By
with contributions from Alessandra Turra
 on July 29, 2016

MILAN — Fashion and jewelry designer Countess Marta Marzotto died on Friday morning in Milan at the age of 85.

“Marta Marzotto passed away in her sleep this morning after a brief illness,” said her family in a statement. “She was serene and surrounded by her children and grandchildren, who were always by her side in the past few months, witnessing her cheerfulness, irony and generosity that accompanied her until the last moment.”

Funeral services will be held on August 1 at Milan’s Chiesa di Sant’Angelo.

Born in Reggio Emilia, Italy, in 1931 as Marta Vacondio, the daughter of a railway signalman and a rice weeder, she started working as an apprentice seamstress before becoming a model. In 1954, she married Count Umberto Marzotto, of the storied textile family. The couple had five children: Paola; Annalisa, affected by cystic fibrosis and who died in 1989; Vittorio; Diamante, and Matteo, a former Valentino chairman and Vionnet owner, and the current president of Fiera di Vicenza.

Her daughter Paola married Carlo Ferdinando Borromeo, making Marzotto, the grandmother of Carlo Ludovico and Beatrice Borromeo, who married Pierre Casiraghi of Monaco.

Marzotto had the ability to command attention, with her bold jewelry, colorful caftans, a mane of blond hair and big smile. She counted homes in Marrakech, Rome, Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. Marzotto rubbed elbows with Europe’s patricians, writers, artists, politicians and designers, from Giorgio Armani to Roberto Cavalli.

“Marta, her smile, her joy of life, her involvement in the world I belong to, fashion…It’s all unforgettable,” said Armani.

“Me and my four siblings were raised with her children….Diamante and I are the same age. I remember her parties in Sardinia on the beach in front of her house…fun and generous parties, as she was. Breakfasts, swims and dancing under the stars all night long,” said jewelry designer Osanna Visconti.

“What a loss for the world and for me personally as Marta Marzotto has moved on from it,” said Vionnet owner Goga Ashkenazi. “She was illuminating and inspiring to so many of us with her endless kindness, elegance, sophistication, humility, beauty and energy — and what energy! The world will miss her and so will I, my dearest beautiful Marta!”

Marzotto was an influential social fixture in Italy, leaving a mark in its culture. She was for years a muse to artist Renato Guttuso, with whom she had a very public relationship.

In 2009, Marzotto teamed up with model-turned-designer Maria Buccellati to create a line of accessories. Marzotto designed costume jewelry in tune with her style and embellished with oversize stones and crystals.

She was also very involved in charitable initiatives, including the Italian Cystic Fibrosis Research Foundation, which she cofounded with her son Matteo, among others.

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