Since 1978, when Versace was first launched, it has been important that we reflect the life and bodies of today’s women and, while I like to maintain strong brand values, evolution is necessary. High heels, though, have definitely remained a constant in my personal style.
I am inspired by Milan from the moment I leave my house in the morning, the way I see women dressed as they take their kids to school, or go running in the park before work. It’s about their wardrobe as they run their businesses, how they dress themselves in the evening. It is about the complexity of a woman’s life today, how she expresses her independence through her wardrobe, a pride in herself that she cannot hide – that is the Milanese woman of the 21st century.
Milan is a city of secrets. There are some Italian cities that reveal themselves to you easily, like the splendors of Rome or the beauty of Venice. Milan is more hidden: much of its beauty lies behind closed doors, in galleries, museums and meeting places. It is like a tapestry of amazing places.
If I had to be stuck alone in a lift with somebody, it would be Michelle Obama – she’s so charming. She dresses in a way that strikes a great balance between the formal and the informal. She manages to look both like a professional you can trust, and a woman you could actually get to know.
In the Versace Spring/Summer 2019 collection, stripes and plaids, pop-art denim and leather were combined with a 1980s mood because I wanted to celebrate another side of the Versace woman: always identifiable and colorful, but also evolving, both confident and vulnerable at the same time. Versace has always been a pioneering brand when we talk about pop culture, music, youth movements and sub cultures. It is fascinating to see how young people are attracted to the world of Versace and this is what pushed me to look back into the archives, to explore Versace in a contemporary culture so that they would appreciate it and make it their own.
My roots in Reggio Calabria guide me. My mother was a dressmaker, so [Gianni and I] grew up surrounded by materials and learned to really appreciate good cut in clothes. Also, the area’s vibrancy and strong sunshine were instrumental in our appreciation of brightness and color.
My most precious piece of jewelry is a yellow diamond ring given to me by my brother Gianni. It has a value to me that cannot be described, something that will be with me for ever.
At the close of a catwalk show, I have a signature style. I always look exactly the same – my hair, make-up, heels – it’s my uniform. I only wear Versace. Ever. Most days I wear black: either a fine-knit black sweater or a black tank in the summer, and black pants, be they tailored, denim or leather. My heels are always high. When I am on the red carpet, I wear Atelier Versace. But I also like to break my rules and wear color and prints.
My best critic is Audrey, my Jack Russell.
Versace has always been associated with leather, Baroque prints, goddess dresses and animal prints. As a petite woman this can be a challenge, but I am all about the bright, bold and rock’n’roll. This is what Versace is and Versace is my life! It comes naturally to me.
The code I live by? Never give up. It’s my only rule.
When it comes to sunglasses, I have too many to count, but my all-time favorites are my black Versace Tribute sunglasses.
As for shoes, I own countless pairs. Try to imagine my shoe wardrobe, and then double it. But I will never get rid of my beloved high heels. I only take them off when I do Pilates.
I have a large wardrobe full of Versace pieces, some that I’ve worn for years, others that are straight from the catwalk. I’m very impatient and cannot wait to wear new things. I love my Palazzo Empire bag, it’s so soft and supple. In my wardrobe you will always find a metal mesh piece, flare trousers and Barocco silk shirts.
My closet is as big as the House of Versace, but actually my day-to-day closet is not all that big, as I wear pretty much the same things all the time. Special pieces become part of the Versace archive.
When I observe young women today I admire that they are bolder, more self-confident and not afraid to dare. They do not have to demonstrate anything to anyone and this is why their styles have really become a choice: a way of expressing themselves and standing out in the crowd.
I love that Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars have used the Versace name in their songs, because it’s about being part of today’s cultural conversation. I think this is the appeal the brand has to hip-hop stars, this meeting between our worlds. Versace has always attracted them like a magnet, perhaps because the clothes make them feel empowered. I like to discover upcoming bands and singers – my children and my team at work often suggest new ones to me.
I’m inspired every day by the young people who post comments on my Instagram, or tag me in their pictures to show me their style. This is the most radical change in fashion in my lifetime, and as the internet generation grows, the effect will be like a revolution. I’m not afraid of other people’s opinions and I’m interested in what is different to me, especially younger people’s thoughts.
The best way to give back is through respect. I respect everyone. It doesn’t matter who they are or what they do. Respect is at the core of every human interaction and I do not respect people based on anything but the fact that they are people.
When it comes to crystal, I love the touch of sensuality and shine that they add to every outfit, and the way they reflect the light and make everything glamorous and sparkling.
Right now, fashion could be summed up as: “Go bold or go home”.
The one color that lifts my spirits has to be blonde.
My guilty pleasure is beauty treatments. I love potions and creams.
It might surprise you to know I’m shy and insecure.
My failsafe travel items include a good moisturizer, my iPod (with 1,000 of my favorite songs) and a pair of vintage sunglasses.
The worst piece of advice anybody ever gave me was to not be myself. It was a moment when minimalism was all the rage and because, as a designer, one would always like to be relevant, I tried to make Versace less… Versace. It didn’t work and I would never do it again. Ever.
The one thing I wouldn’t part with for love or money is my work.
This story appeared in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of SALT magazine.
Image credits: Antonello Trio/Indigital.tv; Billy Farrell/BFA/Rex/Shutterstock; Donatella Versace Instagram; John Cartwright/iStock/Getty Images; Jason Lloyd Evans; Luca Tombolini/Indigital.tv; Mnuale Balce Cental/AP/Rex/Shutterstock; Rahi Rezvani; Toni Thorembert/Sygma/Getty Images; Zolga F/iStock/Getty Images