MONOGRAPH
VERSACE

WOMEN COLLECTIONS – 2001>2010

All the outfits of the Versace fashion shows 2001>2010

If Gianni Versace was, as Oliviero Toscani affirms, “the champagne of Italian fashion”, a bubble of creativity in the explosive years of Milanese ready to wear, his sister Donatella could be dubbed the mojito of the 2000s: bold, aphrodisiacal flavours, with an alcoholic strength to make your head spin.
The first ten years of the new Millennium see the affirmation of the youngest of the Versace siblings at the creative helm of the brand, having taken over such a prolific yet burdensome legacy following her brother’s murder.
The muse of Versace style since its inception, Donatella grasps the reins of the Medusa underlining the iconic traits of her feminine style more and more each year: blonde, sexy, sculpted in sinuous and boldly coloured silhouettes.
Her style insists on bright colours, jungle prints, tight leather, “power” suits and fatal heels (both for men and the models wearing them on the runway).
With Donatella the brand’s links with Hollywood and the music scene just get stronger: from Elton John to Jennifer Lopez, Gwyneth Paltrow to Halle Berry, all the international stars flock to the Versace atelier to choose what to wear on the red carpet, and often attend Donatella’s glamorous parties after the event.

It’s no coincidence that the Versace women in 2000 walk the runway to Vicious by Lou Reed wearing “bad” trenches over dangerous mini-dresses, a little like Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct. Donatella’s impact is strong and the whole world is watching, so much so that a March 2001 list published in the Wall Street Journal of Europe’s most influential women has her in fourth place. Nothing if not confident, she is not intimidated by the attacks on the Twin Towers or the subsequent chastened climate that affects all markets and moods: the creative director of the Medusa remains steadfast and her collections become increasingly fetishist, with so many laces and strings woven into plunging necklines.

In October 2002 the talent of Gianni Versace returns to the spotlight thanks to a major retrospective at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum. “This exhibition”, comments his sister, “makes Gianni’s dream live on, it is both painful and beautiful”. After revisiting her brother’s clothing, sparkling with gold and sequins, at times applied to the geometry of a Greek goddess, it is almost inevitable that a cascade of crystals and golden chains features in Donatella’s collections, on impalpable evening dresses and nappa leather jackets that fit like a second skin. Yet little under a year later it emerges that the brand is making losses. To redress the balance, Giancarlo Di Risio, a manager with experience at Fendi and IT Holding, immediately implements sweeping cost-cutting measures and sells some real estate. Perhaps unaware of this new austerity, the Versace woman remains a pink doll playing at punk in aluminium stilettos: she is by now an icon, a glamour touchstone that, season after season, must sustain the eyes and expectations of the fashion and showbiz world.

This obsessive attention focuses on Donatella and worsens her cocaine addiction, so much so that in the summer of 2004 the designer is convinced by certain close friends, including Elton John, to check into a rehab clinic in Arizona. When she returns, she is more ironic and clear-headed. Backstage at her show she thanks those who stood by her during her treatment and dedicates the show to Richard Avedon, who had recently passed away. Two events mark the first few months of 2005: firstly Gianni’s art collection is auctioned, along with furniture from the Milan house in Via Gesù, and secondly the new advertising campaign shot by Mario Testino. Over 150 pieces including furniture, paintings and silverware once again testify to the flair of the sadly missed designer, his search for luxury and his enthusiasm for all manifestations of beauty and artistic creativity. Demi Moore is the testimonial of Versace A/W 2005.06, designed for a woman who is fully aware of her seductive power and dresses to make that very statement.

In September, while Milan is brought almost to a standstill by the concentration of shows, the Casa Casuarina in Miami, where Gianni Versace was killed in 1997, opens to the, albeit wealthy, public as a luxury hotel. Another monument in the Medusa myth thus exits the collective imagination. But the following February Donatella reopens the boutique-palace on Fifth Avenue, embraced by her VIP friends (J-Lo, Halle Berry, Cindy Crawford, Rupert Everett, to name but a few). Afterwards, a dinner with close friends is held in an apartment in the One Beacon Court Building overlooking Midtown, where, once again, traffic gridlock ensues. Then, in September 2006, the Versace Teatro opens in Piazza Vetra, built in place of the Alcione cinema after a 4 million Euro restructuring project. It will be the backdrop for the brand’s fashion shows, but also the ideal venue for cultural initiatives, exhibitions and other events.

In 2007, inevitably, the ten-year anniversary of Gianni’s death is marked with a party at Los Angeles’ City Hall attended by seven hundred guests. The event also celebrates the young Allegra, Donatella’s daughter, to whom Gianni left 50% of his company, who represents a more restrained side to the Medusa and favours a different managerial style. If in September Donatella dedicates her show to wealthy, powerful women, dressed in the tight-fitting trouser suits she herself favours, in February 2008 the first signs of change come from the United States (home of power women) and from Japan: the Versaces must say goodbye to Villa Fontanelle on Lake Como. In September the fall of Lehman Brothers triggers an international crisis that has strong repercussions on the fashion world, yet in 2008 Versace closes its books in the black for the first time in years. 2009 marks the arrival of Christopher Kane – an upcoming talent who works alongside Donatella to design the reborn Versus collection (the brand’s second line that the founder had originally entrusted to his sister) – but also a crisis at Ittierre, licensee of Versace Jeans and Versace Sport. Donatella, perhaps affected by the recessive climate, begins to talk of wearability and accessibility, proposing more wearable and certainly more saleable collections. Finally, after 28 years in the country, Versace decides to temporarily close its stores in Japan due to the economic downturn, and once again the company ends the year in the red. Di Risio leaves the company and the new managing director Gian Giacomo Ferraris reinforces Donatella’s role as style coordinator: neo-Baroque is back on the runway, with heels up to 8″ high. From these dizzy heights Medusa looks to the new decade: in 2000 in an interview by Claudio Sabelli Fioretti, Donatella Versace confidently stated that “cutting edge and cool are the two most important words in fashion today”; ten years and two economic crises later (2001 and 2008) she does not seem to have changed her mind.

ItalyABC