The Queen of Cashmere

Laura Biagiotti, center, with her daughter, Lavinia Biagiotti Cigna, right, after the presentation of her collection in Milan in September 2011: Credit Daniel Dal Zennaro/European Pressphoto Agency

“Being a fashion designer is like taking vows … It becomes your religion for life.” Laura Biagiotti

Italian fashion designer, Laura Biagiotti, died last Friday in Rome at 73 years old. I didn’t know her, I didn’t know about her business, I didn’t know that her elegant fashions made from fluffy goat’s wool defined her as the global queen of cashmere. But I love her story and it touched me to read it.

Biagiotti was born in 1943, and was envisioning an independent life for herself when she enrolled at a university in Rome to study literature and archaeology. But her life changed course when she was drawn to her family’s dressmaking studio where her mother, Delia Biagiotti, designed the uniforms for Alitalia employees. In 1972, she went into business for herself and presented her own collection by introducing a relatively new material at the time: cashmere. According to the New York Times: “Her original collection was so small, Biagiotti recalled, that at her first show, models wore the same white jacket three times, with two skirts and a dress. She developed a passion for linen and also for the color white, which many mourners wore to her funeral last week.” 

A woman in a profession dominated by men, Biagiotti told an interviewer in 1981 that “a woman designer faces the same odds as a woman trying to get a job as a 747 pilot.” But she did it and by the 1980s she was making her mark. In 1988 she became the first Italian designer to put on a fashion show in China presenting dresses and blouses in silk and cashmere, and in 1995 she was the first to have a show inside the Kremlin walls in Moscow. Today, The House of Biagiotti (based on Via dei Condotti in Rome) is listed among the largest fashion houses in Italy. Her daughter, Lavinia Biagiotti Cigna, is the creative director of the business and represents the third generation of Biagiotti clothiers.




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