Mariuccia Mandelli, a pioneering female fashion designer who created the Italian brand Krizia and was credited with inventing hotpants, has died at the age of 90, associates announced on Monday.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi led tributes to a woman he described as one of the architects of Italy’s huge ready-to-wear fashion business.
“She was a leading figure in the fashion world and in ‘Made-in-Italy’,” Renzi said. “Creativity and the celebration of colour alongside a very Milanese sobriety — that was the mark of Krizia.”
Mandelli, who died suddenly at her Milanese home on Sunday, headed the fashion house that bears her name from its humble beginnings in the 1950s until 2014, when she sold the by-then ailing company to Chinese designer and entrepreneur Zhu Chongyun.
A company that began with Mandelli selling her designs to boutiques from the back of a Fiat 500, grew to become a globe-straddling business which, at its peak in the 1990s, had turnover measured in the hundreds of millions and a particularly strong presence in Japan.
But as Mandelli and her husband Aldo Pinto, the company chairman, battled health problems in recent years, the international network of boutiques was scaled back and the company name was reported to have been sold to Zhu’s Shenzhen Marisfrolg for $35 million (Dh128.5 million).
Krizia’s first major breakthrough came in 1964 when an exclusively back and white collection displayed in Florence won her an Italian Fashion Critics award.
Her signature looks were invariably bold and striking in the image of the designer herself, who invariably sported a severe fringe, often paired with over-sized sunglasses.
They included much use of pleating, ruffles and metallic fabrics — all of which have recently enjoyed a revival on the catwalks — while a willingness to experiment with materials such as eel skin earned her the monicker “crazy Krizia” from the fashion press.
In 1971 Krizia’s very short shorts were unveiled on Capri and soon dubbed hotpants.
Shenzhen-based Zhu intends to maintain Krizia’s Italian tradition, she said in an interview shortly after the takeover.