Italian fashion designer Smalto dies at 87

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A picture of Italian fashion designer Franceso Smalto (L), who died in Marrakech, aged 87, taken in Paris in 1993. Photo: Pierre Verdy/AFP
08:38 CEST+02:00
Italian designer Francesco Smalto, who as one of the stars of the men's fashion industry clothed princes, heads of state and sporting icons, has died in Morocco aged 87.

The "creative visionary" provided men with "an allure and unique style" his fashion house said in a statement on Monday, adding that Smalto had died in the night from Saturday to Sunday in a Marrakech hotel.

Smalto enjoyed a lengthy and successful career but his image took a tumble in 1995 when he admitted in court that he had provided call girls as well as suits to then Gabonese president Omar Bongo.

For that he was handed a 15-month suspended sentence and a hefty fine.

Smalto was born in the southern Italian region of Calabria in 1927 and showed a precocious talent for custom-made clothes, creating his first suit at the age of 14 for a friend.

But it was in the fashion capital Paris that he dreamed of forging his career and his fashion house went on to provide the French football team with its formal suits for last year's world cup finals in Brazil.

His early years in the fashion world saw apprenticeships at Parisian tailors such as Cristiani and Camps as well as with Harris in New York, who provided suits for President John F. Kennedy.

In 1962 Smalto created his own brand, installing himself in a chic part of the French capital and rapidly building a reputation for clothes which were comfortable and expertly tailored.

Among his celebrity clients were French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, crooner Charles Aznavour and Morocco's late king Hassan II, the father of the current monarch.

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Smalto retired in 2001, selling his business on to the Alliance Designers company.

Korean stylist Youn Chong Bak, who became the Smalto fashion house's artistic director in 2007, mourned the loss of "the master and an extraordinary person."

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