Like breathing in a whiff of perfume with your eyes closed: evocative, intriguing, magnetic. It must be her surname, the Olympus of fashion. It must be her first name, instantly recognizable even when uttered on its own. She could incite a little bit of terror but she’s the one who dispels doubt and breaks down barriers because Donatella Versace has one great gift, she’s really nice. Engaging and ironic with a warm infectious laugh that reveals a sharp, intelligent mind. “How would I define myself? First of all as a woman, even though I can be anything I want: artistic director, designer, entrepreneur, mother, friend…” Interesting, flawless. Her words have a natural soundtrack to them. An innate and instantaneous glamour. Speak to her and you immediately become a fan. It’s like being in a music video by Madonna, Elton John, Lady Gaga or Zayn Malik, who she will start collaborating with on the Versus Versace line. Think of her iconic blonde hair flecked with diamonds and pearls as Prince would sing, an artist she often uses for the soundtrack to her shows and another old friend of the house of Versace. The maison with an enchanting ring to it. With its women that are transformed into gods just by slipping on a dress, the bewitching stars of the female silhouette. With the creation of celebrated supermodels, led by Naomi Campbell at the front of the last catwalk show, always guaranteed to set pulses racing. A cast of noble beauties that would be a test for any alpha male, a dictionary of fashion goddesses. A for Adriana Lima, Anna Ewers….a storm of stunners, just to mention one you may have heard of, Gigi Hadid, the latest digital Empress, charismatic siren of Instagram as well as girlfriend of the aforementioned Mr. Malik. Because Versace looks forward, and the dream continues.
Donatella Versace & Gigi Hadid (by Tommy Ton @ Thecollectiveshift)
Stefano Roncato: Is it difficult being Donatella Versace?
Donatella Versace: No because I’m myself. Difficult is trying to be something you’re not. To be truthful and authentic with yourself is the most important thing.
SR: How would you define yourself? Designer, entrepreneur….
DV: First and foremost I define myself as a woman. I can also be anything I want, artistic director, designer, entrepreneur, mother, friend….
SR: You’ve reiterated the need to talk about the strength of women… Do you think of yourself as a strong woman?
DV: Being strong doesn’t mean being invulnerable. Even a strong woman has her weaknesses but that doesn’t make her weak, it makes her human. Being a strong woman for me means to play the game following the rules, pushing the limits and breaking down barriers, overcoming weaknesses and fighting for what you believe in.
SR: What’s your first fashion memory?
DV: I was born into a family where creativity and artisan skill are everything. My mother was a tailor and the Italian tradition of the cut, the shape and the quality were part of my life, right from my very first memories.
SR: Your family has a passionate history. Dazzling moments as well as other more difficult moments, like the death of your brother Gianni...is it hard to look back?
DV: We’ve lived through moments of huge growth as well as more difficult moments but, we’ve always managed to lift our spirits and take the opportunity to reinvent and revolutionize our way of creating fashion. In fact every fashion brand, just like every company, has to reinvent itself if it wants to succeed.
SR: How much do you think being a family has counted towards your history?
DV: Being a family always matters in every history. I am lucky because my brand is also my family. In Versace, we laugh and we work hard, we fight and we reconcile. It is a family and it is also an extended one, it includes my friends as well.
SR: What phase is the maison of Medusa in right now?
DV: Versace is a place of incredible energy, a place dedicated to creativity.
SR: What was it that made you understand something was changing and the brand was on its way back to the top?
DV: The key is evolution and change. Reflecting, evaluating then trying to go beyond that and move forward.
SR: What has changed at the house since the era of Gianni?
DV: Fashion companies are going through a moment of profound change, one of the most significant in the last 20 years. The internet has made luxury “available” to all and has opened the door to lots of young people, all the latest news is now published online. You can shop, make friends, share your purchases: Everything is done online. This is a change that brands have to interpret. All the major names in fashion have to evolve.
DV: Young designers are my passion. I love working with them, while we work I can teach as well as learn from them. I like to meet them right after they’ve graduated because it allows me to be part of a world that I don’t get to see every day.
SR: Which young designers are you looking at right now? Any Italians?
DV: I don’t just like young well known designers, there are others who work in my design team in Milan, young graduates who come from design schools all over the world. I share my passion, energy and creativity with them. In the world of fashion there are famous designers who are recognized publicly, but there are also lots behind the scenes who contribute and make fashion what it is today. Their work is fundamental.
SR: Out of the big names, which do you like?
Anne V, Doutzen Kroes & Anna Ewers (by Tommy Ton @ Thecollectiveshift)
SR: Versace invented the top model in the 90’s. What do you remember about those women who captivated the world?
DV: Incredible women, strong and fearless.
SR: With Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid and Co… Are we on the cusp of a new generation of supermodels?
DV: Perhaps in a certain sense yes, but in a different way to before. They have a new power, an even stronger voice and an image that is projected at the world through the internet.
SR: Who are the Linda, Cindy and Chrisy of today?
DV: Gigi and Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Irina Shayk, Taylor Hill…
SR: For your last catwalk show, you chose a cast of VIP’s among which was Naomi Campbell... How important is it to have a line up as star-studded as yours?
DV: The model selection is fundamental, from established to new faces. Each one has to be unique and have personality. It’s not just about their bodies, but also their attitude, energy and passion. I try to make my runway a mix of women, each one different and unique.
SR: You’re about to start a collaboration with Zayn Malik on the Versus line….Why did you choose a celebrity?
DV: Why not? Zayn is one of the strongest characters on the global scene. The first time we met he told me how much he loved fashion. I thought it would be great for us to work together on a new collection for Versus Versace. Zayn has an enormous number of fans all over the world, I am sure they’ll all follow us.
SR: What are young people looking for or what do they see in Versace?
DV: I’ve always thought of fashion as a celebration of life and transformation, every moment is unique. Versace has always represented liberty and creativity. Freedom is the right to be yourself, independently of who you are and who you love.
SR: How would you define the Versace of today in three words?
DV: Passion, creativity and innovation.
SR: What is the starting point for your collections? Where do you take your inspiration from?
DV: I am inspired by everything around me, the whole world and the women who live in it. I like to observe, I look at the present and I think of the future. I look at women today, how they dress, what they’re looking for, how they want to live their lives. Modern women inspire me and push me to create collections for them and the world in which they live.
SR: What’s the mood behind the catwalk collection?
DV: Sportswear is the future of fashion, making it unique and luxurious is my challenge this season. This collection looks at one thing, freedom. Freedom of movement, freedom to act, freedom to be whoever you want to be. Just like the words in the music at the show, “This show, this show is for the women taking chances / Take the leap, if we do nothing, we get nothing.”
SR: How do you feel when you see Versace inspired pieces on other catwalks?
DV: If they’re quoting you it means you’re doing something right, no?
SR: Your book just came out….what does it talk about? What does represent to you?
DV: It is really important for me. It tells the story of Versace through my eyes, it tells the story of my current work, all my passion and love. I have been lucky to collaborate with extremely talented people in every artistic field and they fill the pages of this book.
SR: You are famous, a friend of the stars but you’re also able to make yourself “invisible”, not often appearing in the press unless it’s work related. How important is your privacy and your private life?
DV: I believe it matters to everyone, there are some things that I love to share about my work and my life, there are others that are just for me.
SR: How do you combine this with opening your own Instagram account where you have a lot of followers?
DV: I am so happy to have reached one million followers in such a short space of time. I believe in fashion that speaks to all parts of the world. Enough with the old rules, fashion has to be something that unites people, a global alliance. I went to the Instagram offices in California and from there it just took off, my interest in technology just continues to grow. I love the future and I’m always thinking about what will come next. Who wants to always look at the past? It’s over. Let’s move ahead.
SR: What picture would you never publish?
DV: A photo that doesn’t reflect what I believe in.
SR: Do you find it difficult to be a public figure who is even quoted on television?
DV: It’s part of my job. Sometimes I even have fun. Imagine how boring it would be if we all took ourselves too seriously.
By Stefano Roncato - MFF Magazine for Fashion
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