Pioneering Italian fashion designer Nino Cerruti has died at the age of 91, a source in the fashion industry confirmed to AFP on Saturday.
Cerruti was one of the leading figures in men’s ready-to-wear fashion in the 20th century, with a style that was at once elegant and relaxed. His Cerruti 1881 brand became renowned and in his heyday he dressed many a Hollywood star.
He died at the Vercelli hospital in the north-west region of Piedmont, where he had been admitted for a hip operation, the Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported on its website.
“A giant among Italian entrepreneurs has left us,” said Gilberto Pichetto, deputy minister for economic development.
Tall and slim, he always insisted he be the first to try on his creations, many of which were kept at the textile factory his grandfather founded in the northern town of Biella in 1881. “I have always dressed the same person: myself,” he once said.
Born in 1930 in Biella, Cerruti dreamed of becoming a journalist. But after his father died when he was 20, he was pressured into giving up his philosophy studies to take over the family textile factory. He came to international attention in 1957 with his men’s collection Hitman, considered revolutionary at the time.
Cerruti opened his first eponymous boutique a decade later in Place de la Madeleine in Paris, where he later moved his company’s offices to be close to the beating heart of fashion.
In time, his fashion house expanded to include luxury lines and fragrances, grouped under his Cerruti 1881 brand. The year came from the date on which Cerruti’s grandfather founded a textile mill in Biella. He also hired future fashion icon Giorgio Armani, who worked for Cerruti for six years in the 1960s before going on to found his own famous company in 1975.
Cerruti’s ranges could be seen in cinema, where he designed clothes for films including Bonnie and Clyde, Pretty Woman and Basic Instinct. Leading figures in cinema such as Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone, Julia Roberts and Harrison Ford were seen wearing Cerruti items. He later took on the role of official designer for Ferrari in the mid-1990s.
His work won accolades including two Cutty Sark menswear awards, the Munich fashion week award in 1981, and an Italian Pitti Uomo award in 1986.
Reflecting on changes in his more than 40 years in fashion before retiring in 2000, he told the Observer: “The environment was very different then. When I started working, it was still a traditional culture with less individuality, more social correctness.
“This has quickly moved on into a society in which there is more freedom, more originality and more incorrectness. It was a national, industrial society when I began; now it’s a global communications society.”
In 2000, he sold a controlling stake in the company to Fin.Part, an Italian industrial group. Less than a year later it bought the rest of the company, and Cerruti departed.