The fashion icon talks exclusively to A&E revealing her thoughts on the Versace family and what she sees as the future of the Italian fashion house.
Donatella Versace is a woman that needs no introduction. The platinum blonde petite Italian designer has been a leading force in the world of luxury fashion.
Becoming synonymous with her family’s namesake brand since taking over from her late brother Gianni in 1996 after his untimely death. Of course, Gianni’s memory lives on (Donatella even dedicated her runway show to him last year), but today, the House is very much created in Donatella’s vision. As the Chief Designer and Vice President of Versace Group, Donatella Versace is in the midst of a hugely successful year, and is looking forward to the very bright future for the brand.
This fall Versace presents The Clans of Versace. Donatella recently unveiled a handpicked group of individuals that includes well known faces such as Gigi Hadid and Kaia Gerber as well as less known women and men, all of which she feels embody the Versace brand as it is today. Something that seems in line with her own thoughts is Donatella’s view on the Versace Clan; “the Clans of Versace know that today nothing is acquired through birth but rather earned through what they achieve;” she says. Perhaps a reflection of her own achievements?
Looking deeper into the Versace Clan and the brand as we know it today, Donatella talks exclusively to A&E on fashion, life and taking the house forward in 2018.
“RECENTLY, I FEEL I HAVE FINALLY FOUND MY OWN VOICE. I DISCOVERED THAT OUR IMMENSE ARCHIVE IS SOMETHING THAT CAN TEACH ME A LOT AND THAT CAN BE REINTERPRETED WITH THE EYES OF TODAY”
What can you tell us about the vision for The Clans of Versace?
The Clan of Versace is all about inclusivity. This is what Versace stands for today. The Versace family is made up of unique individuals that come together and support each other, no matter what. We embrace and celebrate diversity because that is what makes us unique. In our family we know that nothing is acquired through birth, but rather earned through every step that is taken and every goal that is achieved. In our family we embrace each other’s strengths and weaknesses and we dress ourselves to express our unique traits.
What were you looking for when identifying the faces of the campaign?
I was looking for characters more that beauty. The cast is made of 54 people, [each] one different from the other. Some of them are the models you see walking down our runway, others the result of a street casting. They need to move me in one way or the other, they need to have their own style, their personality.
Our family is a big family. Naturally I don’t mean strictly a DNA family, but one that is made of people who share the same values. Loyalty, strength, confidence, empowerment, uniqueness. I wanted each of the people in the cast to represent one of these values through their distinctive identities. Some have been part of the Versace Clan for a while, some are new entries, yet they are all ‘playing on my team’.
In 2018 who would you say is your muse?
I think the time for the so called “muse” is long gone. I do not have a man or a woman in mind when I create. I look around me and what I see is individuality, diversity, personal style. Now more than ever before. The way I see it, is that there’s not a Versace woman, but many Versace women. Each and every one of us can be a Versace woman. Being Versace means being self-confident, being aware of who you are, being inclusive and supportive of other women (and men too!), but also being ironic, being able to not take yourself too seriously. It’s more of an attitude and we all can learn to become a better version of ourselves, to raise our heads and speak our minds. This is how change happens. This is how we can make a difference in society and this is why I love to surround myself with different types of women.
How would you identify the Versace brand today?
Versace is about strength, individuality and empowering other people. It’s about supporting one another and being inclusive. It’s about enjoying life! It’s pure energy that pulses through your veins. But it is as well superior craftsmanship, creativity, innovation, breaking rules.
How do you think it is different from when you took on the brand over two decades ago?
This is one of the hardest questions to answer because you can’t really compare today with 20 years ago. Think only of the fact that internet did not even exist in the way we know it now. How can you compare something so different? Versace, and fashion in general, has changed with society and today’s society is very demanding. Versace has always been perceived as a brand that breaks the rules, daring, colourful, provocative even. Today, it is still the same, but the rules and values have changed. In that sense the perception has changed. Not because Versace is something else, but because the world is something else and Versace has evolved with it.
Of course, family is very important to you, how do you think you portray this through your work?
By being inclusive and supportive. By respecting what’s different from me. By allowing people to be who they want to be. Family is everything to me and by family I mean everyone who is connected to me not only by blood but through their souls. I mean my friends, my collaborators, the big Versace Clan made of all those inspiring men and women that throughout the years have crossed paths with me.
What is your inspiration behind the fall/winter18 collection?
A clash of cultures, or better sub-cultures. Instagram and its language that in all its diversity creates a link among people from all over the world. No barriers. No rules. No compromises. This was the starting point of this collection and a picture of what Versace is today. A place where you are welcomed, accepted, cherished because you are different.
Do you ever find it difficult to think of new ideas and concepts each season?
Absolutely not. In the world of today, this cannot be. The ideas always come from the street and from social media. I like to observe what guys wear in their everyday life as well as what they post on their social media. And I put all these inputs together and…there you go!
What motivates you?
My team and the faith they have in me. My sense of duty and work ethic. Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing the strength of Versace right now, and how women around the world are responding to my family’s brand. It gives me the confidence to do more, push further, and make Versace the best it has ever been.
How do you think the brand is moving with the times of technology and social media?
Internet and social media have changed everything! When I look back, I realize the doors of fashion were closed to the rest of the world. Almost like a private club. It was a much more elitist era for fashion. Now, everything is much more accessible. I just love how today’s girls are able to interact with their followers around the world – have you noticed? In the past, we talked about fans, today we talk about followers. Anyway…by doing so, they have a new sense of independence and power. They use their own voices for what they believe in and are becoming an inspiration for the new generation. The Millennial generation has changed the way we work in a way that no other had done in the past.
How do you feel about using influencers to promote your brand?
Instagram is an incredible tool which has become my “head of marketing” in a way. It is a window opened to the whole world. It is a way to interact with people in a new, more profound and immediate way. Through influencers I can reach and talk to these young generations who know very well what they want and average is not something they care about.
How do you think the new generation of models (Kaia, Gigi, Bella etc.) compares to the original supermodel clan that you worked with so closely?
The difference lays in the fact that when Cindy, Claudia, Naomi, Linda and all the others became the supermodels, there was no internet. They became iconic because of that aura of mystery they had around them, and also because they were so beautiful and charismatic. People became obsessed with them, their lives, what they were wearing, what they were doing, where they would go out to have fun. Today’s “Instamodels”, as they are often referred to, actually have a lot in common. The first thing being their strong personality, but then they have something that the supermodels did not have: social media. With that they were able to raise the fame quicker because they were able to let their fans into their lives in an easier way. At the end of the day, not much has changed in these 20 years in this regards: people are curious and want to know because by knowing they feel that they are part of something larger than life.
This year has been incredible for you when it comes to red carpet looks – which look have your enjoyed creating the most?
The red carpet is a celebration of creativity, a place to make dreams reality. Every time we create an Atelier Versace red carpet gown, it is a unique reflection of the woman wearing it. I’m not thinking about rules, but rather about the woman who is going to wear that specific gown. I want them to look their absolute best, shining brighter than they’ve ever shone before. The red carpet is such an important moment, all the eyes of the world are on you. It’s my responsibility to give them perfection, and it is something I take very seriously. This year, for example, I really enjoyed creating the MET Gala dresses.
What are your personal biggest achievements for the brand?
To have found my own voice and overcome a bit my natural shyness and insecurities.
At the very beginning, I felt I was a bit trapped by my brother’s genius. I was afraid to go too close to his creations, or use the archive for inspiration, because I was scared people would then say “Look she’s copying her brother, she’s not as good as him!” So I tried to do different things, sometimes I also tried to move away from our DNA. Some experiments worked, some didn’t, but that’s OK, it’s life! Recently, I feel I have finally found my own voice. I discovered that our immense archive is something that can teach me a lot and that can be reinterpreted with the eyes of today, and that respecting our DNA does not mean copying my brother – but to bring the DNA of Versace in today’s world and in a completely different way.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Honestly, this year has been incredible so far! I felt a great honour when I received the Fashion Icon award last December in London. Not because I feel I am an icon of course – but because to me it was the recognition of what I did in the last 20 years. Everybody says they do not care about these things, there are much more important things in life, like your kids, your family, your loved ones in general. Still, it is gratifying to be appreciated for your hard work.
Then, there is the MET Gala. Being a part of the most important fashion event of the world is exciting and especially this year when the theme is close to my heart and for the first time we looked at the influence of the Catholic religion on fashion from a different perspective.
Lastly, the CFDA Award for International Fashion Designer of the Year. I mean…if you told me that I would have achieved this amazing goal a year ago I’d probably have laughed.
When you look back is there anything you would have changed or done differently?
I don’t have regrets because I am not the kind of person that looks back, but always ahead. Of course, like everybody else, there are some things of which I am not particularly proud of or that did not happen the way I would have wanted them to happen, but, at the end of the day, I think that every decision I made – including the mistakes – allowed me to become who I am today. So no, I wouldn’t change anything.
What can you tell us about your vision for the brand going forward?
My goal is to keep the brand relevant in today’s society and culture and to keep on promoting those messages of women’s empowerment, equality, freedom that we have always supported. Versace will also always evolve and be excited about the future.