Fashion Tribute: Donatella Versace
We’re doing a tribute to Donatella Versace not because she’s old or dying. Donatella, despite her age of 54, is far from old. She glows of youth and innovation and that’s what the fashion world loves her for. She may have been ranked as one of world’s unsexiest women by FHM Germany, but what do they know? She’s no Sienna Miller, everybody knows that, but she’s a fashion designer, and she’s not pretending to be anything else.
Italian designer Donatella Versace at the end of Versace’s show in Milan fashion week. (Associated Press)
Donatella, born in the Italian city of Reggio di Calabria, the youngest of four children, is now Vice-President of the Versace Group and Chief Designer of the fashion line. She followed her brother, Gianni Versace, to pursue a fashion career in Florence some time in the 70s. She had originally planned to head the public relations operations of the Versace brand, but Gianni saw his sister as more valuable to the company as a critic and a muse.
Donatella revolutionised the fashion industry in many aspects. We all know her as the woman who brought us the jungle dress, which Latin diva Jennifer Lopez wore to the Grammies in 2000. Donatella was also the first designer to dress celebrities, replacing unknown models, and have them strut their stuff on the catwalk, which was, since the time of Gianni, always constructed over the swimming pool of a fancy hotel. These celebrities became brand ambassadors who appeared in various advertisements for Versace.
Donatella is also one of the few fashion bigwigs who valued her workers’ and collaborators’ contributions to the success of the Versace brand, as at one point she gave due credit to her seamstresses and models for the empire’s success. In a world that perpetrates unwavering snobbery and classist behaviour, you don’t get that a lot.
And let’s not forget, Donatella’s one hell of a party hostess. Hosting parties that attract the rich, the famous, and the royal, Donatella eventually had a chance to exercise her PR flair to promote the brand to the world.
Fashion writer Dana Thomas compared Donatella Versace with Italian rival Miuccia Prada in her book Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster. Miuccia, she said, was a product of Italian aristocracy, one born into “haute bourgeois society, with servants and grandeur and politesse,” while Donatella was a woman who “so obviously came from nothing.” We get that, but don’t her humble roots make her long list of accomplishments all the more admirable? We think so.