One More Head

Versace has given the Medusa head of Greece a mate—a death mask of Pompeii. More gaudy historic icons to enjoy?

Is Donatella Versace creating the fashion equivalent of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 with this explosion of a spring/summer 2023 collection? Staged in the brand’s Via Gesù headquarters, the presentation is a detonation of colours, prints and more prints. If Mount Vesuvius exploded “with a force greater than an atom bomb” according to modern-day reports, then the Versace show blew up with the impact of the virtual fulmination of the contents of social media. And one of the prints that will no doubt be virally shared online is that of a death mask (above), apparently an archival image that Ms Versace thinks is timely to bring back. This is not nearly the same as the prettified Medusa head that the house has been using. Rather, this is gargoyle-like and made more garish against luminescent chartreuse.

Ms Versace told GQ in 2018 that the brand that she steers is “a dream that people want to be part of.” Dreams are like meat—they can be another man’s poison, or nightmare. It is often said that Versace provides fantasy in a world that is increasingly devoid of it. The only thing is, the fantasy seems to exist only in a very pop realm, or hip-hop music videos. In fact, sometimes we suspect that Versace puts out clothes in the hope to appear in yet another Migos MV. A part two of the 2013 blatant homage Versace? “Cheetah print on my sleeve, but I ain’t ever been in the jungle” does sum up the current snake skin too. Versace, Versace, Versace… goes the rap, as if Migo was hoping for a lifetime supply of Versace. And if the next video needs to be drowned in Versace too, there are the home accessories that the models carry and wear.

For Versace fans (and there are many, including our own Dick Lee), this is a celebratory show, an emersion into the next best thing after music videos. We see it as an IRL Beng-dom, now under the watchful eyes of busts (or death masks) of the ancients, perched on pedestals. Donatella Versace, herself repeatedly called a “pop culture icon”, is the ultimate hostess of this visual symposium, which in old Greek societies, was, according to William J. Slater in Dining in a Classical Context, “a place for the ostentatious display not just of gilded ceilings or inlaid floors, Ionian couches, exotic entertainment, or luxury vases, but also of the cultural quality of host and guests”. Sounds familiar? Luxury vases! The models weren’t carrying urns!

But it is not entirely high luxe at the show. There are the other printed shirts, for example: Those black ones blaring all over with the Migos refrain “Versace, Versace Versace…”, which look unapologetically entry-level or, as one on-and-off Versace fan told us, “for Fendace lovers.” And, the tacky singlets too, shaped to cling to every muscle of the torso, baring the sides of the abdomen, and abbreviated in the back to look like a sports bra. Perhaps, this is where the allure of Versace’s meretricious designs lies: they appeal to the guilty pleasures that many of us succumb to. One thing nags at us: We are not sure if it feels current, let alone au courant.

Screen shot (top): versace.com. Photos: Versace

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