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Sep 20, 2023

Will Versace’s next show be an ode to maximalism?

A wind of change is blowing as Coach’s parent company, Tapestry, is buying Versace’s owner, Capri Holdings, in an $8.5 billion deal. “In a deal expected to close in 2024, Tapestry is expected to surpass other American fashion conglomerates in terms of revenue, notably PVH,” BoF reported. “The merging of two American giants creates opportunities for US brands to compete against European heavyweights” while creating “something genuinely new in the industry: an American accessible luxury giant.”

While there are questions about the future of the brands in the new conglomerate, we can only assume that Versace will preserve its DNA as a maximalist Italian brand. This is because the aesthetic opulence of the fashion house founded by the late Gianni Versace has never left its collections.

@versace Step to it - explore the #VersaceFW21 collection on @dualipaofficial #DuaLipa #Versace ♬ original sound - Versace

Gianni Versace's aesthetic of oppulence continues to reign fashion house Versace, preserving its maximalist DNA to this day

You say Versace, and you think of gold. You think of Italy, ancient Greece and Miami all at once, as if they existed in a fashion time-space continuum. You also think of opulence, maximalism, and Greek frets. A golden Medusa head and Gianni Versace himself, smiling and waving from the catwalk, surrounded by top models. These iconic postcard-perfect images come to mind when thinking of the Versace heritage, but there is much more to it. 

His sister, Donatella Versace, now at the creative helm of the fashion house, might bring an ode to maximalism to the women’s catwalks for Spring-Summer 2024.


Versace’s captivating superpower

Just like the Medusa – the logo of the fashion house – Versace has always had the legendary power to captivate those who lay eyes on their designs. Versace’s collection is nothing short of enchanting, with elements that leave a lasting impression.

Versace not only marked the top model’s era, where breathtaking moments on the runway were commonplace, but it also brought Italian maximalism, intended as the perfect mix of baroque and cutting-edge contemporary style, to the world.

Dua Lipa wearing Versace: the perfect mix of baroque and cutting-edge contemporary style

Since its foundation in Milan in 1978 by Gianni Versace, the Versace house has always left its mark on the fashion industry with a unique blend of Italian culture and art, bringing vibrant colours and geometric patterns inspired by the Greek-Roman tradition and ancient Magna Grecia with a contemporary twist.

After opening its first shop on Via della Spiga, a fashion landmark in Milan, and presenting its first collections, Versace was already conquering Italy with unique designs, prints and inspirations.


The uniqueness and genius of Gianni Versace 

Gianni Versace was full of magnificent contradictions, and his philosophy was full of oxymorons. He believed that to be superficial, you have to be very profound. In interviews, he often remarked that despite the many references to the classic aesthetics of his style, he was projected into the future. He stated his repulsion to garments people are forced to wear every day. He also stated that he did not believe in good taste and that fashion can be found everywhere.

To fully understand the Gianni Versace genius, we should travel to his roots: he was born in 1946 in Reggio Calabria, in the deep South of Italy, where his mother owned a boutique. From a young age, he showed a peculiar interest in fashion that quickly became a burning passion.

Gianni Versace closing a runway show alongside Naomi Campbell and Donatella Versace

Gianni Versace started his career in fashion in Milan at 25, working for Genny and designing a leather collection for Complice. Just six years later, he launched his own brand. His first collections, presented at Palazzo della Permanente in Milan, perfectly reflected his eccentric yet curious personality and his constant search for beauty in all domains.

Versace found inspiration in his native land, blending Roman and Greek influences with the Italian baroque style. He also incorporated elements of contemporary art and everyday life into his designs. The iconic safety pin on the black dress is a beautiful example of this blend of styles. 

One of Gianni's most iconic looks: a bondage inspired dress from his Miss S&M fall 1992 collection

His unique creative vein allowed him to take various styles, transform them and combine them to create his own distinctive designs. Versace’s collections featured a blend of masculine elements and sensual feminine silhouettes, and he was always on the lookout for new materials to incorporate into his creations, such as Oroton, whose liquid metal effect gracefully glided over the body’s curves.

“You have to break a barrier every day. Fashion, to me, is born and dies every day” – Gianni Versace, designer, businessman and founder of Versace

And with a constant challenge to fashion rules, Gianni Versace broke the barriers.


Versace and Miami

The conquest of the US market and his new status as an international fashion celebrity prompted him to move to Miami, to Villa Casa Casuarina. This majestic mansion embodied Versace’s architectural temple and symbolised the brand’s aesthetic. In that very place, on July 15th 1997, he was murdered.

The fashion world was shaken by the tragic event that suddenly took away this incredible, delicate soul and brilliant talent. His sister, Donatella Versace, took over the family business and continued to pursue even greater success with the same passion as her late brother.

Gianni Versace’s career in fashion was brief but intense enough to make him one of the most renowned designers of his time. Today, his legacy lives on through his sister, who continues to make history with the Versace brand.


Donatella Versace’s hegemony 

Donatella Versace was not new in the family business, as she already participated as creative director for Versus, the brand’s more youthful line. She was her brother’s muse and a constant influence on most of the decisions made by the luxury fashion house.

Gianni and Donatella Versace, photographed by Peter Lindbergh

Her involvement in the brand led to the creation of accessories and a lifestyle choice that went beyond just fashion.

Following in her brother’s footsteps, Donatella Versace has led the brand to new heights and is still doing so today, even after its acquisition by Michael Kors Holding (now Capri Holdings). She continues to be the soul of the business and the person through which Gianni Versace’s innovative vision lives on.

It was not easy for Donatella Versace to suddenly take over as creative director of the business. However, this tragedy has unveiled another great personality in fashion: from a painful loss to a story of self-realisation and self-discovery, Versace has found another way of evolving through Donatella’s vision.


On making an impact 

In 2000, the famous jungle dress worn by Jennifer Lopez for the Grammy Awards turned heads to the Medusa eyes, and Versace returned to capture everyone’s attention.

Google was inspired to create Google images in response to the growing demand for online pictures, specifically for the viral sensation generated by that amazing dress.

Jennifer Lopez in Versace's S/S 2020 campaign, recreating her iconic jungle dress in a new form

Donatella Versace has successfully rejuvenated the brand’s style while paying homage to its rich heritage. In 2022, Versace sponsored a retrospective of photographer Richard Avedon’s work at Palazzo Reale in Milan, showcasing his early Versace campaigns.

Today, Donatella Versace continues to work for the family business founded by her brother, collaborating with some of the biggest celebrities in the world like Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner. Together, they showcase the perfect balance of innovation and revival using archival motifs, colours and styles to create stunning runway shows.

Gigi Hadid wearing Versace for the 2022 Met Gala


Supporting ethical and social issues

Donatella Versace has not only turned Versace into a lifestyle brand but also made herself a celebrity. She also took the fashion brand to a new level of social responsibility; for the past two decades, Versace has contributed to amfAR by helping to raise funds for research on AIDS.

Versace’s commitment to the LGBTQ+ community is also significant. Last year, the fashion house joined forces with singer Cher, a long-time friend of Donatella Versace. Together, they created a special collection for Pride month and officially launched the Versace Foundation to enable equity, safety and well-being for members of the LGBTQ+ community.


Gianni Versace’s legacy

The story of Versace is one of success and talent, originating from Reggio Calabria and making history. It all began with the unmatched talent of Gianni Versace and was later carried forward by Donatella Versace. The story was cursed by tragedy and blessed by commitment, passion and courage. Even today, it continues to set the standards for the fashion history.

Gianni Versace


Marta Bonetti
MA in Fashion Promotion Communication & Digital Media, Milan