Gianni Versace, Forever

  • By Caroline Suganda

  • Runway /13 February 2018

  • By Caroline Suganda

Among the labryinth of Instagram updates during Milan Fashion Week Spring/Summer ’18, one powerful image stood out. An image that was reposted a thousand times and more. It’s an image that recalls to mind, one of the most iconic ’90s fashion moments: the original five supermodels — Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford and Helena Christensen — clad in Versace’s metal mesh gold dresses, sashaying down the runway with chief designer, Donatella Versace, leading the pack, to George Michael’s “Freedom ’90”. The re-enaction itself, destined to become an iconic fashion moment of today, was a power move during fashion week that left everyone attending, in shock and awe.

VersaceFrom left: The butterfly print was a key element from the Spring Summer '95 runway; the feathers in this Native American print is symbolic of trust, honour and wisdom.
From left: The butterfly print was a key element from the Spring Summer '95 runway; the feathers in this Native American print is symbolic of trust, honour and wisdom.

As a tribute to her late brother Gianni, the first Versace designer, the show was an absolute nostalgic flash-back. The late designer who was murdered in front of his Miami’s Ocean Drive Mansion at age 50, had always been known for his loud, fun and statement-making designs. He successfully captured the zeitgeist of the ’90s, an era, according to Tim Blanks, editor-at-large of fashion website The Business of Fashion, which was when his creative powers were at their peak. “When someone says the name Versace to you, a very clear image probably forms in your mind,” was what Blanks had said in an old documentary series, “Throwback Thursday”, for Vogue US. The image he’s referring to goes back to Versace’s Fall /Winter ’92 show, which, the designer himself famously called the “Miss S&M” collection. Bold and aggressively sexual, Gianni reinvented the bondage as a fashion object, which until today, sees daylight dressing on celebrities such as Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus. He was also known to be the pioneer of things, from using fabrics in ways that had never been used before, reinventing models to supermodels and fostering relationships with famous faces, all before their time.

Donatella said this was also a chance for the new generation to see what Gianni was all about.Versace
Donatella said this was also a chance for the new generation to see what Gianni was all about.
VersaceFrom left: The embellished cross is an element taken from Atelier Versace Fall Winter '97; the Native American print from Fall Winter '92.
From left: The embellished cross is an element taken from Atelier Versace Fall Winter '97; the Native American print from Fall Winter '92.

“What would Gianni do today” was on the programme notes of the recent Spring/Summer ’18 runway, also known as the Tribute collection. “When I was thinking of this collection, I never wanted it to be a retrospective or a nostalgic operation, rather the contrary. I wanted to convey the joy and the love that my brother had for his job and his life and in that way celebrate his legacy,” says Donatella. For the first time in 20 years after his death, Donatella pulled 12 key prints and pieces from the brand’s ’90s archives, the period that saw Gianni’s most iconic collections, like Vogue, Warhol, Baroque, Animalia, Native Americans, Tresor de la Mer, Metal Mesh and Butterflies. But above all that, it was also the defining spirit of the ’90s that filled the air: Models occasionally walked in groups (as it used to be), the casting was filled with the supers of today and the opulence of the archive prints brought about a kind of freedom of expression that is quintessentially Versace.

The seashell and starfish jacket from 1992 (the original rendition was created with real coral pieces).Versace
The seashell and starfish jacket from 1992 (the original rendition was created with real coral pieces).
VersaceThe supers–Donatella calls them icons–backstage at Versace.
The supers–Donatella calls them icons–backstage at Versace.

“The whole process was not easy because he did so much, so much during his life that in one collection it would have been impossible to celebrate his entire universe,” says Donatella. Besides the key prints, Gianni’s designs of strong shoulders, leggings and high-waist jeans remained in the collection, but updated with more comfortable fit. “I tried to make it a little more street.”

The Vogue print from Spring Summer '91 paid homage to the media powerhouse and appreciation for pop art.Versace
The Vogue print from Spring Summer '91 paid homage to the media powerhouse and appreciation for pop art.
Versace
 

While the collection was an obvious nostalgic experience, the show itself was carried by upbeat music and smiling models on the runway. Donatella claims she cried during the rehearsal, just so she won’t at the actual show. “I always think of my brother. He’s in everything I do. And especially in that moment, I felt he was there with me. And I wasn’t the only one. The people at the show who had the chance to meet him, were reliving the moments when he was alive, through the collection and his iconic prints.”

VersaceThe larger-than-life prints encapsulates Gianni's joie de vivre.
The larger-than-life prints encapsulates Gianni's joie de vivre.
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