Everything you always wanted to know about Donatella Versace
Her spring-summer 2022 fashion show ended in a blaze of glory. Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Carla Bruni, Claudia
Schiffer and Helena Christensen in “very Versace” lamé mermaid gowns walked the runway, making the house mythology
pulsate louder. On the arm of these rockets, extra-fine silhouettes punctuated by vertiginous stilettos, platinum
mane, Donatella Versace swayed and celebrated her twenty years at the head of artistic creation of the empire built
by her brother Gianni. A powerful and highly erogenous imagination sewn with uninhibited prints, dresses of goddesses
as close to the body as possible, reflections of gold and silver, daring transparencies to praise an idealized feminine
and a style made for desire. A charismatic figure in the fashion world, like Karl Lagerfeld or Jean-Paul Gaultier,
as discreet as she is instantly recognizable, Donatella has put all her energy and passion into making the dream
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You recently stated that if Gianni could see your work as Versace’s art director, he would comment, “Not good
Donatella Versace: Gianni was a perfectionist. He was never happy with his work. Every show, every collection,
it was the same old thing, he was looking for mistakes. And he made me take the blame. He would say, “Look
at this, it’s your fault I did this!” He could only see what was wrong. He could never be completely satisfied
with the result. That was part of his genius: to constantly want to improve. He felt he could always go further,
even at the height of his career.
Do you share this feeling about your work? Are you confident in what you do?
Donatella Versace: “Confidence” is a big word for me, because I took over from Gianni, and my brother was a
genius, a fashion king. I knew that everyone was going to compare me to him and that I could never reach his
level. I think for a long time I just tried to follow in my brother’s footsteps. I’m not sure I was myself.
I was very insecure at the time – not that I am now, but I am better! But I was under so much pressure, with
Gianni being murdered and me having to take over the artistic direction of the house immediately. I told myself
that I could do it, I wanted to do it, because it was what Gianni would have wanted. And I had been working
with him forever, 24 hours a day. I thought I could take the reins, but when I started, I realized that it
wasn’t that easy. I wondered if it was only Gianni’s presence that made me able to do it. It was a huge challenge.
I made a lot of mistakes. Over the years, I came to understand that I was on my own, that I had to find my
own way, separate from Gianni. But it was a female voice, and trying to get people to respect me as a designer
was not easy. Still, as a woman, I realized that I could understand contemporary women better. I could think
like her, because I am her, and from there I gained more confidence in myself. I have more confidence as a
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Spring-summer 1991 ready-to-wear fashion show
versace spring-summer 2022 show
Spring-summer 2022 fashion show
What do you think about the huge changes in gender relations that are happening right now – with the #MeToo
campaign? Women are seeking to control how they are treated and how they are represented…
Donatella Versace: I support the #MeToo campaign 100%. I’m even surprised that it’s happening so late. Years
after some of the incidents. If I had noticed anything, I would have been the first to speak out. The victims
have been through hell, for fifteen or twenty years, and that’s not right. We didn’t talk about it until now
because it was a man’s world. It is still a man’s world, but before it was exclusively a man’s world. Today,
I have the impression that women are uniting for good; there is a camaraderie between them, and I am very happy
about that. This solidarity will help prevent such things from happening again. It’s very important that girls
around the world never have to suffer like this again.
Throughout your career, do you feel that you have, as you said, evolved in a man’s world? Do you feel that
everything you have accomplished has been more difficult because you were a woman?
Donatella Versace: Absolutely, yes. For a woman, everything is more difficult. You can’t compare what men go
through professionally to what women have to go through. They are much more scrutinized than men. Even in fashion,
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Do you feel obliged to display political convictions in your collections? You mentioned social commitment, but do
you feel obliged to use the platform you have?
Donatella Versace: Absolutely. It’s an obligation. I absolutely have to use this platform to advocate for great causes.
Everyone should do that.
Fashion can be a very chilly industry in some ways. Although it is supposed to embody change and innovation, its
players are often afraid to speak out and are content to perpetuate existing cycles. It’s often the last industry
to resolve to change, isn’t it?
Donatella Versace: In a way, you are right. You can hide behind the clothes, behind the collections and the shows,
and avoid saying anything fundamental. But I think that women in fashion, especially at this moment, have to say
what they think. Take Maria Grazia (Chiuri, Dior’s creative director, ed.), she really expresses herself through
her clothes. She clearly states her feminism. And it’s very good. Or Stella McCartney… She was way ahead of men
in terms of ecological awareness, sustainability and she’s true to her convictions. There are amazing women in fashion
who are committed to exposing their personal creed. I see the collections more and more as manifestos. Clothes are
a way to talk about power, loyalty, equality.
Gianni had totally reinvented the fashion shows. The fans, the glamour, the supermodels. There is so much talk right
now about the death of the old fashioned runway… what do you think the runway should be in 2022?
Donatella Versace: I think we are all struggling. Let’s face it, the runway is an old-fashioned way of showing clothes.
But more and more, the people I’m interested in are not those who attend the fashion shows in situ, but those who
watch them on the internet through video. These images go around the world before the model has even left the catwalk.
The judgment is immediate. Streaming has helped the catwalk format stay relevant.
versace spring summer 2022 show
Spring-summer 2022 fashion show
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- Fall-winter 1992-93 fashion show
- Do you spend a lot of time on the net?
Donatella Versace: Yes. I’m obsessed. I look at everything. The Internet is fast, but I want it to be faster.
It seems like there was a lot of excitement when you joined Instagram. Have you become addicted to social
Donatella Versace: I was invited to Instagram headquarters, while I was around to shoot the ad campaign.
I said, I want to go and see what it’s all about. And I was literally fascinated: the location, the way people
work, the lifestyle. It’s a job, but it’s not the traditional way. Everyone moves around: the teams change
every week. Every two or three days, it’s a different group of people working together. A very galvanizing
principle. Before my visit, I wasn’t interested in having an Instagram account, but right after I said, “Banco!”
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Notorious magazine party in 1999.
donatella versace carla bruni claudia schiffer naomi campbell cindy crawford helena christensen spring summer 2022
Spring-summer 2022 fashion show.
Tell us about the past twenty years. Do you think that the Versace woman has changed in these two decades?
Donatella Versace: Yes, totally. In the 80s, sex appeal was the most important thing. The dress, the lioness hairstyle,
the makeup. That was the time. But in the meantime we went through different political and cultural episodes and we
have become, I think, a little more open-minded. At the time, it was just about being strong and aggressive; you had
to make people look at you. I would say that Versace has become more subtle. Not absolute subtlety, that’s impossible,
but certainly more subtle. It’s more about emancipation – showing powerful, intelligent women.
It becomes more complicated to show women dressed in a hypersexy way. It may seem out of step with the zeitgeist.
Donatella Versace: Yes, totally out of place. But hey, flat shoes can be sexy.
There’s nothing wrong with being sexy, and women shouldn’t be afraid to claim their sensuality and show off their
bodies… It doesn’t diminish their intelligence or their abilities.
Donatella Versace: The difference is that today surface sex appeal is no longer enough. Real sex appeal now comes
from the mind.
versace spring-summer 1992 show
Spring-summer 1992 fashion show
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Spring-summer 1992 ready-to-wear fashion show
You said in a recent interview that the best advice Gianni ever gave you was to stay true to yourself. What is the
best advice you would give yourself?
Donatella Versace: To follow your dreams and never give up. Nothing happens by itself in life: you have to fight to
get what you want. You have to be ready to fight.
There are always rumors about your succession and what will happen when you decide to pass on. Are you thinking about
that right now?
Donatella Versace: Every day. I would love to have a new artistic director in front of me to discuss the Versace of
tomorrow. I am open to new things. It is important to have the courage to accept other ideas, and to understand that
at some point the time for change has come. I don’t believe in the pattern of creators who stay in the same company
for fifty years because it’s their company. In my opinion, this is an outdated way of thinking. To encourage creative
wealth, you have to have the courage to invite people into your home. But then again, no one has been hired to replace
me yet! (laughs)
Tell me who you consider your peers. Are there artistic directors of the same caliber as you? You seem to stand out
Donatella Versace: My team, these are my peers. Because I spend every day with them. I choose my team with extreme
care – people from all over the world. I am attached to them, and they are attached to me. And then there are people
from the outside; I think very highly of Lady Gaga. I know that if there’s something I want to discuss, or if I need
a suggestion, I can talk to her, and vice versa. She’s super smart; she’s a woman who really commands respect.
What would be your ideal day if you weren’t at the studio?
Donatella Versace: I would be in the tropics, swimming. You have to know how to isolate yourself, go far, far away,
where the internet doesn’t work and people can’t reach you. You have to be yourself, which is impossible when I am
here. I was born in the south of Italy, near the beach and near the sea. I am in my element in the ocean.
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Do you consider certain events in your life as fate? Do you believe that some of them are not controllable, that they
Donatella Versace: I don’t believe in fate: three times no. I believe that you have to create your own destiny. I
believe that you have to create your own path. If you decide to be a certain person, you have to work to be that person.
But at the end of the day, you can be the person you want to be.
You’ve devoted a lot of your recent work to women. Who do you have in mind when you say “strong women”?
Donatella Versace: Women who have the courage to say what they think, and who refuse to pretend. More and more women
are able to assert themselves in this way. Look at that first Women’s March on Washington… now that’s what I call
strong women. Every single one of them, the famous ones and the anonymous ones, were incredibly strong. It was fabulous.
And every march since then… a million singular women coming together and saying the same thing. Each one of them
is so important, and together they have such strength. All speaking with one voice and I am so proud. I haven’t seen
a similar men’s movement in the last twenty years. Only women can do this.
Is it a good time to be a woman?
Donatella Versace: Yes, a very good time, but also to understand that women are changing the world – women, not men.