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Is This How Donatella Versace Does Minimal?

By Guan Tan

Atelier Versace

Donatella Versace always spoke of her collections, describing them as manifestations of the "strength of women". She had said in an interview, "Modern women inspire me and push me to create collections for them and the world in which they live."

That statement comes through in her designs. Since she took over the reins of Versace in 1997, Donatella Versace has sent down the runway clothes that were risque, kaleidoscopic, and graphic. Her couture collections were always a notch higher – unapologetic animal prints (see Fall 2001 Couture), the most indulgent Grecian goddesses enveloped in feather (Fall 2003 Couture), all things bling (Spring 2004 Couture), gold padded shoulders, and sportswear. 

Versace's history of maximalist collections makes her latest couture season unusually surprising. The Fall 2017 Couture palette was composed of neutral shades – whites, nudes, dusty pinks, a subdued pale blue gown, brass and bronze graduating into blacks. 

Atelier Versace

The garments were tailored suits, skin-tight body suits, dresses that fell at mid-thigh, and gowns that cascaded into straight and clean silhouettes. 

What stood out most was the way the models and clothes were shot – against a cream bricked wall, with a spherical frosted window in the background. While the sculptural, clean background contributed to the seemingly minimalistic, pared-back look of the collection, the same background was used for the previous Spring 2017 Couture collection whose atmosphere was anything but minimal. 

Atelier Versace

"It is about power and fragility, and the inner strength when the two are combined," Versace says. 

If this collection were measured on a spectrum – strength on one end and vulnerability on the other, the clothes meet in the middle. It's a massive departure for Versace who has always stayed on the strong side. 

Another hypothesis might be how the vulnerability is articulated so eloquently in this collection of strong clothes. If you were to analyse the motifs present, Versace's padded shoulders are there. Her risque cross-body spiral cut-outs? Check. Bling? Yes. Hardwear elements like zippers and metal belts? Tick. There's also fur, armoury, gold rings, a voluminous folded cartridge skirt, body mesh, pleats, diamonds and mosaic. But beyond all these hard touches is an atmosphere of calm. 

Atelier Versace

It might be due to the absence of jarring colour combinations. It might be because of the light-handed techniques of the atelier's artisans. But we're thinking it all draws from Donatella Versace's current state of mind – after all, every collection is a projection of the designers' inner landscapes.

Versace's latest collection makes us wonder if minimalism is in fact, more than mere colours and the absence of decorative elements. Clearly, Donatella Versace has challenged that over-simplistic thought. This couture collection does not explicitly state that it's a 'minimalistic' one. But if Versace were to go down that road, this could well be how a minimalistic Versace might look like.