Linda, Cindy, Naomi and Christy create a legendary Versace fashion moment
There are a handful of designers, and a few moments in time, that truly create fashion history. The instant that Audrey Hepburn steps out in Givenchy to have her breakfast at Tiffany’s. The Duchess of Cambridge in bridal lace by McQueen. The moment some hot air sends billowing pleats around the legendary pins of Marilyn Monroe. At what point, though, did fashion and music merge with popular culture , fusing artistry with commercialism, to create an aspirational superbrand that turned a designer into an icon? Step forward Gianni Versace.
Before Gianni fashion was certainly aspirational and socially reflective and many designers, from Coco Chanel right though to Calvin Klein, paved the way for the creation of the lifestyle brand. There was something about the 1980’s, too, that helped give birth to the superbrand. In 1985, British Elle magazine arrived bringing with it a colourful European feel. Vogue et al had to step up their game. Working class girls were going to University in droves, they were banging on the glass ceiling, and they wanted it all. Armani was already selling his impeccable tailoring to the tasteful set, but what about the girl who wanted colour, a flash of thigh, and the adoring glances of men as well as women?
When Versace sent the world’s four favourite supermodels down the catwalk miming to George Michael, he created a fashion moment of pure, unadulterated glamour. The models were the new megastars and were justifiably ‘super’ – curvy, Amazonian, healthy, vibrant and just breathtaking, with no airbrushing or fakery. There were no signs of the jutting bones or interesting faces to come, just perfection. Many fashion purists were naturally up in arms! The look was blatant and bling all at the same time. Even the graceful Christy Turlington was never going to make bondage look elegant but that wasn’t the the point. The fact that this dress is still copied twenty years on speaks volumes. A few strategically placed safety pins can work wonders. Just ask Liz Hurley.
The Versace look caught the eye of every woman, and it wasn’t long before the Versace lifestyle was packaged up and sold through its Versus and Versace Jeans lines. They were hardly cheap, but worth melting your credit card for. That famous gold Medusa head stood for luxury and glamour, and unabashed sexuality. It worked a treat.
It was at the height of his career that Gianni Versace was lost, murdered at his infamous Miami mansion. His funeral itself was like a global catwalk – Princess Diana had taken to wearing Versace after her divorce and even swathed in a black sheath dress, she managed to bring a hint of sex appeal to the front pew. When Diana had started to wear Versace she put away the pie-frill collar dresses and showed the world what a knockout she was. It was doubly sad that she was soon to be lost, too, leaving behind a sense that we had yet to see both her true potential, and that of her favourite new designer.
Versace continued under the pocket rocket Donatella, Versace’s sister and muse, but it has yet to regain the place it had at the top of the fashion fold. Superbrands, in general, seem to have been a little lost at times as fashion gets hungrier for newer, more directional artists. For the everyday girl, she is just as likely to get her inspiration from The Only Way Is Essex as she is from Grazia. Girl banders are usually seen in High Street and you can click and buy the looks in an instant. Celebrities have surplanted supermodels, and it seems like planet fashion will never be the same.
Hang on there just a moment though. When Lady Gaga started raiding the Versace archives she hit a fashion nerve, and the superbrand was back on everyone’s lips as one to watch. The new looks that Donatella has created for global giant H&M (available from 17th November) show Versace at its most vivid – it’s Club Tropicana meets hedonism all the way. Gianni would surely be very proud.
Of all of my vintage treasures, it is my Versace pieces that I value the most, as they are simply attached to fun-filled memories. For a few brief moments in time I turned my back to black, and went frenzied in fuschia and painted the town red in lime green. Because underneath my fashionista shell, where I am constantly looking for the new, there will always be a Versace girl battling to get out. Gianni knew it, Donatella knows it, and a whole new army of fashion addicts is about to be entrapped! Viva Versace!
Gianni Versace 1946-1997