Donatella’s triumphant Pre-Fall 2019 show in New York landed on the anniversary of her brother Gianni’s birthday. The collection commemorates 20 years with Donatella at the helm, and serves as a symbol of rebirth for the house of Versace and of Donatella herself. The extravagant show held in the New York Stock Exchange took place just weeks after Michael Kors stepped up to buy the brand for $2.2 billion. A move that keenly illustrates the power of Versace’s heritage and its potential to build on its history.
The foundation for the future was set with a collection chock full of signature house references, a safety pinned mini-kilt, and Elizabeth Hurley’s notorious safety pin dress. Other greatest hits include plunging necklines, waist high slits, and a heady dose of re-issued head-to-toe prints mined from the archives and rendered into retro-futuristic silhouettes. The nostalgic glamour of Versace is trendy among today’s young fashionistas, and illustrates the powerful double whammy of the house’s history combined with a fresh new relevance.
Some story lines take decades to play out, and it’s certainly been a long journey for Donatella Versace. At times teetering on self destruction, she never fully buckled under the pressure of running a fashion empire. She took over the brand during her brother Gianni’s battle with cancer, and his subsequent recovery, only to his tragic death months later. Donatella has survived it all, a divorce in 2000 from former model Paul Beck, 18 years of drug addiction citing back as far as 1987, and the responsibilities of raising two children who have both chosen to stay as far away from the limelight as possible. Through it all, she was still ultimately capable of creating some unforgettable fashion moments like Jennifer Lopez’s infamous green jungle dress from the 42nd Grammy Awards in 2000. This season, Amber Valetta wore a new iteration of the same dress with a heart print created by Gianni Versace in collaboration with artist Jim Dine. Other recognizable motifs include black bondage leather harnesses, gold safety pins, and a ball gown skirt worn with a t-shirt by Gigi Hadid with sneakers.
Donatella is a die hard believer in heels for every occasion, but this small subtle detail is a sign she’s addressing the needs of a younger generation, and has her eye on the future expansion of the brand into footwear and accessories. Though it’s been a long time coming, the past few years has seen Donatella blossom and come into her own as a designer. Perhaps this is partly due to the emotional release of finally speaking openly about her struggles and creating her own body of work. Or the result of being able to look at herself and her brand with crystal clear clarity since kicking her drug addiction. It may have taken decades, but if her recent collection is anything to go by, her efforts and persistence have finally paid off.