MILAN — White is not generally a color associated with a funeral. However, in paying tribute to Laura Biagiotti, whose fashion was often identified with white knitwear, many attending the designer’s funeral on Saturday morning in Rome chose that hue. To emphasize Biagiotti’s role in contributing to the success of Italian fashion around the world, Santo Versace draped the country’s flag around his shoulders.
As reported, Biagiotti died last Friday, aged 73, in Rome, after suffering a cardiac arrest. She is survived by her daughter Lavinia, vice president of the family-owned group. For years, mother and daughter took a bow together at the end of each fashion show in Milan.
“I have never seen so many flowers, they were everywhere, even covering the floor of the Basilica,” said Beppe Modenese, honorary chairman of the Italian Camera della Moda. “She was part of my life, we worked together, traveled together, shared so many things, this was a shock for me. She was a pleasant, educated and intelligent woman, joyful, really special. All they say about her — that she was the queen of cashmere, that she helped Italian fashion — it’s all true.”
Together with Mario Boselli, also honorary chairman of the fashion association; Anna Fendi and her daughter Silvia Venturini Fendi; Roberto Capucci; Renato Balestra, and Carlo Capasa were among the fashion representatives at the Santa Maria degli Angeli church in the Italian capital, as well as many actors, TV personalities and members of the sports world, such as swimmer and Olympic champion Massimiliano Rosolino, whose victories were celebrated on Biagiotti’s runway in 2007.
Rosita Missoni, who with her late husband Tai contributed to the birth of Italian fashion with Biagiotti at the Sala Bianca in Florence, also expressed her great sadness. “My first thought was for Lavinia, her beloved daughter. With Laura we shared a beautiful friendship, we respected one another. With determination and courage she built her brand, which is truly one of the patrimonies of the country. She emanated positive energy, and she was very cordial and modest.” Missoni recalled that Biagiotti “even made sweaters for the Pope.”
“Laura was a generous, cultured woman who contributed to consolidate the roots of Italian fashion, taking part in this great adventure from the very beginning, with that tactful charm that was innate to her personality,” said Giorgio Armani.
Alberta Ferretti also spoke of Biagiotti’s kindness, as well as her culture. “She spoke to everyone with generosity and warmth, like a mother. As a woman she was an example of great balance between family and passion for her work. As an entrepreneur she was for us a pioneer among the founders of Made in Italy, one of the authors of the first expansion of Italian fashion in the world.”
To be sure, Biagiotti would greet the press backstage ahead of her shows with what appeared to be genuine pleasure, relishing the opportunity to discuss fashion, but also always taking the time to catch up with journalists.
Carlo Capasa, president of the Italian Fashion Chamber, defined Biagiotti as “a lady of extreme charm and great class. She was very attentive to others and very kind.” Capasa emphasized how the designer “invented the Biagiotti white, it became a reference point. She was also an ambassador for Rome — also with her fragrance [Roma], with a bottle reminiscent of an antique column.”
Known for her luxury cashmere pieces and feminine silhouettes, the first Laura Biagiotti collection debuted in 1972 at the Sala Bianca in Florence, together with designs by Ottavio and Rosita Missoni, Walter Albini, Krizia’s Mariuccia Mandelli and Gianfranco Ferré.
Biagiotti was the first Italian designer to present a fashion show in China, and among the first to show in Russia. The China event took place in Beijing on April 25, 1988, followed by an event at the Grand Theater of the Kremlin in February 1995.
The company was established in Rome in 1965 by the designer’s mother Delia Soldaini Biagiotti as a tailoring atelier. At the time, Alitalia flight attendants wore uniforms made by the atelier.
After producing a collection under the Via Veneto 7 label, which helped to build the company’s success in the U.S. that same year, Biagiotto started producing and distributing couture collections for the likes of Emilio Schuberth, Roberto Capucci and Litrico through a new company, Biagiotti Export.
Biagiotti lived and worked in the Roman countryside since 1980, and later transferred her Rome-based headquarters to Castello Marco Simone, an 11th-century national monument that she and her husband, the late Gianni Cigna, restored with the help of architect Piero Pinto. The grounds of the castle feature one of Europe’s most famous golf courses, the Marco Simone Golf & Country Club.
Passionate about the arts, Biagiotti and her husband assembled one of the finest collections of paintings by the Futurist artist Giacomo Balla, which is now owned by Fondazione Biagiotti Cigna. It has traveled to venues such as the Pushkin Museum of Moscow.
Biagiotti in 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the company with a runway show that closed with a reinterpretation of a 1979 floral print on billowy linen dresses with black lace trims. “I never would have thought to one day celebrate a jubilee with fashion,” said Biagiotti backstage at the time. “But fashion is a métier that never ends, just as it is for a writer.”
In addition to receiving the title of Cavaliere del Lavoro, one of the highest honors bestowed by the president of the Italian Republic, in 2010 Italian President Giorgio Napolitano presented the designer with the Premio Leonardo for her exceptional contribution in promoting Italian fashion worldwide — the first time a woman had ever received the prestigious award.
Luisa Todini, president of the Comitato Leonardo, said that Biagiotti was among “the few women designers who conquered the global markets.” As a president of Comitato Leonardo for eight years, the designer “created unique synergies with fashion, culture and sports, contributing to the diffusion of the Made in Italy prestige internationally.”
In 1998, Laura Biagiotti Parfums restored the Cordoned Staircase of the Campidoglio, followed by the donation of the new Grand Stage Curtain for the Venice Opera House in Venice in 2003. Of note is also the restoration of the Palazzo Farnese Fountains in Rome, designed by Michelangelo.
Fashion and design councilor Cristina Tajani remembered how Biagiotti supported the Piccolo Teatro Studio on Milan’s via Rivoli, where the designer has exclusively been holding her fashion shows since 1999.
Biagiotti has also built a successful fragrance business, including more than 25 scents in 33 years, ranging from Fiori Bianchi, her first, launched in 1982, to the best-selling fragrance Roma, Blu di Roma and Aqua di Roma, which received the Fifi Award. In 2015, the designer’s company reached a licensing agreement with Gruppo Angelini for the production and distribution of the brand’s men’s and women’s fragrances. The new deal put an end to the perfume license with Procter & Gamble’s Prestige Beauté division, which was signed in 1992.
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