Versace (Est. 1978) More than two decades have passed since Gianni Versace (1946-1997) was murdered outside his Miami Beach home, the former Casa Casuarina now known as The Villa. He was only age 50.
In an appreciation of Versace’s legacy that appeared in The Guardian in July 2017 and marked the 20th anniversary of the crime, Jess Cartner-Morley wrote, “It is impossible now to separate the horror of Versace’s murder from the bigger Versace story. The tragedy has become … part of the house’s origin story…”
She writes that Versace consistently brought an element of danger to his designs and more importantly concludes, “The image from Versace’s funeral of a beautiful, bereft Princess Diana next to a weeping Elton John capture(d) a moment in which the old establishment was being replaced by a new celebrity world order.
“Versace was instrumental in this shift in power; he is credited by Anna Wintour as being the first fashion designer to realize the power of having celebrities in the front row. He was among the first to fully recognize the potential of models [becoming] significant players in the industry. He connected fashion to music in a way no designer had done before, with Prince and Jon Bon Jovi posing for ad campaigns. He was partying with Princess Diana, Elton, Madonna, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Springsteen and [Naomi] Campbell many years before Taylor Swift came up with the concept of #SquadGoals. A modus operandi that was derided as vulgar by [his] contemporaries looks now to have been ahead of its time.”
After Gianni’s death, his sister, Donatella Versace, took over the business and continued to use the family’s trademark employing bright colors and designs. She was born in Reggio Calabria Italy, in 1959, and was thirteen years younger than Gianni. Donatella’s position was announced at the same time, in September 1997, that Versace’s brother, Santo, and Jorge Saud were designated to serve as the new CEOs of Gianni Versace S.p.A.
Donatella and Gianni had a very close relationship and he considered her his muse. Gianni referred to his sister as his ‘perfect woman.’ Her critical and artistic contribution to the Versace label cannot be overestimated. Donatella joined the family company in the early 1980s and became responsible for accessories and Versus, the youth-orientated diffusion line.
Donatella brought a younger, harder edge to Versace which complemented Gianni’s classicism. She said, ‘I like to play with power when I do clothes – to play with power and with fun.’ With her high-profile life, Donatella has helped define the Versace brand. Gianni said of her: ‘Donatella’s strength is that she makes everything she touches modern.’
Gianni Versace was born Giovanni Maria Versace in 1946 in Reggio Calabria, Italy. He grew up with his elder brother Santo and sister Donatella, along with his father and dressmaker mother. Among the things that influenced Gianni was ancient Greek history that is integral to the historic landscape of Gianni’s birthplace.
Gianni attended Liceo Classico Tommaso Campanella, where he studied Latin and ancient Greek. It’s said that another influence on Gianni was Andy Warhol, the wunderkind of the art world whose fame grew during Gianni’s teenage and young adult years.
Versace began an apprenticeship at a young age in his mother’s sewing business that employed as many as a dozen seamstresses. Gianni studied architecture before moving to Milan at the age of 26 to work in fashion design.
In 1973 he designed for Byblos, a successful Genny youth line and in 1977 designed a more experimental line for Genny, Complice.
Encouraged by his success, Versace presented his first signature collection for women at the Palazzo della Permanente Art Museum of Milan within a few years. His first fashion show followed shortly thereafter.
After presenting his menswear collection, he met the man who would become his business partner, Jorge Saud. The first boutique opened in Milan’s Via della Spiga in 1978. Over the years, the firm became an international fashion house producing accessories, fragrances, make-up, home furnishings as well as clothes, jewelry, and watches. Gianni also designed costumes for the theatre and films.
Versace’s 1978 collection captured confident, powerful, Mediterranean-informed menswear designs. Even now, under the creative direction of Donatella, the line’s bold and masculine aesthetic continues to evolve.
The signature Medusa head appears on everything from the brand’s Italian leather sneakers and backpacks to streetwear and gold chain necklaces. T-shirts and hoodies in Baroque prints capture an urban vibe loved by Versace’s fans.
The company has multiple brands in the Versace Group. Among these is a brand for elegant gold jewelry as well as jewelry crafted from other precious metals.
Versace Couture is the house’s main line. It contains high-end and handmade apparel, watches, jewelry, cosmetics, fragrances, handbags, and items for the home.
In 2000, the House of Versace presented its first collection of watches. Timepieces created by Versace in the Swiss division of the company boasted character and style. A year later, Versace introduced its line of high-tech men’s watches, Character Chrono.
In 2002, Versace presented two new lines designed in strict classical style with Roman numerals. Among these models were the New Medusa and the Versace CharacterTonneauChrono.
In the latter model, the case is made of stainless steel in the shape of a barrel. The bracelet is also stainless steel, with the traditional Medusa head image on the clasp.
The Versace Sport watch is a functional and elegant chronograph with hour, minute and second counters. The strap is made of leather or microfiber and has a sapphire crystal dial with anti-reflective coating.
The Versace Modern Collection is a joint design of Gianni Versace and Frank Muller. This design combines aesthetic mastery with the virtuosity of a Couturier watchmaker.
Versace watch models are known for their rich forms, accented with precious metals, geometric patterns and smooth polished surfaces, as well as antique motifs, combined with Baroque style.
Versace Group brands include: Gianni Versace Couture, Versus Versace, Versace Jeans Couture, Versace Ceramic Designs, Versace Collection, Versace Sport, Versace Intensive, Versace Precious Items, and Versace Young. The company also operates a hotel, the Palazzo Versace.
Versace Precious Items is Versace S.p.A’s timepiece, jewelry and writing instrument sub-brand. Timepieces and jewelry are made in Switzerland and writing instruments are made in France.
Celebrities known to wear Versace designs include Brad Pitt, Jamie Foxx, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Madonna, Kate Hudson, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez, Demi Moore, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Courtney Love, Jon Bon Jovi, Elton John, Liz Hurley, Katherine Zeta-Jones, Melanie Griffith, Halle Berry, Beyoncé, Eva Longoria Hilary Swank, Janet Jackson, Uma Thurman, Reese Witherspoon, Penelope Cruz, Sarah Jessica Parker, Salma Hayek, Tyra Banks, and Jessica Alba.