Going for a New Sensuality
No one embodies the glamorous world of the house of Versace better than the woman behind the iconic label. Donatella Versace is truly a woman of substance and undeniable style. Before Gianni’s tragic death in 1997, she had always been her brother’s muse. (He dedicated his perfume Blonde to her, named in tribute to her platinum tresses.) When she suddenly found herself assuming the role of creative director and designer of Versace’s many collections, she did so with determination to continue Gianni’s legacy while taking the business to even greater heights.
She quickly won over the notoriously fickle fashion crowd with her own signature style and has garnered numerous accolades along the way, including Fashion Group International’s coveted Superstar Award, presented to her by Jennifer Lopez and Prince at a star-studded gala last fall.
Today, she presides over all Versace’s fashion collections while expanding the brand into real estate (Palazzo Versace on Australia’s Gold Coast was the first hotel project for a luxury goods company) and interior design (Versace and Africa-Israel are doing interiors for The Clock Tower residences and spa on Madison Avenue in New York City). There’s even a limited edition Versace Lamborghini sports car.
She is also passionately involved in humanitarian causes. Late last year she ventured to China and announced the creation of Project with the One Foundation to aid the earthquake victims of the Sichuan Province. “I wanted to see what happened with my own eyes,” she said of her trip. “When things happen in this life, we must help each other.”
Versace took time out to take questions from our Style Council and talk fashion with contributing editor Diane Clehane.
So many of your designs are perfect for Florida. Do you have a special affinity for designing for warmer climates?
On a personal level, I love warm weather and all the colors and associations that come along with that kind of climate. As a designer, I also greatly enjoy designing for colder weather because it often allows for the use and experimentation with materials and fabrics. Warmer climate wardrobes can be challenging because the silhouette has to be perfect. Just because there is less fabric doesn’t mean it is less complicated. Often I think it’s the contrary. The color palettes of a summer collection are my favorite—“blond” (sandy beige with a touch of gold), jeweled hot pinks and purples, bronze and metal colors that look great against the healthy glow of a tan.
You have mastered designing for all sizes of the female body. Do you have a particular shape in mind when creating a look?
I design for a female silhouette, which means I create clothing that highlights the feminine shape in general. My main goal is to celebrate a woman’s curves, so the design has to allow for the proper fit.
What was your inspiration for spring? How do you keep things fresh season after season?
The new Versace collection is our response to the global crisis we are experiencing—an event which gives us all the more reason to raise our spirit by thinking positively and choosing the best and the most beautiful. The moment calls for glamorous dresses adorned with crystals, embroidery and prints in opulent fabrics—clothes that epitomize luxury. The shapes and textures serve as the collection’s starting point, resulting in seductive, box-shaped, short dresses that rely on an optical effect to achieve the slimmest possible waist. The silhouette’s geometric lines give the body a new sensuality.
Your collections always offer women something unexpected. What motivates you each season to create these surprises in your designs?
My main motivation is probably because I don’t believe a single type of woman exists anymore. Creating a collection today involves imagining a woman who encompasses all women: an active woman who works, spends much of her life outside the home and lives life to the fullest—without neglecting her family and friendships. This is why I have not dedicated my collection to one woman in particular, but to all women, to femininity itself!
There are many designers reaching the mass market by designing for lower-priced stores like Target and Kohl’s. Do you see yourself designing a line like that?
No. Simply because we have such a strong Atelier DNA element to our collections.
Designers have to work so far ahead. Can you give us some hint of what we can expect to see for next fall?
We have just presented our Versace Pre-Fall 2009 collection that has a strong emphasis on structured silhouettes and accented pieces featuring a star motif, contrasting piping or shimmering fur. The star motif is an important decorative feature in the collection as it is incorporated into the construction of the clothes to create transparency and adds a sense of glamour to the embroidered cocktail and eveningwear looks. Graphic prints with various interpretations of the star shape and a geometric animal print appear on the lining inside coats and jackets. The color palette includes strong shades of pink; red, aubergine with touches of turquoise, green, black and white used as highlights.
What was your inspiration for the famous dress J. Lo wore? You dress so many celebrities—who is your current muse?
The green “Jungle” dress that Jennifer wore for the Grammys was certainly a memorable style moment, both for her and for Versace. Each celebrity is different, so when it comes to dressing someone, it is all taken very personally. There has to be a reciprocal understanding. They have to be a Versace kind of woman or man. The final result works only if this is the case. I don’t have one muse—but there are many famous personalities I admire—Angelina Jolie, Anne Hathaway, Madonna, Charlize Theron, Demi Moore and Halle Berry. They are women who have “experienced” life—and have created their own look both professionally and style-wise. They are Versace women, and that is why they look great in our clothes!
Gulfshore Life’s Style Council
Led by Denise Cobb, the members include Penny Anderson, Patty Baker, Mary Susan Clinton, Shirlene Elkins, Dawn Hoffman, Susie McCurry, Amy Oshier and Cynthia Sherman.