Hip-Hop Flop

Was Versace selling fashion or music?

 

Versace SS 2021 P1

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.

Versace SS 2021 P2

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?

 

Versace SS 2020 P1.jpg

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”.

Versace SS 2020 G1.jpgVersace SS 2020 G2

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.

Versace SS 2020 G3

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

Why Can’t Western Brands Get Asia Right?

Versace, Coach, Givenchy, and Swarovski recently had to apologise for their missteps in Asia, joining an already shamed Dolce & Gabbana in a growing list of brands with a deplorable sense of cultural—and geographical—awareness

 

Versace T-shirt 2019The Versace T-shirt that riled mainland Chinese Netizens. Photo: Weibo

By Raiment Young

Many years ago, at a media event that I attended in Monte Carlo, I came face to face with the now-out-of-favour, former Vogue editor-at-large, companion to Diana Vreeland in her final years, André Leon Talley. Mr Talley was not a caftan-wearing man at the time, as he became, up till the 2017 release of The World According to André. Still, he was imposing in a dark suit, speaking in that loud, clear, and urgent voice of his, sounding exactly the way he sounded, years later, while observing—and commenting on—the stars at the Academy Awards for a TV audience. When I came before him that night on my way to the patio of the palatial grounds on which the soiree took place to enjoy the cooler outdoors, he looked down at me, smiled, and gleefully offered, “konbanwa”. I returned the greeting by saying, “Good evening, Mr Talley”.

If this was the present, and it happened not to me, but someone else—say, a ‘woke’ person, now one to be, offence could have been immediately taken. A scolding might have ensued or an online rebuke quickly posted. But this was then. I was used to Caucasians mistaking me for every nationality or race in this part of the world except Laotian. Or, Dayak. The Japanese, powerful consumers like the Chinese are today, were frequently travelling to Europe. I understood that it was easy to mistake me for someone from, say, Tokyo or Toyota since it was likely that the Asians many Europeans and Americans encountered then were nihonjins, just as many today are zhongguoren.

In my early travels to the US, Americans would frequently ask, upon learning that I am from Singapore, “are you from China?” So often was this question posed that it soon dawned on me that this was going to be a tiring cliché for as long as I was in a place where not that many people owned a passport. It was said to me then that most Americans, whether in the heartlands or hub cities, consider Asia as one homogeneous place. How they came to that conclusion I had no clue. Few knew Samarkan from Samarinda. If they heard of Singapore, even if in their mind we weren’t a sovereign state, we were lucky.

There are Chinese in Singapore, which is not in China?

 

“There are Chinese in Singapore, which is not in China?” Sometimes, I became lazy and just said, smilingly, “Yes, I am from China, 你这个笨蛋 (you fool) or bodoh (stupid)”, depending on my mood. This was, of course, way before Donald Trump met Kim Jong Un here last year and, as a consequence, shone a brighter spotlight on our island. (Interestingly, even then, the US State Department was mistaken: they made Singapore part of Malaysia.) This was also way before people heard of such expressions as cultural racism or racial profiling. But I think, back then, we were a lot less sensitive to the cluelessness (carelessness?) of others and we did not, even after repeated encounters, take the insensitivity seriously or personally; we were not easily riled up; we were less emotionally fragile, and we were more forgiving. And we had better things to do, such as see the country that we had come to see.

You’d imagine things would have changed now that the Internet is connecting the world. And Google has answers, frequently than not. But, more than a decade after my encounter with Mr Talley under a midnight-blue sky in Monte Carlo, there are Westerners and, indeed, Western brands that still can’t get Asia right. They can’t see the vastness of the continent and, hence, its plurality. Now that even once-less-visited countries such as Vietnam is on the verge of over-tourism, it is surprising and, frankly annoying, that there are those Westerners who think Hong Kong is a country. Does the city’s contingent at the Olympic Games mislead those outside Asia to think that the SAR is a sovereign state not connected to the mainland?

The recent case of Versace and Coach producing similar T-shirts with near identical blunders bolster the believe that Western brands are still not looking at Asia closely and carefully enough. There are those who think that no matter what they produce, however tone deaf or fact blind, we Asians will snap them up as if they’re another cup of boba milk tea. But I do wonder: is it mere oversight to not know China’s hard-lined stance on its sovereignty and territorial rights? A provocation to garner maximum online reaction and, hence, to project newsy appeal? Or, is it sheer, inexcusable ignorance?

Coach tee 2019.jpgThe Coach T-shirt that, too, angered mainland Chinese Netizens. Photo: Weibo

I had thought that the Dolce & Gabbana faux pas less than a year ago was bad enough—so bad, in fact, that other brands would start to become mindful of what they will say, communicate, or project. But one brand’s mistake is not necessarily another’s learning curve or awakening. While many brand owners acknowledge that Asia is an important market, if not the most important (China alone accounts for a third of the world’s luxury sales), they would not tread cautiously. Or, preemptively. Popularity, as movie/pop stars could tell you, may inure you to apathy, but that’s never good enough a reason to believe you won’t traipse a cultural minefield.

It appears that just because a brand has found favour among a sizeable number of spending consumers in Asia, it can step away from cultural, territorial, or political sensitivity. It is ironic that while brands are hiring ‘diversity chiefs’ to make sure they don’t exclude the non-Caucasian in product development and communication, none thought to appoint someone with the knowledge or interest in knowing that, for example, Taiwan is not, and likely never will be, a country.

It has become more apparent to many that admirable creativity in the atelier does not necessarily commensurate with awareness in marketing. It is often said that brands should decentralise their marketing, but few do. Away from Asia, some of the brands have become  intellectually lazy and incurious. And willing to only state the obvious to underscore the brand’s global reach. In the case of the above T-shirts, I think it is superfluous to juxtapose—in the show-off list—the city in which the brand is available with the corresponding country to which the former belongs. It is strange that any marketeer would imagine that those who buy Versace or Coach need to be informed that Paris is in France. How many people would equate the City of Light with Lamar County, Texas?

Versace Seduces… With Sneakers

The recent Versace pre-fall show in New York pointed to the return of the once-scandalous safety-pin dress. But we already knew that the house Gianni built is back in a big way when Zara started selling Versace-ish prints and (polyester) silk shirts months ago. But sneakers? Well, looks like Versace are having that moment too

 

Versace Chain Reaction

By Shu Xie

It’s hardly surprising that Versace has joined the race to create the next Triple S. Or ugly shoe. I am only surprised that they’ve taken this long. To be sure, Versace has always had sneakers in their footwear repertoire, but they weren’t exactly the stuff that will excite Yeezy fans or convert the Flashtrek die-hard. But things may change now. The house has never done anything in half measures, as you and I have seen. So their kicks are, as expected, bolder, flashier, taller. And the Chain Reaction is all of the above.

Back in February, when they showed the new, already-leaked shoe silhouette during the autumn/winter 2018 presentation, I was a little skeptical about what Donatella Versace could do with sneakers. After all, she allegedly (thus famously?) said, on her way to treatment to kick her cocaine addiction back in 2004, “I can give up anything, but not my high heels.” But women do change, even 1.65-metre tall women.

I was unconvinced by Versace’s foray into sneakers also because Gucci’s Flashtrek had a head start in June this year. Louis Vuitton’s Archlight even earlier—February, around the same time the Chain Reaction made its appearance on the runway. Although the Chain Reaction first retailed in stores and the Versace e-shop in April, its for-sale appearance came seven months later than Balenciaga’s Triple S, which took the designer-sneaker world by storm last year. You’d think Versace had merely jumped on the bandwagon.

United Arrows and Sons X Versace

Now, the Chain Reaction has made such an impact with their distinctive flashiness and bulk and height that even the Japanese, who usually eschew the over-the-top when it comes to shoes, have looked to the Italian house for something that can be trending. Yesterday, Tokyo’s United Arrow & Sons that I once considered a conservative clothier teased followers of their IG account with an illustration of a collaboration (left) that features a “Versace family pack”, presumably a new colour/fabric/print story for the Chain Reaction.

Naturally, Donatella Versace had help in this sneaker gamble and it came, surprisingly, not from an old hat, but an unknown product designer called Salehe Bembury. As Mr Bembury told GQ in May, he had reached out to Versace’s people with a design idea through LinkedIn. Intrigued, they invited him to Milan where Donatella was so impressed with his proposal—a 3D model that would become the Chain Reaction—that she immediately offered him a job. The rest was, additionally, right timing and influencer hype.

The Chain Reaction, despite its go-with-the-trend chunkiness, is the kind of shoe that elicits the response: interesting. That’s what I thought anyway. You can’t dismiss it as crass, but you can’t say it’s stirringly beautiful either. The showiness is not unexpected since no one would expect the brand with the Medusa-head logo to go for the likes of the Stam Smith. That Versace would do an attention-grabbing shoe is not only consistent with trends, but with the brand image.

Versace Chain Reaction P2

One thing that impressed me is Versace’s not-immediately obvious embrace of ugly—now a shoe category itself. Sure, the height of the shoe at certain angles reminds me of MBTs, but that does not mean that Mr Bembury deliberately played up the Chain Reaction’s potentially unattractive appearance so as to fit in with market demands. Instead, he worked on the usually not seen. The ‘chain’, for example, is a neat little detail. It appears on the underside of the sole as a molded shape of links of a chain that presumably affords traction. Although it reminds me of the VaporMax’s, it is rather well thought-out and does hint at Versace’s love of hardware. The uppers, too, resist succumbing to the many layers other brands prefer. While classic Versace motifs of frets and curlicues are the ones many shoppers go for, it is the understated blacks, as well as the whites that give the Chain Reaction a vaguely classic appeal.

It has to be said that these are heavy kicks, which for some may be appealing because they’d feel grounded in them. But, perhaps, for the four figures that Versace asks for a pair, the heft may mean wearers are getting huge bang for their buck.

The Versace Chain Reaction, SGD1,480 for women’s and SGD1,500 for men’s, is available at Versace stores. Illustration: United Arrows and Sons. Photos: Zhao Xiangji

Versace: Still Brash, But With Some Dash

Versace AW 2018 P1

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.

Versace AW 2018 G1

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.

Versace AW 2018 G2

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

She Just Wants To Show Some Skin, So Let Her

Like the rest of us, feminism is confronting confounding times. Jennifer Lawrence, too. She wears a dress with conscious volition and she’s compared not with other women, but male co-stars! Suddenly, out in the cold, it’s all unfair. The men get to cover up, and the lass has to be all sexy, in a dress with a slit that went up to there. The dictates of photo ops?!

Would a woman who is vocal about unequal pay in Hollywood succumb to sexist pressure and don a dress to steal the thunder from the guys? Or have we moved inexorably from fat-shaming to slut-shaming to dress-shaming? When Beyonce wore next-to-nothing, the “naked dress” is hot. When Jennifer Lawrence takes to the sartorial path of Elizabeth Hurley, she is “poor Jennifer Lawrence wearing a small amout of fabric some might call a dress”.

Sure, it’s still winter in London, but some women can take the cold better than others. What’s five minutes (according to Ms Lawrence) of the cold (if it’s at all cold to her) to show of what she thinks is a “fabulous” Versace dress? Conversely, have you not seen girls in neoprene hoodies walking down Orchard Road in thirty-two-degree heat for the duration it takes to get from ION Orchard to Plaza Singapura? Like Ms Lawrence, they do it for fashion.

What’s more intriguing to us is her choice of dress. How did she go from Dior to Versace? Indeed, Ms Lawrence says she loves fashion. But a fashion lover can’t love all fashion, can she? Or are we just a little potted in our thinking, a little too unwilling to see a style star traipse the path of flashiness too easily available to those who need such meretricious looks to win attention, such as the safety-pinned then starlet Liz Hurley?

Ms Lawrence, thanks to her partnership with Dior, was a couture kind of fashion consumer, we thought, tripping/falling spectacularly during the 2013 Oscars presentation in a gown Raf Simons designed. Ms Lawrence, as we see her, is not quite inclined to bare as much as Rihanna; she has too much self-confidence and self-awarenesssmarts and goofiness, tooto need Donatella Versace’s brand of high-octane, sexy-wins glamour.

The red carpet moment, whether on an actual red carpet or not, has always been a chance to show some physical assets. Isn’t it the same for brides? Have you seen a bride in a coat? Which explains why few care for a winter wedding. As Ms Lawrence said in her passionate defence on Twitter, “And if I want to be cold, THAT’S MY CHOICE.”

Choice, that’s a powerful thing to have.

Photo: Getty Images

Time After Time, Hush Is Hammered

Jil Sander vs Dolce & GabbanaLeft: Jil Sander, right: Dolce & Gabbana

By Mao Shan Wang

I admit defeat; I’m not putting up a fight. I’ll be drown out by the din; my quiet no match for the scream. I have been told that fashion is not for those who are scared of being thought as weird. But not desiring Gucci (world’s second most popular brand, according to the 1997 Lyst Index) is making me sense that people think I’m totally strange, out of whack. It was explained to me that fashion is shrill in its tone because people need to express themselves and to stand out. It’s the “cultural Zeitgeist”, they say. But I am expressing myself even when I choose noiseless white cotton tops and opaque pants. Ironically, and to my dismay, I am the one now as conspicuous as the proverbial sore thumb. You bet I’m sore!

Ignore at my own peril? I’ll take the risk. Truth is, I understand the brashness of brands such as Gucci, Versace, and Dolce & Gabbana, but I don’t really care about their ploughing through common aesthetic decency. I know it is not about making a fine-looking dress or about something exceedingly well-made. It’s about designs—actually looks—that reflect the times. As a dear friend of mine said to me recently, “I never care about quality. Even if it was roughly made or badly sewn, I’d still wear it if it spoke to me about how the designer felt about fashion or the world today.”

Understandable. The thing about the Zeitgeist is that it is fleeting. You catch it now, or you won’t. And that is the point, and the thrill, and the reason to consume. Some people don’t want to miss the boat. You’re either sailing or you’re sinking; there’s no treading water. And you either recognise it, or you don’t; there’s no maybe. Some people don’t want to be thought ignorant. Or, slow or, worse, obtuse.

What they say about time and tide—it’s true of the Zeitgeist. Together with much of fashion, the Zeitgeist waits for no one. It does not have the patience of a saint. It is also increasingly confrontational. It does not manifest slowly; it appears with a bang, like a bird on a windscreen. If you don’t accept it, that’s too bad. It goes to someone else who is willing to embrace it with wide open arms. The Zeitgeist does not care about you.

I am not knocking showiness per se. This is the way people communicate now, the way they brand themselves, or how they see the world. It’s just that most ostentation is devoid of pith and idea. I look at Versace’s SS 2018 homage collection and I see a meretricious display—little else, even when it is supposed to be a salute to “powerful women”, the very same women Gianni Versace himself was thought to have supported, even if they were really models. I look at Dolce and Gabbana’s family-friendly, grand-enough-for-the-whole-village gaudiness, and I think of retreating to a cave. Okay, maybe up a remote mountain.

Fashion—what it has become—has turned many consumers into magpies although some would readily admit that they’re magpies to begin with. There is such an increasing dread and distaste for the quiet that if you should adopt simplicity for dress, people think you have not tried hard enough. As a friend I have known since school is wont to point out to me, “Why do you bother to wear designer clothes when nobody can tell that you are?” Does that then mean that designers such as Luke and Lucie Meier of Jil Sander isn’t talking, or saying something about how they felt about the world, or that hush is analogous to humility?

I say turn up the quiet, quietly.

Photos: Indigital.tv

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.

Versace SS 2018 P1

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.

Versace SS 2018 P2Versace SS 2018 P3

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.

Versace SS 2018 P4Versace SS 2018 P5

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

versace-aw-2017-pic-1

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.

Versace AW 2017 Pic 2.jpg

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.”

versace-aw-2017-pic-3

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.

versace-aw-2017-pic-4

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