Not Reinventing the Wheel Because the Wheel Works
By Jack Turpen
Having such an iconic brother who reinvented the game that is fashion can mean you have a pretty tough act to follow. Donatella Versace, of the house of Versace and sister to the late Gianni Versace, is now the Artistic Director of the luxury designer brand Versace. Donatella Versace assumed the role after the untimely passing of Gianni Versace in 1997. Though Donatella was already involved in the brand before his passing, many were anxious to see how she would uphold the brand. Gianni Versace was revered for his incredible design skills, as he set the standard for his brand by creating signature styles that would live on forever. Though doubt filled the air surrounding Donatella’s ability to follow such a tough act, she’s proven herself to be one of the most iconic names in fashion.
Early Versace certainly does not look the same as new Versace, as the “Versace girl” has changed quite a bit since Gianni’s time. Donatella was almost always the reference or muse behind all of Gianni’s designs. He was renowned for his use of crystal chain mesh to create snug-fitting gowns that resembled armor. His conception of the brand was eerily reminiscent of what he envisioned the traditional Italian female should wear. As the brand has progressed and the face has changed, the ideology of the “Versace girl” has changed a great deal, being updated to fit the more modern idea of consumerism. Collections since Donatella’s inheritance of the brand have shown a strong sense of branding, as each collection has contributed to what the masses are looking for but done in the Versace way.
Donatella has created entire collections around reinterpreting Gianni's earlier work for the contemporary fashion industry, demonstrating her willingness to do so. Though it is not to say Donatella is not responsible for her own creativity, it is known however that Versace isn’t looking to reinvent the wheel. The brand is not known for its creation of anything avant-garde, but this just happens to play very specifically to their target audience. Donatella knows the target customer inside and out; celebrities. The red carpet should now be renamed as a Versace showroom, as everyone who's anyone has been seen donning Versace on the carpet. The brand represents the pinnacle of what it means to be a celebrity. It is gaudy, flashy, sleek, and sexy.
In reference to Gianni’s 90s collections, Donatella utilizes her brother’s artwork and creates lines of separates that cater to a variety of audiences. As these pieces are shown on the runway, the viewer almost feels as though the clothing was meant to dress the chicest of barbies. Some personal favorites of mine include her 2019 and 2022 Fall Ready-to-Wear collections and her 2022, 2021, and 2020 Spring Ready-to-Wear collections. None of which showed pieces that were unheard of or 100% original in any way. That is the key behind Donatella’s work, she is an amazing business woman first. Each of those collections are so specific to the year in which they were released, as they all featured pieces that were incredibly popular throughout the year. Fall of 2022 for example, showed a variety of pieces featuring corsetry. Corseting is not in any way a new concept, but the way they presented them was entirely inventive. There were corset bodysuits, corseted mini dresses, even corseted puffer jackets. All of which were done in a very sleek and clean fashion, catering to the sex appeal that so many wish to emulate. Donatella Versace is able to cherry pick across the board and send it all down the runway, wrapped in a baroque bow that flies off the shelves and into the closets of many. As many have said and will say again; “the wheel does not always need reinventing”.