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Italian designer Laura Biagiotti critically ill after heart attack

Italian fashion designer Laura Biagiotti is in a critical condition after suffering a heart attack which resulted in serious brain damage.

The 73-year-old suffered the cardiac arrest at her home on Wednesday evening, according to officials with the Sant'Andrea hospital in Rome where she is being treated.

The brain damage resulted from a lack of oxygen.

Tests are being performed to verify possible brain death, the hospital said.

Biagiotti, one of the earliest Italian female designers to go global with her creations, is known for luxurious knits which won her the nickname "Queen of Cashmere".

Her company also produced several perfumes, including the popular "Roma" fragrance.

Born in 1943, Biagiotti abandoned plans to become an archaeologist to help her mother run a dressmaking business.

In those early years, she travelled frequently to the United States to learn business and technology.

After collaborating with such famous fashion houses as Shubert and Capucci she presented her own collection in Florence in 1972.

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

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