Roberto Cavalli slams celebrity endorsements, commends Instagram

By Isla Binnie

MILAN (Reuters) - Roberto Cavalli wants the world of fashion to turn its back on celebrity endorsements, and likes to use Instagram to stay in touch with his customers, the flamboyant Italian designer said at Milan fashion week on Thursday.

Speaking before unveiling a womens autumn-winter collection for his youth-focused Just Cavalli line, the designer said he gave his clothes to famous people, but refused to engage a celebrity to promote his brand - a role known as a testimonial.

"I want fashion to be different from the way it is today, less linked to publicity, less tied to all those stars," Cavalli said backstage before his show at Milan's Arco della Pace monument.

Fashion and luxury brands have long allied themselves with celebrities to get media and consumer attention.

Recently, fashion house Versace chose Lady Gaga to appear in its campaigns, while down jacket maker Moncler featured U.S. rapper Pharrell Williams in adverts for its sunglasses.

"I don't have testimonials. If they want pieces they call me and I give them willingly - and I don't make them pay."

But Cavalli admitted he was pleased when celebrities wore his clothes.

"I received a beautiful photo of Jennifer Lopez wearing Cavalli. I wasn't expecting it!" he beamed.

Cavalli said it was important to stay in close contact with his customers to find out what styles they want.

"I go and talk to the shop assistants…this helps me to understand people's desires.

The 73 year-old has also found a more technologically advanced way to sound out his clients' preferences.

"If I'm unsure about two things, like a bag or a colour…I put both on Instagram," Cavalli chuckled. "Then I write: which one do you prefer?"

Cavalli's show on Thursday was themed on a "rock renaissance" inspired by his native Florence. Models strutted around a rectangular runway wearing shaggy fur coats, tight patterned trousers and fringed suede boots which disappeared under short, asymmetric hemlines.

Diesel jeans founder Renzo Rosso, whose Staff International unit makes and distributes clothes for Just Cavalli, praised the collection and said the brand's sales were growing fast.

"I liked the connection between Roberto Cavalli's creativity and his technological capabilities," Rosso said, adding he was personally dressed in Cavalli-branded clothes.

"We are growing at a double digit rate with Cavalli."

Elsewhere in Milan on Thursday, Blugirl designer Anna Molinari presented a collection themed on "Swinging London" in the 1970s and Italian fashion powerhouse Prada showed shearling coats with contrasting woolly trim over translucent dresses that revealed cartoonish patterned underpants.

Designer Miuccia Prada, who is known for making statements on issues including women's rights with her catwalk collections, said after the show, "I don't want to do politics, it's fashion. I want to reflect on life."

Milan's biannual women's fashion week continues on Friday with shows for veteran designer Giorgio Armani's Emporio Armani line, and storied brand Versace.

(Reporting by Isla Binnie)

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