Fendace Is Verdi Real

It’s dubbed The Swap, but in a world with too many labels and too much clothes, are the Fendi and Versace I-do-you, you-do-me collections necessary? Are they at all nice?

It looks like Milan Fashion Week has its climax show to end the festivities. The “unexpected” Fendi and Versace or Fendace collaboration, or “hack”, to steal from present-day, pandemic-poised parlance, really took place after the initial rumour grew more heads than on Medusa’s. And rather than a reprisal of the Gucci/Balenciaga manoeuvre in April (or vice versa), Kim Jones (and design partner Silvia Venturini Fendi) traded places/brands with Donatella Versace to “interpret” the other house’s aesthetics and codes. The result is high on the marketing potential of the idea than the ideation itself, more brash than dash, more Versace than Fendi. It isn’t clear yet, which brand will stand to gain. Versace, fresh from a showing just three days earlier had already jog one’s memory about those ideas that make the house instantly recognisable, do they need another splashy retelling? Or, is this Fendi trying to go hipper, playing down Mr Jones’s banal muliebrity in his reimagination of the brand?

It is like his Shein moment, her Boohoo, all TikTok-ready, influencer-approved. Sure, we understand that we are living in such times, but must we see Fendi go from soignée a week earlier to meretricious now, Versace go from Versace to Versace Max? It is understandable that brands love mash-ups and, possibly, their customers too, but is it really time to blur aesthetic lines when no side gains? One SOTD reader was clearly dismayed when he texted us this morning about Versace’s interpretation of Fendi, “In the end, it just looked like two Versace shows; one better than the other! Apart from the monogram, there was sadly, no Fendi to speak of.” Make that three if you count the spring/summer 2022 show of the main line. “It’s the first in the history of fashion,” Ms Versace said through a media release. On both front, yes.

No one is mistaken that this is Sacai’s Chitose Abe doing Jean Paul Gaultier and certainly not, if a pop reference is preferred, Lady Gaga doing Cole Porter! It is all about the hype. Do we still remember that? Or has hype been so over-hyped that we are more immune to it than one relentless virus? Is hoopla so blah that we need to revive it. And throw in some old-time catwalk excesses (a revolving Medusa logo reveals the double F?) and other-era models to up the surprise factor (since there are none in the clothes)? Sure it is a delight to see Kristen McMenamy playing Donatella Versace, Mariacarla Boscono still looking good, and Kate Moss looking not, but when it comes to Naomi Campbell closing the show, it really is a bit jelak. Did she not just appear in the earlier Versace show, in the same swagger?

There is the laughable name too. Sure, the project can be cheekily referred to as Fendace (the lazy conflation of Fendi and Versace), but when it is actually spelled out as a real brand, it sounds like something you would find in Mahboonkrong Centre in Bangkok, among the Armanee jeans, Frid Perry polos, Adibas kicks, and Relax watches. Clearly ‘Verdi’ is not allowable—a national icon deserves far greater respect. Perhaps this is a dig at the Chinese counterfeiters who can’t spell. Still, could they not think of something less Qipu Lu, Shanghai? We have no idea if this would appear as a label on the back of the clothes, but since Fendace is already there as a belt buckle and on the bags (including those Book wannabes), so expect nothing less. According to reports, the project was brewing since February although the news broke that it would be a sudden coming together of the brands only this week. Designers taking over as new creative directors of other brands have precocious less to work with. A waste of resources, just to feed the empty hype?

The show opens with Kim Jones and Silvia Venturini Fendi doing Versace. One senses this is really the job Mr Jones was after, rather than the Fendi appointment. Loud is waiting to jump out of him, and he creates the chance to allow it to radiate, but could he do loud better than Versace has been? It is not hard to see that Mr Jones is not particularly adept at handling or mixing prints. Or squeeze out more. The florid Versace silk dresses and separates look like they could come from a lame season of the now-defunct Versus. Donatella embracing Fendi, a house so unlike the one her brother founded, conversely, appeared the more triumphant among the trio, leaving every identifiable Versace hallmark where they can be left, like a canine marking her territory. Even the Fendi monogram is treated to Versace-esque colours. No garment is free of Medusa heads, animal prints, Oriental frets, Baroque swirls… whatever could be squeezed onto a silk screen. If not, there is always the chain mail.

Is it because the show took place on Versace’s turf? Would it be different if it is staged at Fendi’s headquarters? Will it be there next? Would there be a next? Where would the clothes and accessories be sold? Both lines at each other’s stores? Just as the show was live-streamed on both brands’ website, on visually similar pages? High-high pairings (in this case, one French-owned—LVMH and the other by American upstart Capri Holdings) may be trending now, but how Fendace will pan out is perhaps too early to tell. The idea may not have been explored before, but the execution is nowhere near radical. And, it is hard to see the sustainability (in every sense of the word) of The Swap. It is a showy novelty set up to wane.

Photos: Fendi/Versace/Fendace

Under Undulating Silks

Returning to the live presentation format, Versace shows what stagecraft (or runway craft?) could be, with Dua Lipa upstaging even Naomi Campbell

Lipa Dua closing the Versace spring/summer 2022 show

Donatella Versace really knows how to stage a show. In Versace’s comeback IRL presentation, things don’t just happen on the runway. At the start, a group of masked men, shirtless to reveal extreme musculature, struts down the catwalk and then disappears into the audience. The camera zooms in on the men standing in the rear. With their hands gripping on a thick black rope, they begin to yank it downwards. At first you might think they are operating manual fans. Then you realise what they are doing. On the ceiling, two row of colourfully-printed squares of silk foulard—like giant Versace scarves—swell and billow, and ripple. Are they improving the ventilation or air quality of the indoor venue? Or, are they, as one SOTD reader texted us this morning, “efficiently moving COVID over everyone”? Maybe for now, let’s pretend that the show is set under a tent and it is very windy outside.

And it is surging under the canopy too—with excitement. The show opens with Dua Lipa walking—not performing—to her disco-dynamite Physical. Reportedly, the livestream was so massively watched around the world that it crashed at some point (it affected us not)! We didn’t know who would be appearing, but many, it seemed, did and had tuned in to catch Emily Ratajkowski and Lourdes Leon (yes, Madonna’s daughter is a model!) as well, and to a small extent, Naomi Campbell (if you are, er, above 45). Ms Versace certainly knows who she is targeting and ensnaring. Sure, she has worked with pop stars before, but they may have not appealed to the right demographics (remember Jennifer Lopez? Before the return of Bennifer?). This time, it is clear that Versace also needs to tether less to the “supers” who have made the brand famous, save the present-everywhere, host of her own show/YouTube channel, Baby Woman, Ms Campbell.

Elsewhere in Milan, designers are doing sexy. Donatella Versace does not have to do sexy—it comes to her naturally. And sexy has never left the house. Body-con dresses may not presently be a thing, but if they are, the house of Versace can be counted on to do them fittingly, fittedly, and flatteringly. Few designers can shape, say, a bustier as perfectly as Ms Versace. Ditto for the one-slit, figure-hugging, ankle-length dress. In chain-mail, too. Especially for a full-figured Lourdes Leon (in silver, above). High-octane sexy is undeniably the result, but they never need to elicit the response, trashy. In that respect, the designer does not quite get the credit that she deserves. To have the sexiness stay alive, even when fashion was nearly consumed by loungewear (and athleisure before that), is no easy task. Ms Versace has kept sexy burning, just as the vestal virgins had kept the perpetual fire unextinguished.

This collection also explores, as is the case in recent seasons, the Versace DNA, including those little things that have been associated with the house, but may have been forgotten, such as the once ubiquitous safety pin. Back in 1994, when Liz Hurley wore that dress—the slit up the right rump and the V-shaped opening on the right side of the bodice were held together with gold safety pins—it was considered scandalous. These days, many women work it with a lot less fabrics and even less opacity, as sexy is even more in your face. But rather than test the safety pin’s versatility and, consequently, a fabric’s tensile strength, Ms Versace has opted to use the pins in decorative ways, just as she does with buttons and the house silk foulards as ruffles or edging to peek from hems. Judicious use is, of course, not a house trait, just as timid colours are not too, but somehow, by marrying visual excess to pop culture’s predilection for the wildly eye-catching, Versace is able to convince the next gen of stars and their followers that that much may not be so. It is a win when it is Dua Lipa, rather than Naomi Campbell, who closes the show, and takes the post-finale bow with Donatella Versace. They, as Ms Lipa sang in the soundtrack, “created something phenomenal”.

Photos: Versace

Monogram-Mad

At Versace, the Medusa head is upstaged by La Greca

Pandemic or not, monograms sells. Logos too. And definitely the east-west tote. Bring them all together and across all clothing and accessory categories, you have Versace doing whatever others are doing. This is a monogram launch with a vengeance. You know what the house is newly offering and that you will be seduced by it, so the latest collection bombards you with everything that can be plastered with the repeated pattern. “The new print,” according to Versace, “is a modern 3D maze that feels like you can step right into it and features the iconic Greca pattern along with the Versace logo in various color combinations.” The three-dimensionality of the design does not play down the fret very much associated with Versace (and is presently used on the side of the mid-soles of their chunky shoes), but it also seems to be on the same aesthetical foundation as Balmain’s Labyrinth, introduced in the ’70s, which Olivier Rousteing, a week later, wore during during a panel discussion with Vanessa Friedman of The New York Times.

It is understandable why Versace needs a monogram. More than ever, a pattern such as La Greca helps sell products as much as a logo, boxed or not. Additionally, identifiable patterns are more effective than unique prints. But not only is the house following the path of others, it is also using the monogram in very recognisable forms, such as the omnipresent east-west tote. Versace’s follow the antecedents set by brands such as Goyard (with the similar Chevron, year first seen unknown), or Moynat (with just as comparable Ms, introduced in 1925), but looks to us more in line with Bonia’s, or the like you’d find on Via Francesco Crispi in Rome. In fact, all the bags now sporting the new monogram seem destined to quickly find bootleg variants in Patpong. To be sure, Versace has never been strong on bags. They don’t have their own Saddle or their own Puzzle.

La Greca does not only appear on the bags, it is fashioned into everything, literally for head to toe, babushka to leggings, and obviously to hawk ostentation as the alternative to fashion, pandemic times or nor. Versace has never been a subtle label. Under the watch of Donatella Versace, even less so, as she courts celebrities, such as hip-hop stars, to wear her meretricious designs. Over the years, Ms Versace has amped up the sexiness associated with the house; her target audience, the nubile. Season after season, it’s variation of the same theme. Although there were times when one sensed that she tried harder, but there are others too, such as the present, when it seems she’s running out of steam, falling back on, for example, mini-dresses in one-tone brights. But who notices the lack of depth? People who buy Versace seek the comfort of the familiar. Now, more so with the new monogram. Or, mono culture?

The live-streamed show is a sleek affair. Part ad, part fashion show, part TikTok video, it does confirm one thing: many of us are unable to travel (or unwilling, even afraid to), but not a particular pair—the Hadid sisters. The siblings are able to be in Milan to strut their stuff—in Versace, strut they must. Versace is about a certain fierceness, the girl power that has now somewhat lost its potency, but can, as admirers like to declare, “slay”. Gigi Hadid has just given birth, and she’s back to work. Motherhood has not toned her down. She is in fine post-natal form and with a proud post-natal silhouette, can communicate Versace’s dated looks to kill.

Photos: Versace

Hip-Hop Flop

Was Versace selling fashion or music?

 

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Sure, in the age of e-fashion presentations, lines are often blurred. Since fashion and music go hand in hand like a needle and thread, they do often come together to make some noise, although if the music is sweet is another matter. Versace, like other brands, have decided to play this easy pairing up. They chose to work with the British rapper from Ladbroke Grove, AJ Tracey and the Sudanese-American model Anok Yai (who considered Carine Roitfeld writing in an Instagram post about her—“Anok is not a black woman, she is my friend”—as “insensitive”) to create a music video. And in doing so, they targeted two birds with one stone, simultaneously shining the spotlight on black creatives—an on-trend theme.

AJ Tracey and his companion arrived at the filming venue, both already togged in Versace, which raised the possible that the music video was backed by the brand. He got to pick whatever he wanted to wear and proceeded to meet the other participants of the video, primarily Anok Yai. The singing and recording proceeded, he doing his thing, she doing hers, both with no contact that can be considered friendly nor communication electric. The video might lure fans of the rapper, but fashion folks won’t be impressed by the model. We were suddenly nostalgic for George Michael’s Freedom! ’90.

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Versace has always had a deep relationship with hip-hop stars that goes back to the late Tupac walking the brand’s runway, even singing, in the 1995 Hit Em Up, “now it’s all about Versace, you copied my style”. A year later, he wore a  black double-breasted Versace suit with pronounced shoulders to the 38th Grammy Awards. And then everyone else that mattered, from Jennifer Lopez to Kanye West to P. Diddy, were linked to the house of the Medusa head. Even Vogue declared back in 2015 that “Versace and hip-hop have the ultimate love affair”.

When a fashion season is bereft of fashion, what Versace showed only augmented that perception. Music, however catchy, even sung by the latest rap hottie, will not be able to stand in for the clothes—or the lack of them. Presented was a “Flash collection”, showing the few (preview number?) pieces that would be available for sale online next month. Donatella Versace appeared in the video to welcome the star artiste, but not to introduce or explain the ideas behind the collection. Personal appearance is always useful in advertising, and she knew it. Perhaps, with the designer showing up, we can add one more look to the video’s sad total of less than a dozen.

Screen grab: versace.com

Versace As JLo As Ever

As calculated moves go, Jennifer Lopez taking to the Versace runway could be one of the most unforgettable sashays in catwalk history. Can the brand Gianni left behind only make news by pulling such stunts?

 

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By now you would have seen Jennifer Lopez in that dress, based on the one she wore in 2000 for the Grammy Awards. Such a closing high it was for the Versace spring/summer 2020 presentation that every news report on that show began with how “stunning” Ms Lopez looks (with some dedicating the full report on the single gown). If you thought that the original “jungle dress”, as it became known or as Donatella herself calls it, was a daring piece of dress-making, then the latest would confirm that anything is possible with pieces of fabrics for as long as you have Hollywood Fashion Tape.

In a video interview with vogue.com later, Ms Lopez admitted that back in 2000, “it was all taped down”. Twenty years after, the new take on that dress appears to require even more securing by clear, double-sided adhesive. The first may have been, as the singer said, “cut up to here and cut down to there”, it did, as we look back, appear somewhat modest, especially if the wearer was not taking huge strides, and wind, natural or machine-generated, was not an issue. The dress had sleeves (long!), and even when the back was partially exposed, showed skin to the extend that, by then or six years after Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction”, was not shockingly daring. Understandable, therefore, why Ms Lopez does not think, as she stated in the interview, that the dress “was all that risqué”.

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Just as JLo has a thing for green dresses that leave little to the imagination (remember the Oct 2018 InStyle spread which showed that nothing comes between her and the Valentino one-side-unseamed column?), Donatella Versace has a weakness for the finale surprise. She pulled one off during the spring/summer 2018 show, when five of “Gianni’s Girls”, aka supermodels of 1990s, appeared, also together with the designer herself, to take the end-of-show bow. Ms Versace is possibly one of the most connected fashion designers of her generation and she knows how to use her powerful/influential/attractive friends to full marketing advantage. Appearing side by side with JLo, the optics is one of a girl-club, girl-strong moment. Or, as both women said in unison to the camera for all visitors to vogue.com to hear and approve, and applaud, “women’s power”.

To us, the publicity coup is overpowering as it overshadows what is a strong Versace collection, even the strongest to date under Donatella Versace’s watch. Apart from her usual amped-up sexiness, the collection shows what a Versace customer might wear when not on the red carpet: power suits and power dresses (some recalling her attempt at reviving the Versus line), compelling shirt-under-bustier-dress combos, outers with not-quite-Donatella leg-o-mutton sleeves (there’s even a khaki trench!), and sleeveless tops with padded shoulders that won’t be lost on those with a taste for Balmain minus the fierce Glamazon posturing.

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Ms Versace, like her brother, has always been unafraid of colour—the collection is not short of bright shots, such as chartreuse, orange, and pink; their intensity only tempered by a generous serving of black. Apart from the solids, the forest/garden-verdant print that made the last dress, appeared in other forms too, affirming that it could be the pattern (“prints charming”?) of next spring. We saw similar at Christopher Kane (LFW), and, at the time of this writing, witness more at Dolce & Gabbana. But it would be Versace’s foliage-dense that the world will remember. If not, there’s always Google Image, its creation in 2000 attributed to the “original jungle dress”, searched too often.

Interestingly, Amber Valletta, who first modelled that dress to close the Versace spring/summer 2000 show, is back on the brand’s runway, but this time, in a black, bust-cupped gown that is reminiscent of Elizabeth Hurley’s safety pin dress, minus, thankfully, the safety pins. Just as noteworthy is that Donatella Versace appeared with Jennifer Lopez in a LBD that brings to mind the dress worn by another woman associated with Gianni: the late Princess Diana, who wore a similar cocktail dress to the premiere of the Ron Howard film Apollo 13 in London in 1995. As it’s often said, and true of fashion and, perhaps, more so, Versace, it always comes back.

Photos: Versace

Versace: Still Brash, But With Some Dash

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According to Versace’s own description on their website after the autumn/winter 2018 show was posted online, the latest collection is “Strong. Loud. Confident. There are no compromises. A clash of cultures between past and present, old and new, sneakers and stilettos”.

Yes, it is classic Versace, but there is something else, something that expresses Donatella Versace’s in-your-face, I-can-wear-anything-I-want feminism. And, the man-baiting sexuality. It is Ms Donatella coming into her own, a confident assertion that this is how she now sees the brand her brother built. She is making Versace in her own image.

It is as if, after marking the 20th anniversary of the death of Gianni Versace with an homage show, she is finally able to purge all the obligations held to keep his memory alive and the expectations of her as a designer she could never be. Ms Donatella was finally able to breathe easy. And she did. And she came up tops.

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Earlier suggestion and viral rumours that she contemplated stepping down was conventional smoke. Now that we know for sure Riccardo Tisci has gone to Burberry after persistent news that he would zip to the house of the Medusa head, we can lay all talk of Ms Donatella not designing the label she inherited a rest. This autumn/winter season is her strongest and compelling collection yet—a sure-footed discourse on what the Versace woman is today and a deft hand at melting the house codes into visuals that connect to the present time.

There is the obligatory lian-ness, of course, such as the over-patched Western shirt seen on Kaia Gerber, who is able to pull off such a top because she is very young. Sometimes you sensed that Versus has crossed over to the main line and some of the effects do throw back to Ms Donatella’s early years with the diffusion line, which she had led. The tartans were especially fetching—they did, however, remind us of how Christopher Kane, one time Versus designer, would have handled the highland checks. Gingham corset over tartan blazer!

There seems to be a need to pull the collection into street territory too. One outfit stood out only because it is un-Versace: a body-obscuring, studded (like a Chesterfield) puffer coat styled with an oversized padded scarf and worn with a short skirt that matches the former’s lining is a walk on Demna Gvasalia territory. It is, to us, a stray that could be seen as testing the waters. Versace could do with larger support from youths even if they have admirably seduced the young of the Chinese market.

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Other times, you sensed a Versace for the careerist. Gigi Hadid looked Wall Street-bound! Ms Donatella has always called herself a working woman. And has often claimed to cater to those who have a career path to track and who desire powerful sartorial images of the height of corporate conquest. Her work clothes are not meek and secretarial; they’re unyielding and dominating. Her coats and jackets project power and the shirts and blouses that go with them just as fierce.

Fierceness has always been a Donatella trait—now, the intensity tempered with girlishness, often in the form of short, pleated, as well as flouncy skirts that straddle the narrow divide between school uniform and otaku fantasy. The suggestion of adolescent at play, too, can be seen in the pairing of T-shirts (some looking as if there were made from two halves) to huge, poufed skirts—a styling trick possibly gleaned from the Sharon Stone playbook.

Don’t get us wrong: Donatella Versace has not abandoned the very essence that has endeared her brand to stars such as Jennifer Lopez: sex. There is, in fact, a healthy dose of it: sex as empowerment, ironically pronounced in a time of anti-sexually-predatory behavior. But what would Versace be without accenting the hips and flashing a limb? Simply put, no zest.

Photos: Versace

Flashy Ode To Gianni And His Girls

Supermodels @ VersaceWith Dontatella Versace, (from left) Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, and Helena Christensen

In many ways, it is not unexpected. The time is right for a throwback to Gianni Versace’s heydays. It’s the 20th anniversary of Mr Versace’s murder and it’s been twenty-odd years since his florid prints and clashing colours took the fashion world—then smaller than what it is today—by storm. The reprise of the flamboyance associated with the house is also well-timed because fashion is again truly in love with the visually commanding—Gucci presently the Pied Piper.

Furthermore, the supermodels of the ’90s, made super and then über by Mr Versace himself, are in the news: Claudia Schiffer was to launch a book published by Rizzoli; Cindy Crawford has been reliving her modelling days vicariously through her daughter Kaia Gerber, who was in the same show; and Naomi Campbell, still an active model, now a contributing editor at British Vogue.

That the recent Versace show in Milan closed out with supermodels of the 1990s is not surprising. That the quintet did not appear to have budged from the 1990s is. It’s perhaps fascinating to see the 16-year-old Ms Gerber don clothes similar to what her mother wore two decades ago. However, on a woman, once a host of MTV’s House of Style (wearing Gianni Versace, no less), who should know better than compete with her child on the same catwalk—that seems to us a little pitiable. There must have been reasons why truly original Versace girls Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington gave what Huffington Post calls “an epic reunion” an observable snub.

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Donatella Versace was thought to have given up her design duties after the last show, but she recently dismissed them as “rumours”, which means, now more than ever, she has to keep the spirit and aesthetics of Gianni Versace alive even when there’s no doubt to the parentage of the mayhem of colours and prints that emerged during the post-Cold war years to dispel the notion that black was the colour of fashion. Ms Versace herself has not contributed anything of real substance to the brand other than augment its ‘Glamazon’ appeal. So it’s possible she thought it best to train the spotlight on what her brother did to buy her some time (assuming she’s really not quitting) for a next collection that can truly re-express the Versace name.

It is convenient to tap into Gianni Versace’s ’90s design oeuvre. They’re so loud, almost strident in their boldness, that you can’t really make them any louder. Or, quieter—that would defeat the purpose. In addition, the baroque prints, the medusa heads, the gold frets: they have never really gone away or been put aside long enough for people to miss them; they have been there—in the Versace stores and hotels, in their home wares, and even in the knock-offs that still exists in shops in Little India and Bangkok’s Mahboonkrong.  The era that Gianni Versace dreamed up before his demise and the attendant icons: it’s still potent even when they remind us of a very specific period in time as the world raced towards the 21st Century.

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It took Dior almost 40 years to finally evolve and reflect changing times when John Galliano took the reins at the French house, considered by many to be the most storied of couture houses. It’s only been two decades since Gianni Versace’s death. It’s going to take many more before the ostentation that he built can take on something else, something less than total recall. And even then, maybe only after the one-time muse Ms Versace completely relinquishes creative control.

Donatella Versace had, in fact, hinted at things to come. Back in June, when she took the customary stride down the catwalk during the men’s spring/summer 2018 presentation, she wore a silk shirt-dress with prints that did not conceal limbs or its identifiable extraction. But a near-wholesale revisit did not occur to us since we thought she had presented her best Versus collection to date in London just a couple of weeks earlier. But we were fooled.

Everything that people remember of Gianni Versace at his prime was sent down the catwalk, but not, interestingly (or, unfortunately)—since we’re in look-back mood, those from his formative years, such as the “sporty” spring/summer 1981 collection that was, to us, truly memorable. Those white and khaki ensembles, those jodhpurs, knee-length bloomers and harem pants, and, especially, the earth-tone capsule with the blade-of-leaf motif and the rope-and-tassel belts—a dozen-or-so pieces that was later so stunningly photographed by Richard Avedon for the brand’s advertising campaign.

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The thing is, if we really needed to see all of Gianni Versace’s signature designs, there’s always the depth of Youtube’s pool. And for anyone who has the urge to buy one of those vintage pieces, Ebay and the like are opened 24/7. Looking at these Versace re-issues, as they appear to us, is as satisfying as watching a movie remake that suffers from hopelessly bad casting.

It bears noting, perhaps, that in SEA—here, no less—Gianni Versace’s florid homage to Greek mythology, dead Hollywood icons, and the “world’s fashion bible”, particularly after the introduction of the Versace Jeans line, has gone from novelty to beng/lian must-own, or obsessions of ageing pop stars.

Going back to past glories has really become, ironically, the nature of our advanced world. In fact, it’s been an obsession of the sneaker business since 2013. Think Adidas’s Stan Smith: how many versions are there now; how many do you really desire? We have always been reminded that there will be a generation that has yet to enjoy certain joys the first time round, and that it is for them that brands re-varnish the faded glory of once-popular styles. Everything and, indeed, everyone deserves a second chance. Gianni Versace, too.

Photos: (top) Getty Images and (catwalk) Versace

So, This Is Donatella’s Swansong

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Since many media reports are close to certain that Riccardo Tisci will take over fellow Italian Donatella Versace after this autumn/winter 2017 season (with Suzy Menkes announcing on IG that she is “hearing all Donatella’s secrets and plans… But shhh! I’m not allowed to tell a soul”), it is in all likelihood that this was Ms Versace’s last collection for the house her brother built. Did anyone cry at the show? We don’t know.

Or, perhaps, there was silent hurrah all round? That may sound cruel, but for some, it’s about time. Ms Versace has led the family’s namesake label since her brother’s murder in July 1997, but it was not with immense success, at least not at the start of her tenure. According to Forbes, “the famed luxury brand was on the edge of bankruptcy in 2009”. That was a period of 12 long years after Gianni Versace died, during which the little sister, also his principessa, tried to augment the Versace image by creating it in her own likeness.

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Too her, some ex-Versace fans cried, and definitely too much of a muse’s take than a farsighted designer’s vision. To be fair, the role of continuing where Gianni Versace left off was not a calculated transition. Reportedly, she had no choice but to take it on. Donatella Versace, although a source of inspiration behind her brother’s gaudy and showy clothes, was not the natural designer many had thought she could be. She had spent a great deal of time, pre-1997, in New York, styling the Versace ads. While members of the media were generally supportive of her in her journey that eventually dropped the Gianni name from the label, the output under her watch wasn’t exactly the stuff that excited, the way her brother’s had transfixed admirers of his designs.

Amid rumours of partying too hard and using too much drugs, and then showing up late (very late) for work the next day (among other problems, domestic and professional), Ms Versace soldiered on. In Deborah Ball’s book House of Versace: The Untold Story of Genius, Murder, and Survival, the writer noted that “while the fashion press treated Donatella’s first runway show gently, department store buyers and Versace shop owners (at that time, the now-defunct Link had distributorship rights in Singapore) were privately unimpressed.”

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To many observers, in fact, it was not her designs that kept the business visible, but the celebrity associations. Like her brother, Ms Versace courted stars. She is known to be close to models Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss, actress/Goop head Gwyneth Paltrow, singers Madonna (who has appeared more than once in Versace’s adverting) and Cher (who sang Danny’s Boy at a private, impromptu memorial for Gianni) and Miami nightclub magnate Ingrid Casares, also known as a “lesbian icon”. In return, she is feted. Dressing the right star for the right occasion, too, helped—such as Jennifer Lopez in that green silk chiffon dress for the 42nd Grammy Awards ceremony in 2000, a floor-length number with a strangely well-behaved plunging V-neck that people still consider the most unforgettable award-night gown.

According to The Guardian, Versace is now a £1.05bn business. Somewhere along the way, Ms Versace did something right. Although she kept much of the sex appeal closely associated with the house, she has largely re-designed its DNA to minimise what she considers a problem unique to gay designers. As she told The Times Magazine last year, “When they design for a woman, they design for the woman they want to be”—never mind that, before his death, Gianni Versace was in a long-term relationship with Antonio D’Amico, model-turn-boyfriend-turn-designer who oversaw the now-closed Versace Sports.

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A woman designing for women became the mantra for Ms Versace, but she isn’t the woman many of us socialise with. Donatella has a hyper-heightened sense of womanliness, in particular, sexiness. Her designs amplify and, not infrequently, exaggerate the female form to allow it to ooze in-your-face sex appeal. As with Gianni, minimalism—of the ’90s or later—was all Greek to Donatella. While she did tone down his flashiness and raucous mix of prints, she did not succumb to a quieter aesthetic. Although not as visible as before, the “baroque” prints, the medusa heads, and the frets—they still appear in Versace stores the world over. As with the cushions from the home line, the Versace loudness can’t be completely hushed.

Her supposedly last show in Milan was a veritable showcase of the Versace woman that Donatella has single-handedly fashioned. There is no shortage of power suits, body-hugging dresses, short swingy skirts, leg-baring slits, curvy translucent cut-outs, exposed navels, dilated cleavages; all conceived to prove that powerful, surefooted women can be sexually alluring. Despite  Even as her creative reign comes to an end, Ms Versace did not dial down the clothes’ foxiest-creature-in-the-room potency, which nicely corresponds with the Kardashian/Jenner-ruled world of social media.

We don’t know why, but some of the styling reminds us of D’Squared2. Or, has Ms Versace become just like the gay designers she described: designing for the woman she wants to be? The irony is certainly not lost there. Donatella Versace may be passing the design baton to someone else, but the house of Versace will be as brash as ever. If, indeed, Riccardo Tisci were to be the recipient, it may be more so.

Photos: indigital.tv, except top: Versace