By  on January 18, 2005

MILAN — Forget the animal prints — Roberto Cavalli is now all into fairy tales and Hollywood divas. And his first Just Cavalli store in Milan, due to open Sunday during the men’s shows here, strongly reflects his desire to move on.A tropical aquarium on the lower floor adorned with a crystal-encrusted snake frieze and a partition displaying 650 exotic flowers — also surrounded by stylized snakes — are a testament to Cavalli’s ongoing love of nature and animals. At the same time, though, an oversized elevator that the designer said is shaped like a pumpkin and the cafe’s winding steel structures add a Space Age-meets-Cinderella touch to the three-story boutique.“I see the store as an outlet for my creativity and I had tremendous fun working on it as new ideas kept coming to me along the way,” said Cavalli in an exclusive interview.Case in point: As late as last week, the designer decided to completely change the boutique’s upholstering, removing all the animal-print couches he had previously set his heart on. “You cannot exaggerate with those prints — that is the Cavalli from the past,” he said.Instead of his staple leopard or zebra-skin covers, white mink fur seats in the elevator — a veritable sitting room where champagne will be served all day — and red carpeting along the winding staircase are the only touches of color in the decor.  Strategically placed mirrors further expand the 5,400-square-foot boutique and more than 8,000 tiny, colorful spotlights shine down from the ceilings. Through a bar and a restaurant, Cavalli’s wish is also to turn the boutique into a meeting point, with morning breakfast, happy-hour drinks and five o’clock tea in addition to regular meals. To attract his younger customers, he has set up one DJ station in the elevator and another by the restaurant.  The Just Cavalli line, launched for fall 2001, now accounts for 35 percent of the designer’s business. The company last year reported sales of 360 million euros, or $475.2 million at current exchange rates. The Just Cavalli collection is available at 1,700 points of sale worldwide and 12 brand stores. In the U.S., which accounts for about 15 percent of sales, the line is available at Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue. There are also freestanding stores in Las Vegas, Miami and Los Angeles.Retail prices range from $120 for an embroidered T-shirt to $200 for a pair of jeans. According to the company, bestsellers include oversized denim bags with embroidered mirrors or leather and buckles, spotted on singer Lenny Kravitz, and leather and Lurex gladiator sandals picked up by singer Alicia Keys.

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