Billion Dollar Baby: Versace Takes New York

Three months after the Italian Versace empire was bought by the Michael Kors company for $2.1 billion, Donatella gave the new owners a suitably stratospheric collection.

Around a massive centrepiece of a gilded hand holding up a flame – taken from the neoclassical Statue of Liberty – male and female models walked the cavernous interior of the former Stock Exchange.

The show was energetic, colourful and, as Donatella said, “empowering women”. There were references to the past, going right back to the Gianni years before the founding designer was murdered in 1997. Yet although the collection took a long look at the archives and touched on memories of Elizabeth Hurley in that neo-Punk dress held together with safety pins, the show looked snappy and modern.

Surprisingly, the big heat came not just from the line-up of celebrities in the audience, which included Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, Blake Lively, Bradley Cooper, Diane Kruger, Mary J. Blige, and Lupita Nyong’o. It was rather from the joy and energy of the models, who joined the audience in an impromptu after-show party.

Soaking rain and lowering cloud may have obliterated the high-rise silhouettes of New York’s financial district, but the show itself was resolutely based on a Mediterranean climate – even though it opened with a shiny leather jacket over a draped satin skirt, visible flesh at the waistline, and a play on shine and sheen that conveyed the sexuality and body consciousness of brand Versace. Ditto for the men, whose flashes of bare chest were predictably sexy.

Behind the hot looks were Versace’s skills with print and pattern, especially those exploding with stars, and also references to ancient Greek and Roman symbols and the signature Medusa. Add swerves of black to the mix, and there were consistent reminders of the Italian brand’s unique DNA.

Staying on as Versace’s Vice President and Creative Director as part of a new luxury fashion conglomerate called Capri Holdings, Donatella poured her heart into this show – literally, with sporty outfits (again, for both sexes) that lined up heart patterns in many colours.

This was the first time Versace has hosted a fashion show in New York and it was a major statement to present a Pre-Fall collection on the runway.

Speaking about the show, on the day that would have been Gianni’s 72nd birthday, his sister Donatella said, “I wanted to pay homage to this incredible city, bringing the sartorial heritage of Milan and fusing it with the energy of New York and its eclectic nature. This collection is the result.”

She was also underscoring the importance of the travelling promotional show in a week when Dior and Valentino have both been showing mid-season collections in Tokyo; Chanel is presenting its Métiers d’Art show in New York on Wednesday; and the debacle of Dolce & Gabbana’s cancelled show in China is a continuing subject of discussion.

The truth about these events is that they must seem relevant to the place in which they are presented, rather than parts of a repetitive travelling circus. Without any crass reference to the Stars and Stripes or American idols, Donatella Versace succeeded in producing a collection that was true to its Italian origins but also internationally appealing.