Donatella Versace is an Italian fashion designer. As the younger sister of Gianni Versace, Donatella served as his adviser and inspiration when he was still a budding designer. When Gianni Versace, who eventually became a famous designer, started his own fashion company in Milan, she was there by his side and organized many fashion shows and advertising campaigns. When Donatella wanted her own line, Gianni gifted her the popular diffusion line, ‘Versus.’ After Gianni’s murder, the ‘Versace’ empire fell upon hard times and she became the creative director of ‘Versace Group.’ It was during the rebuilding process that Donatella showed her other talent - public relations. With the help of her long list of celebrity friends, which includes Madonna, Demi Moore, and Elton John, she began to popularize the ‘Versace’ brand. By doing so, she managed to revive the brand and place it among the top players of the fashion industry. She also hired well-known models to promote the brand in fashion shows which increased its popularity. In 2018, ‘Versace’ was sold to ‘Capri Holdings Limited.’ However, Donatella remains involved with ‘Versace’ and is currently serving as its chief creative officer. Over the years, she has become a prominent businesswoman, apart from being a world-renowned fashion designer.
Childhood & Early Life
Donatella Francesca Versace was born on 2 May 1955, in Reggio di Calabria, Italy, to Antonio, a salesman, and Francesca, a dressmaker. She was the youngest of four children in her family.
In 1973, she enrolled at the ‘Florence University’ in Italy to pursue languages. She was very close to her brother Gianni who encouraged her to pursue a career in fashion.
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In 1979, Donatella moved to Milan to work with Gianni, first as a design assistant and later in the public relations department. She was the only person who could contradict her brother with her constructive criticism.
She plunged into the fashion world during the 1980s. Gianni launched a perfume brand called ‘Blonde’ which was dedicated to her. He then gave her her own diffusion label, ‘Versus,’ which remains a well-known diffusion line of ‘Versace.’
The assassination of Gianni in Florida on July 1997 devastated her, but she quickly recovered and took over as the chief designer. In October that year, she made her solo debut.
In 1998, she mounted her first Haute couture show for the Versace Atelier at ‘Hotel Ritz Paris.’ Following in her brother’s footsteps, she built her runway over the hotel's swimming pool. However, unlike her brother, she used sheer glass to build the runway.
Her first collection, attended by a host of celebrities, was a success. As always, she credited its success to the seamstresses and models, and dedicated the show to her late brother.
The show became an annual event, with regular guests including Catherine Zeta Jones, Liz Hurley, Elton John, and Prince Charles. She began to use well-known models for her catwalk shows in order to catch the attention of the media.
Several low-key receptions, however, did not deter her. She continued to manage the brand’s earlier collections, but believed that the brand needed something extra and that she could not just continue with what Gianni was doing.
In 2002, Gianni and Donatella's most famous design was exhibited at the historical ‘Victoria and Albert Museum’ in London. The design and the brand were honored for its worldwide success.
Donatella designed the grand and luxurious resort ‘Palazzo Versace,’ located in Gold Coast, Australia. The ‘Burj al-Arab,’ a luxury hotel in Dubai, boasts of a broad collection of ‘Versace’ furniture and beddings in its lavish rooms.
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Plans for ‘Palazzo Versace Dubai’ were announced on May 2005. The ‘Palazzo Versace’ boasts of a number of suites and luxury villas, including an exclusive spa. The hotel interiors are furnished with various ‘Versace’ collections. As the creative director, Donatella executed the final plans.
In 2008, she was made the honorary chairman of London's ‘Fashion Fringe.’ The ‘Fashion Fringe’ was an initiative by fashion writer Colin McDowell and ‘IMG Fashion’ to support emerging designers.
In 2009, Donatella asked Scottish designer Christopher Kane to revive ‘Versus.’ The pair successfully revitalized the brand, making it a major player once again in ‘Fashion Week.’
On November 2012, Kane departed from ‘Versus.’ Subsequently, she appointed an Irish designer named JW Anderson in order to create a capsule collection for the brand. She later revealed that the brand was looking to make an impression in the “new digital world,” and that Anderson was the perfect choice for the role.
She started using pop star Lady Gaga as her muse. On October 2012, she invited the pop singer to her late brother's apartment in Milan.
Under Donatella’s guidance, ‘Versace’ moved beyond clothing and expanded its horizon to accessories and home furnishings. The company even operates two hotels, morphing ‘Versace’ into a complete lifestyle brand.
On February 2001, she launched her own fragrance ‘Versace Woman’ which harmoniously combines the fragrances of frangipani blossoms, jasmine, bergamot, and eglantine.
Awards & Achievements
In 2007, Versace was inducted into the ‘Rodeo Drive Walk of Style.’ In October that year, pop star Prince presented her with the ‘Fashion Group International Superstar Award.’
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In 2010, ‘Versace’ was nominated for the ‘VH1 Do Something With Style Award’ for providing art supplies to children and creating a tote bag, whose proceeds will go to ‘Starlight’ and ‘ONE Foundations.’
The online women’s magazine ‘Glamour’ named her ‘Fashion Designer of the Year’ in 2012 and 2016. The magazine also named her ‘Woman of the Year’ in 2010.
In 2018, she became the first woman to be named ‘Designer of the Year’ at ‘GQ Men of the Year Awards’ in the UK and China. The same year, she received the ‘International CFDA Award,’ and was honored at ‘The Green Carpet Fashion Awards.’
Personal Life & Legacy
Donatella was married to American model Paul Beck. They have two children: daughter Allegra and son Daniel Versace.
Maya Rudolph often impersonates her on the show ‘Saturday Night Live,’ which airs on the ‘NBC’ network. In reality, Rudolph and Donatella are good friends.
She was mentioned sporadically in Lauren Weisberger’s novel ‘The Devil Wears Prada.’ The novel was later adapted into a film.
A drama movie called ‘House of Versace’ was broadcast on ‘Lifetime Network’ in 2013. The movie showcases real-life events of the Versace family. Gina Gershon portrays Donatella Versace in the movie.
When asked how she stays young, this Italian fashion designer replied in her thick accent, “Haven’t you heard? I sleep every night in the deep freezer!”
This famous Italian fashion designer played a small role in the American comedy film ‘Zoolander’ which was directed by Ben Stiller.