Renato Balestra, the dean of Italian couture, died in Rome on Saturday, age 98. After an apprenticeship with Jole Veneziani in 1959, he opened his first atelier in Rome, where the company is still based today.

Having come from a family of architects and engineers, he stood out for his artistic ability and was considered the “painter of fashion.” Known for his signature painterly embroidery and blend of fabrics and transparencies, his name was associated with a distinctive color Balestra blue.

Balestra designed exclusive collections for Isetan in Tokyo as well as Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Foley’s, Neiman Marcus and Lord Taylor. In 1970, he included men’s looks in a women’s fashion show a pioneer in creating unisex collections on coed catwalks.

His brand was relaunched earlier this year with a new course set by his granddaughter, Sofia Bertolli Balestra, with a first ready-to-wear collection presented in February during Milan Fashion Week. Renamed simply Balestra, the logo revisits the hand-drawn version designed by the founder in 1971 and appears in his signature color.

The brand remains privately owned by the family, with the founder’s daughters Fabiana Sofia’s mother and Federica Balestra at the head of the fashion house.”