The fashion world mourns French fashion designer Emanuel Ungaro, who died in Paris at the age of 86. Ungaro’s cause of death is currently unknown. He is survived by his wife, Laura Bernabei, and their daughter, Cosima Ungaro.
The self-described “sensual obsessive” known for his haute couture founded his eponymous fashion house in 1965, having been trained by Cristóbal Balenciaga after moving to Paris at 22.
The son of Italian immigrants, Ungaro was born in Aix-en-Provence in southern France in 1933 and was known for his use of vibrant color and mixed prints. Alongside Yves Saint Laurent, he helped popularize ready-to-wear clothing. While designing for the house of Ungaro, he dressed numerous celebrities, including former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Lopez, and Gena Rowlands. In a modernist move, he famously put Twiggy and Penelope Tree, two of the biggest models of the ’60s, into metal Ungaro masks to be photographed for Vogue by Richard Avedon in 1968.
Ungaro said he learned the basics of sewing from his father, Cosimo, a tailor who fled to France to avoid a fascist regime. “One should not wear a dress,” he said, “one should live in it.”
“The House he founded in 1965 and which still bears his name today mourns this Couturier with immense talent,” the Paris fashion house wrote in a tribute on Instagram. “He will remain in our memories as the Master of sensuality, color, and flamboyance.”
Ungaro sold his house to the Italian Ferragamo family in 1996 and retired from fashion altogether in 2004. The label was then sold to internet entrepreneur Asim Abdullah in 2005 for $84 million, which at one point appointed Lindsay Lohan artistic director in 2009. Lohan’s stint at Emanuel Ungaro was short-lived, though, with Ungaro himself saying that he was “furious” about her first collection, according to Marie Claire U.K.
Ungaro himself is regarded as one of the most trendsetting couturiers.
“It’s often not easy. I remember at Balenciaga, everyone was jealous of me. I was very young, very ambitious, and surrounded by very mean, very terrible people,” Ungaro remembered to The Guardian in 2001. “But I don’t just respect the people working for me, I love them, because I know they do their best, even when they make mistakes, because nobody’s perfect. And that makes the strength of the house.”
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