MILAN — Nautical pioneer and designer Carlo Riva, who contributed to the development and expansion of his family’s Riva company, has died in Sarnico, Italy, aged 95.
Riva yachts, with their sleek designs and trademark mahogany finishings, are symbols of Italian style and sophistication, associated with “La Dolce Vita,” and favored by the likes of Brigitte Bardot, Anita Ekberg, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Sophia Loren and Sean Connery, to name just a handful.
The Riva company was founded in 1842 on Lake Iseo, and Carlo Riva was instrumental in growing it into a luxury group starting in the Fifties, launching the legendary Aquarama model in 1962.
“I have always considered Carlo Riva a master, and was inspired by him over the years,” said Lamberto Tacoli, president of nautical association Nautica Italiana, which is affiliated with luxury goods association Altagamma. “He combined three characteristics, which are rarely found together in the same person: he was a creative genius, he anticipated the market and the needs of clients, and he was an incredible businessman, a nautical pioneer in the U.S., for example. And he was a great gentleman.”
In 2010, Gucci partnered with the Riva company on a made-to-order Aquariva by Gucci speedboat, first presented at Cannes, France. Tacoli worked on the project and remembered how the design was presented on the Croisette, outside the boat show and in front of the brand’s boutique. “That had never been done before and drew an incredible amount of attention,” he added. Gucci’s creative director at the time, Frida Giannini, chose the Guccissima print for the seats and sun deck and the classic green-red-green logo to pipe the boat and designed a Riva by Gucci accessories collection comprising duffel bags, towels and flip-flops made from soft white leather and enriched with the green-and-red ribbon. The Aquariva by Gucci boat also was presented in September that year during fashion week.
Tacoli also remembered a collaboration with Marc Newson, who designed an Aquariva power boat in 2010.
In 1969, Carlo Riva sold the company to Whittaker, remaining president and general director until 1971. The company was sold in 1988 to Vickers, which at the time also owned Rolls-Royce, and in 2000 it was acquired by Ferretti Group. Tacoli said Carlo Riva, who in the meantime had also founded his own Carlo Riva company and was friends with cofounder Norberto Ferretti, played “a very important role” in the relaunch of the brand.