When there is a man who can inspire his peers, admirers and rivals alike; bring vitality to an industry at a time when it was considered out of touch with the people; and even create an empire that in his absence still continues to grow. Then there is no doubt, he is truly a legend and his name will be always on the lips and in the hearts and minds of others; fashion guru Gianni Versace. He was known throughout the fashion industry as one who poured his love into his designs.
The infamous Gianni Versace lived a flamboyant life from December 2, 1946 to July 15, 1997. Versace grew up with his father, dressmaker mother Francesca and older siblings Santo, Donatella and Tina (died at age 12) in Reggio, Calabria, Italy. From a very young age Versace began his apprenticeship where he helped his dressmaker mother who taught him how to cut and make clothes in her small tailor shop she ran to support the family. It is said that at the tender age of nine he created his first dress. Not long after, he too was selling clothes from his mother’s shop as he greatly enjoyed the art of designing clothes. He went on to study architecture and worked as a fabric buyer before moving to fashion capital Milan at 25 yrs to work in fashion design for various top designers.
A young Versace drew his inspirations from Ancient Roman and Greek art in addition to modern abstract art. While working for fashion designer Complice, Versace’s personal drive and passion began to turn heads and created such a stir that he was asked by Complice to design an entire leather and suede collection. His striking work opened avenues to the first appearance of the Versace name under a line in one of Complice other collection. The success he received afterwards motivated him to present his first signature collection for women in 1978 at the Palazzo della Permanente Art Museum, Milan. September of that same year, he presented his first men collection and soon after opened his first boutique in Via della Spiga, Milan, where he sold his own designs alongside other labels.
During the 80’s, Gianni Versace became known for designs made with eye-catching colours, materials and cuts that played tastefully along the thin line between sexy and vulgar. Versace’s great achievements lead to the opening of other boutiques around the world and literally in no time at all he had an empire worth millions. As the Versace brand thrived, he founded an international fashion house which produced not only clothes but included accessories, fragrances, make-up and even home furnishings.
Versace’s work brought him many awards and honors. On January 24 1986, Versace was conferred the decoration of Commedatore della Repulica Italiana. He was also honored by an exhibition called “L’abito per pensare” (Clothes for thinking), which showed in Milan, Paris, London, and New York in 1989. One of his greatest moments was in 1993 February 1, where Versace was awarded the American Fashion Oscar. He was credited for his contribution to the evolution of the term “supermodel” as he was willing to pay large sums of money to particular models like Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington for print and runway shows.
On July 15, 1997, the fashion world was sadden by the murdered of Versace aged 50. He was shot to death in front of his mansion in Miami, Florida as he returned from a morning walk. After his sudden death the Versace family was quoted saying, “business will continue as planned”. His brother and sister took over the fashion house and continue to make immaculate creations.
Gianni Versace, who also designed costumes for theatre, opera and ballet had a ballet in tribute to his work titled Grazi Gianni con amore (Thanks Gianni, With Love) was performed in La Scala, Milan, Italy. This was done to mark the 10th anniversary of his death, specially written by French choreographer Maurice Béjart, for whom Versace designed many stage costumes. Another tribute was made in October 2002, when he was honored with a retrospective of his work at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London where the featured the most of his popular designs. Gianni Versace maybe gone, but he’ll never forgotten; a past but still yet very present fashion designer.
On that note, let’s take a leaf out of the many chapters of Versace’ s life and have the courage to believe in and stay true to ourselves. Remember to always do you, because even though you can’t control fashion, you can dictate your own style!
Information and pictures were provided by public relations agencies and other public sources.