the point — what matters is helping her make a diva-like appearance without breaking the bank.That's the concept Roberto Cavalli applied to the collection he has designed for Swedish fast-fashion giant Hennes and Mauritz as part of the retailer's ongoing one-off designer projects. The collection, centered around steamy evening looks, will be previewed tonight at a Dolce Vita-style extravaganza in Rome's Palazzo delle Fontane, which is expected to attract celebrities such as Sharon Stone, Halle Berry, Emily Blunt, Mira Sorvino and Michael Bublé.The Cavalli collection will hit some 200 H&M stores worldwide on Nov. 8."The focus was on the eveningwear for the holiday season, though I secretly hope it will sell out much before Christmas," chuckled Cavalli in an exclusive interview.For inspiration, Cavalli dipped into his archives from the past decade but rendered the garments more modern and young via clean shapes and soft fabrics. Seductive, glamorous and festive, the 40-piece collection of men's and women's looks is filled with the designer's staples — animal prints, swooshing silks, Lurex, ink-blue denim, faux fur and metallic accents.Undeterred by the need to stick to H&M's prices, Cavalli and his team focused on quality, fit and workmanship. Proving the point is the intricacy of the embroidery, or the knife pleating on a full-skirted gown.Prices go from $59 for a Mandarin-collared shirt to $68 for jeans to $198 for a silk chiffon gown.Cavalli's collection for H&M follows similar one-off lines by Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, Viktor & Rolf and Madonna, the latter of which has since become a permanent collection in the store."Since we started working with Karl, the nature of the collaborations hasn't changed because we still want to prove that fashion shouldn't cost a fortune and can be more democratic," said Jörgen Andersson, H&M's marketing director. "But we didn't want our customer to be bored."Our challenge was how to continue making the clothes mass market with the same fit, quality and sexiness that normally characterizes Cavalli," said Andersson.The lineup for evening offers white tuxedos with black lapels; a bronze-gold swooshing halter gown; a short cocktail dress showered with pailettes, and a slew of silk or cotton shirts with high collars, ruffles and ribbons. There also is matching innerwear, flashy costume jewelry and maculated or gold sandals. Daywear includes a fake fur jacket with a studded leather border that caps skinny jeans with gold stitching, a quilted black coat, leather jackets and miniskirts. The four variations on Cavalli's all-time favorite — animal spots — come in autumnal colors, but blur the day-night line."We feel this line also caters to a southern European customer, which is actually very good since we are expanding in Italy, Spain and Greece," said Andersson.Margareta van den Bosch, H&M's head of design, painted a similar picture."Cavalli has a great team and I think that the collection offers many flattering party options that are also wearable and target a wide age range," she said. "This has a very Italian theme and is different from anything else."Cavalli said he felt flattered to be the first Italian tapped by H&M. "Working with H&M was a constructive experience. I learned a lot about the well-oiled machine they run," said Cavalli.Andersson added that H&M approached Cavalli to also tap into his world. "Roberto and his wife Eva live and represent the brand. They enjoy what they do and embrace life," said Andersson.To that end, the Cavallis opened up their wildly decorated and eclectic Tuscan estate, which became the backdrop for the it's-time-to-party themed print ad campaign shot by Terry Richardson and the video directed by Johan Renck that will air for a week starting Nov. 1.Hanging out with the Cavalli clan also gave van den Bosch an opportunity to brush up her Italian, which she picked up during her 12 years in Milan. "It was great to enjoy the family's conviviality. It was a wonderful atmosphere."

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