“Recently, I feel I have finally found my own voice. I discovered that our immense archive is something that can teach me a lot and that can be reinterpreted with the eyes of today, and that respecting our DNA does not mean copying my brother, but to bring the DNA of Versace into today’s world and in a completely different way.”
The pioneering spirit in that sentiment echoes Gianni Versace’s efforts to expand the brand ever outwards, from clothing to jewelry, soft furnishings and home textiles. Gianni worked outward, bending external elements to the sheer force of his creative will, making everything around him a concept for the catwalk. It was this ideal that led to his creation of the supermodel. “Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford and all the girls who Avedon shot for our campaigns would never do the shows because they were considered to be print models,” Donatella explains. “But when Gianni saw the pictures, he asked, ‘Why don’t we put these girls on the runway?’”
Donatella’s creative energy, on the other hand, is an integrative whirlpool, constantly pulling in new inspiration from outside the industry and translating it into her chosen medium.
“What is healthy is to look around you and know what’s going on in the world. You shouldn’t ignore anything that isn’t related to fashion — it’s important to know about people’s worries, what they are interested in. The world constantly evolves, and it’s important to stay informed and keep up with the times. Having this sharp perspective is absolutely crucial. In today’s society it’s even more important — and easier to cultivate, thanks to the Internet, where you can follow the opinions of different generations and cultures. To produce good work, you need to keep your eyes open.”
Also crucial to Donatella is maintaining a work-life balance. “It’s vital,” she says, nodding fervently. “I live far from my office, and I do certain activities that have nothing to do with my job, which are important for me to re-energize myself. I like to talk to my children about music, books and movies — anything that isn’t related to my job. I think that thinking about your job 24-7 is a mistake that many designers make. They convince themselves that it’s the only way to survive, and in my opinion, that’s not healthy.”
Donatella’s opinions carry an undeniable weight. Her sure-handed direction of the company and mastery of public relations — which has evolved from being personally close to the celebrity sphere into having at least one Versace piece on every red carpet — have only strengthened the intangible sense of awe that accompanies any mention of her family name.
“Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing the strength of Versace right now, and how women around the world are responding to my family’s brand,” she says. “It gives me the confidence to do more, push further and make Versace the best it has ever been.”
And Versace will not be forging ahead alone. Fluctuating profit margins since the turn of the millennium have led to the recent sale of the company to Michael Kors Holdings (MKH) Ltd. for a figure in excess of $2 billion. The acquisition was hard to stomach for some of Versace’s followers. Days after the announcement, Donatella’s personal social media pages were filled with outrage about what fans saw as the intrusion of MKH Ltd., an American company that has sold luxury fashion for more than 30 years, into the world of haute couture.
However, it is evident that the sale of Versace to the ambitious MKH Ltd. (which will be renamed Capri Holdings Ltd. after the acquisition) will allow Versace to continue serving the values it passionately upholds, as befitting its Italian heritage. Modernity and classicism, tradition and innovation, the past and the future: these juxtapositions have always been at the heart of the Versace concept. And to emphasize this point, Donatella herself took to Instagram to deliver a rebuttal of the criticism over her decision to sell:
First of all, I wanted to let you know that I am NOT going anywhere, so for those who wanted to get rid of me, well…it ain’t happening! I also wanted to reassure you that Versace will remain ITALIAN, made in Italy, and that it will keep its GLAMOUR, DARING and INCLUSIVE attitude that has made you all love it. This is just the beginning of an exciting, new adventure that I hope you will live together with me!
VERSACE IS A DREAM. IT’S A DREAM THAT PEOPLE WANT TO BE PART OF
Donatella Versace would not be the designer she is known to be, were she to shy away from such controversy. The impact of the acquisition on the brand will reveal itself in time, of course. No doubt its creative process going forward will cleave to the Versace traditions, as it has since 1978.
“Take the legendary Versace prints: back then, they were made in just four colours, while [Gianni] printed them with 18, sometimes even 20 colours!” she exclaims. “He used the past to move forward and describe the future. He had the courage to transform the story into joie de vivre and thereby give [it] a living language.”
Gianni passed on his mission — “to develop the line and to make it innovative, elegant, while at the same time staying true to the Versace DNA and roots” — to Donatella long ago, on the steps of the Miami Beach mansion. Her actions ever since have made her as influential a figure in the industry as her brother. They are two sides of the same Medusa-head-emblazoned coin. Whereas Gianni had the pleasure of overseeing his brand’s meteoric rise, Donatella uses every collaborative tool at her disposal to preserve that legacy.
Dare to question, as some have, her commitment to the brand that bears her name, and you’ll see the warmth in her eyes replaced with a fiery defiance. After all, she is Donatella Versace.
“Being a family always matters, in every history,” she says. “I am lucky because my brand is also my family. In Versace, we laugh and we work hard, we fight and we reconcile. Family is everything to me, and by family, I mean everyone who is connected to me — not only by blood, but through their souls, also. I mean my friends, my collaborators, the big Versace clan made of all those inspiring men and women who throughout the years have crossed paths with me,” says Donatella.
“Versace is a dream. It’s a dream that people want to be part of. To be part of the dream,
you don’t need to have the outfit to wear. You can have also a little thing — an ashtray,
a little thing for the house. And you’re a part of Versace forever.”
BY DOLCE STAFF WRITER