Cavalli enrolled at the local Art Institute, concentrating in textile print. While still a student, he made a series of flower prints on knit that caught the attention of major Italian hosiery factories.
In the early 1970s, he invented and patented a printing procedure on leather, and started creating patchworks of different materials.
At age 32, he presented his first namesake collection at the Salon for Prêt-à-Porter in Paris.
He brought it to the catwalks of the Sala Bianca of Palazzo Pitti in Florence, and later on those of Milano Collezioni, jeans made of printed denim, intarsia leathers, brocade, and wild prints.