"In 1970 I was the number one designer in the world; people like Armani were nothing next to me," says fashion king Roberto Cavalli. "Now, if I have one desire left in life, it's finding a new fabric as versatile and wonderful as denim."
That may seem an extraordinary statement, but then Roberto Cavalli is no ordinary man. During a career spanning almost five decades the outspoken Italian style maestro has proved a titan in the fiercely competitive world of fashion, turning his name into a worldwide brand and gathering a following made up of some of the world's most glam celebrities, including Victoria Beckham, Sharon Stone and Madonna.
The man whose bright, feminine designs have made him a household name was born in Florence on November 15, 1940. He grew up in a creative environment and faithful to the family tradition - his grandfather was a celebrated Italian artist - enrolled in a local art institute as a youngster.
There he specialised in textile design, entering the fashion world when a series of flower prints on knits he designed as a student caught the attention of major Italian hosiery producers.
By his early 30s he had established himself in Paris with commissions from the likes of of Hermès and Pierre Cardin, and had debuted his first collection. The glamorous designs proved popular with the jet set, and in 1972 he opened his first boutique in St Tropez. It was a first step on the road to an empire which would span the globe and grow to an estimated value of £1.8 billion.
In 1978 Roberto was asked to judge a Miss Austria contest. One of the contestants, 18-year-old Eva Duringer, placed as a runner-up in the competition but won the then-divorced Cavalli's heart. The pair began dating, wed two years later and have three children. The designer also has two children from his first marriage.
Eva went on to serve as business partner to her creative spouse. She manages the ad campaigns and licensees of the Cavalli empire, which ranges from printing plants to accessories and a home collection. Together the couple also oversee a restaurant in Milan, a club and their own chocolate factory in Florence.
Roberto lives with his family in a villa in the hills of Florence, surrounded by the nature and wildlife which inspire the animal print, jungle and flower motifs of his designs, while summers are spent on his 41-metre, iridescent yacht, entertaining famous friends.