I can’t recall ever seeing an interview with Donatella Versace in one of the many fashion magazines that I currently subscribe to and read closely. We all know who she is but I believe she keeps the ins-and-outs of her personal life to herself.
Because of this, I was surprised to find a piece about Versace in the March, 2020 edition of Elle magazine that was beautifully executed by writer Veronique Hyland (whose name was both in italics and in such small type that I could barely read it. Why? Writing is very hard work – let’s give these poor creatures their due!)
Upon reading the piece I found that it contained very few hard facts about Versace and here’s why. Hyland makes this very astute observation. “I say hello to the woman behind the curtain of pin-straight platinum hair and daytime smoky eye – who it seems, is deeply introverted. She conceived the look as armor, “so people would talk about how I look, not about what I have inside. There were things happening in my life that I didn’t want to explain.”
THE TRAGIC LOSS OF HER BROTHER
She retreated even further into the image during the most difficult season of her life, Gianni’s 1997 murder that thrust her into the spotlight as she took over the brand. According to Hyland, “she developed a tough outer shell as a coping mechanism -- not just the hair and makeup, but the whole package. She’s kept the same fitness trainer for 18 years.” That’s very visible: she turned 65 this year and looks as if she hasn’t gained an ounce.
A BRIEF LOOK AT HER BACKGROUND
I resorted to the Internet for hard facts and found that she was born in Reggio Calabria, in the south of Italy (directly opposite the island of Sicily). She had two major fashion influences: her mother who was a dressmaker and her older brother, Gianni who started his own company in Milan in 1978. She played a role in creating the Versace fashion shows and advertising campaigns and also brought some rock ‘n’ roll spirit and celebrity cache to the line through her friendships with Madonna and Elizabeth Hurley (we’ll never forget the safety pin dress). CLICK HERE to learn more about the Versace brand.
Versace and her son, Daniel in Miami, 1994
In the 1980s Versace married and had two children: a girl named Allegra and a boy called Daniel who was named after a song that’s performed by Elton John, a close family friend.
In the mid-1990s, she took on a larger role while Gianni battled cancer. This prompted her to carry on his legacy after his untimely death. “The last two years of his life,” she explained to New York magazine, “I ran the company because he wasn’t himself.”
With her children, Allegra and Daniel in Miami, 1994
All photos: Courtesy of Elle – March 2020
GOING FORWARD IN THE YEARS TO COME
Hyland also reports that “she’s also been outspoken regarding the #MeToo movement. She believes that a woman should be able to dress however she likes. Plus she’s an ardent supporter of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights because of her brother’s legacy. Or, as she goes on to say, “I wish people would fight more. People fight in New York, people fight in L.A., but the other places in America need help.” I totally agree with her on this – in New York we battle everything. At times it can be a little overwhelming but, by God, we don’t take anything sitting down.
Versace has gone full bore in aligning the brand with her beliefs: she ceased using fur in 2018. She also says that she keeps herself surrounded with young, creative employees or a posse of anti-yes men and women. “It’s so easy to surround yourself with people who think like you, who say yes to everything. That’s the moment when you should retire.”Shaun Nelson-Henrick
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