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Italian fashion designer Laura Biagiotti dies at 73

Associated Press logo Associated Press 5/26/2017 By VANESSA GERA and DANIELA PETROFF, Associated Press
FILE - In this Feb. 23, 2006 file photo Olympic gold medalist Armin Zoeggeler comes on the catwalk with Italian designer Laura Biagiotti, wearing white, at the end of her Autumn/Winter 2006/2007 collection, unveiled in Milan, Italy. On Friday, May 26, 2017 Laura Biagiotti's daughter announced her mother's death after suffering a heart attack. She was 73. (AP Photo/Alberto Pellaschiar, files) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Feb. 23, 2006 file photo Olympic gold medalist Armin Zoeggeler comes on the catwalk with Italian designer Laura Biagiotti, wearing white, at the end of her Autumn/Winter 2006/2007 collection, unveiled in Milan, Italy. On Friday, May 26, 2017 Laura Biagiotti's daughter announced her mother's death after suffering a heart attack. She was 73. (AP Photo/Alberto Pellaschiar, files)

ROME (AP) — Laura Biagiotti, an Italian fashion designer who conquered global markets with her soft, loose women's clothes and luxurious knits that won her the nickname "Queen of Cashmere," died Friday following a heart attack. She was 73.

FILE - In this July 16, 1997 file photo, Italian fashion designer Laura Biagiotti, at centre, holding a red rose, bursts into tears at the end of the memorial service in the church of San Lorenzo in Lucina in downtown Rome, to mourn for Gianni Versace's death. On Friday, May 26, 2017 Laura Biagiotti's daughter announced her mother's death after suffering a heart attack. She was 73. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis, files) © The Associated Press FILE - In this July 16, 1997 file photo, Italian fashion designer Laura Biagiotti, at centre, holding a red rose, bursts into tears at the end of the memorial service in the church of San Lorenzo in Lucina in downtown Rome, to mourn for Gianni Versace's death. On Friday, May 26, 2017 Laura Biagiotti's daughter announced her mother's death after suffering a heart attack. She was 73. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis, files)

Biagiotti suffered the heart attack Wednesday evening at her estate outside of Rome. Doctors were able to resuscitate her but by then serious brain damage had occurred. She died in a hospital in the capital.

FILE - In this June 27, 2006 file photo, Italian designer Laura Biagiotti, left, acknowledges the audience's applause as she holds hands with Italian world swimming champion Massimiliano Rosolino, at the end of her Laura Biagiotti Spring-Summer 2007 men's collection, unveiled during the men's Fashion Week in Milan, Italy. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni, files) © The Associated Press FILE - In this June 27, 2006 file photo, Italian designer Laura Biagiotti, left, acknowledges the audience's applause as she holds hands with Italian world swimming champion Massimiliano Rosolino, at the end of her Laura Biagiotti Spring-Summer 2007 men's collection, unveiled during the men's Fashion Week in Milan, Italy. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni, files)

Her daughter, Lavinia Biagiotti Cigna, announced her mother's death on Twitter, conveying the news with a Biblical passage: "In the house of my father there are many places. If not, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you."

FILE - In this April 23, 1988 black and white file photo Italian fashion designer Laura Biagiotti is greeted by two Chinese children upon her arrival in Beijing where she will present the first fashion shows ever by an Italian designer in China. On Friday, May 26, 2017 Laura Biagiotti's daughter announced her mother's death after suffering a heart attack. She was 73. (AP Photo, files ) © The Associated Press FILE - In this April 23, 1988 black and white file photo Italian fashion designer Laura Biagiotti is greeted by two Chinese children upon her arrival in Beijing where she will present the first fashion shows ever by an Italian designer in China. On Friday, May 26, 2017 Laura Biagiotti's daughter announced her mother's death after suffering a heart attack. She was 73. (AP Photo, files )

Biagiotti began designing women's clothes in the 1960s and by the 1980s was making her mark.

FILE - In this June 24, 2007 file photo, Italian Fashion designer Laura Biagiotti acknowledges the applause at the end of her Laura Biagiotti Spring/Summer 2008 men's collection, presented in downtown Milan, Italy. An Italian hospital official said on Thursday, May 25, 2017 that designer Laura Biagiotti suffered a heart attack that caused brain damage. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, files) © The Associated Press FILE - In this June 24, 2007 file photo, Italian Fashion designer Laura Biagiotti acknowledges the applause at the end of her Laura Biagiotti Spring/Summer 2008 men's collection, presented in downtown Milan, Italy. An Italian hospital official said on Thursday, May 25, 2017 that designer Laura Biagiotti suffered a heart attack that caused brain damage. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, files)

In 1988, she became the first Italian designer to put on a fashion show in China, presenting dresses and blouses in silk and cashmere, and in 1995 was the first to have a show inside the Kremlin walls in Moscow.

FILE - In this March 4, 1991 file photo Italian fashion designer Laura Biagiotti walks on the catwalk, in Milan, Italy. On Friday, May 26, 2017 Laura Biagiotti's daughter announced her mother's death after suffering a heart attack. She was 73. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, files) © The Associated Press FILE - In this March 4, 1991 file photo Italian fashion designer Laura Biagiotti walks on the catwalk, in Milan, Italy. On Friday, May 26, 2017 Laura Biagiotti's daughter announced her mother's death after suffering a heart attack. She was 73. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, files)

She expanded into men's clothing as well, and created a plus-size women's line, Laura Piu, and a line for children.

FILE - In this Feb. 23, 2006 file photo a model wears an outfit from Laura Biagiotti Autumn/Winter 2006/2007 collection, unveiled in Milan, Italy. On Friday, May 26, 2017 Laura Biagiotti's daughter announced her mother's death after suffering a heart attack. She was 73. (AP Photo/Alberto Pellaschiar, file) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Feb. 23, 2006 file photo a model wears an outfit from Laura Biagiotti Autumn/Winter 2006/2007 collection, unveiled in Milan, Italy. On Friday, May 26, 2017 Laura Biagiotti's daughter announced her mother's death after suffering a heart attack. She was 73. (AP Photo/Alberto Pellaschiar, file)

Her company produced sunglasses and other accessories and perfumes, including the popular "Roma" fragrance, named after Biagiotti's home city.

FILE - In this Sept. 28, 2009 file photo a model wears a creation part of the Laura Biagiotti women's Spring/Summer 2010 fashion collection, presented in Milan, Italy. On Friday, May 26, 2017 Laura Biagiotti's daughter announced her mother's death after suffering a heart attack. She was 73. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Sept. 28, 2009 file photo a model wears a creation part of the Laura Biagiotti women's Spring/Summer 2010 fashion collection, presented in Milan, Italy. On Friday, May 26, 2017 Laura Biagiotti's daughter announced her mother's death after suffering a heart attack. She was 73. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Born Aug. 4, 1943, Biagiotti studied to become an archaeologist but abandoned those plans to help her mother run a dressmaking business.

FILE - In this Dec. 16, 2000 file photo Italian fashion stylist Laura Biagiotti kisses Pope John Paul II's hand during a general audience at the Vatican. On Friday, May 26, 2017 Laura Biagiotti's daughter announced her mother's death after suffering a heart attack. She was 73. (AP Photo/Plinio Lepri, files) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Dec. 16, 2000 file photo Italian fashion stylist Laura Biagiotti kisses Pope John Paul II's hand during a general audience at the Vatican. On Friday, May 26, 2017 Laura Biagiotti's daughter announced her mother's death after suffering a heart attack. She was 73. (AP Photo/Plinio Lepri, files)

In those early years, she traveled frequently to the United States to learn business and technology. After collaborating with such famous fashion houses as those of Emilio Federico Schuberth and Roberto Capucci, she presented her own collection in Florence in 1972.

FILE - In this Feb. 23, 2006 file photo a model wears an outfit from Laura Biagiotti Autumn/Winter 2006/2007 collection, unveiled in Milan, Italy. On Friday, May 26, 2017 Laura Biagiotti's daughter announced her mother's death after suffering a heart attack. She was 73. (AP Photo/Alberto Pellaschiar, files) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Feb. 23, 2006 file photo a model wears an outfit from Laura Biagiotti Autumn/Winter 2006/2007 collection, unveiled in Milan, Italy. On Friday, May 26, 2017 Laura Biagiotti's daughter announced her mother's death after suffering a heart attack. She was 73. (AP Photo/Alberto Pellaschiar, files)

"Being a fashion designer is like taking vows. It becomes your religion for life," she told The Associated Press in 1987.

She was always deeply proud of her native Italy, and for years wore a cashmere shawl woven in the red, white and green colors of the nation's flag.

"I'm convinced that the true gold mine in our country is the 'Made in Italy' label," she said in 2011.

Biagiotti was a pioneer in the now-established practice of fashion houses' sponsoring restoration of monuments.

Her perfume brand contributed to the restoration in 1998 of the ramp-like staircase, designed by Michelangelo, that leads to the top of the Capitoline Hill. Years later, Biagiotti contributed to the restoration of the delightful 17th-century, twin fountains that top ancient Egyptian granite baths in front of Palazzo Farnese, considered the finest Renaissance palace in Rome and home to the French Embassy.

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini on Friday paid tribute to her as a "generous supporter, involved in a first-hand way, in caring for Italian cultural patrimony."

Biagiotti lived in a medieval castle on a hilltop outside of Rome that she had restored, and which was the headquarters for her business.

Her husband, Gianni Cigna, who had also been her business partner, died of leukemia in 1996.

She is survived by her daughter Lavinia, who works as the fashion house's creative director.

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Frances D'Emilio contributed to this report.

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