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Francesco Smalto, designer to heads of state and French soccer stars, dies at 87

PARIS - Francesco Smalto, an Italian-born designer who fashioned clothes for world leaders and celebrities, died at age 87, his fashion house said in a statement Monday.The Smalto fashion house praised his ability to "reconcile virility, mystery and sensitivity" in his menswear designs and create clothes for "the most demanding men on the planet."Moroccan news website reported that he died in in Marrakech. No information was immediately available about funeral arrangements.Smalto founded his menswear line in Paris in 1962, and went on to design custom-made clothes for such big-name clients as actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, the king of Morocco and the president of Gabon.Smalto's reputation suffered in the 1990s, when he acknowledged in a Paris court that he arranged prostitutes for Gabon's authoritarian leader Omar Bongo.The designer, once a leading figure on the Paris menswear scene, retired in 2001. His House of Smalto continues to clothe celebrities, and has designed clothes for the French national soccer team in recent years.

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