Goth Diva. Versace SS23

Versace turned up the heat in the middle of very mild-looking Milan Fashion Week. A steady stream of Prince hits pumped through the speakers as the crowd assembled at the spring-summer 2023 show, and in the middle of the runway, scores of black candles glowed behind walls of glass. Reading the signs, it looked like Donatella Versace was going goth for spring. The first four models, who emerged together, seemed to confirm it. They slithered out in clingy black jersey with slash cutouts and multi-strap platform Mary Janes. Up next were another 10 black looks, from Adut Akecg in a fringed leather motorcycle jacket and micromini, to Binx Walton in a matching bustier and hip-slung jeans. “I have always loved a rebel, a woman who is confident, smart, and a little bit of a diva,” the designer said via press release. She might as well have been talking about herself. Then came monochrome color: electric fuchsia and Princely purple, cut into a liquid jersey number or a sheer dress over satin flares, and teeny party dresses in many variations—strapless with more fringe at the hips or slinky with a cowl hood. A leather teddy was laser-cut like lace and embellished with thousands of little metal studs. This season’s prints combined tropical flowers, zebra stripes, and the label’s all-caps logo on repeat. This section included a couple pairs of jeans. Shredded in precise diamond patterns, this was not your average denim, but it was a whole lot more casual than anything Versace has put on the runway lately, a sign of Donatella’s ambition to expand and diversify her offering. Before the end, the collection moved through the black-to-bright cycle again. Mariacarla Boscono’s black suit and sheer shirtdress mid-layer were sharp. The baby dolls, garters, and lace veils in pink, purple, and acid yellow looked torn from Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”–era playbook via Stephanie Seymour in “November Rain.” For the finale, Versace had another pop-culture blast from the past, none other than Paris Hilton in pink chain mail. Rebels of all kinds welcome here.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Hotter Than Hell. Versace AW22

Versace is the only brand in Milan so far that has (at least) communicated on its social media solidarity with Ukraine and a call for peace. Donatella Versace did the same, which makes me love her even more. This is what independence from luxury conglomerates gives: the freedom of taking a stance.

Another great news: the autumn-winter 2022 collection is so, so good. The designer described the line-up as “an elastic band pulled tight and about to snap back with a build-up of energy”. It was an accurate illustration of how the hyper-glam Versace woman she designs for must feel after two years of horrors like “homecore”, “comfort-wear”, and “WFH dressing”. This collection was the antidote: a tailored, corseted, mini-dressed punch of power to the post-pandemic wardrobe, presented on a shiny red runway with a brilliant original soundtrack that mixed what sounded like Versace’s voice with a throbbing and electrifying beat. For its expert dressmaking, the collection was an exercise in perfecting a few simple elements. One was tailoring: Donatella broadening the shoulders and cinched the waists of suits with voluminous trousers, evoking ’80s power dressing through an amplified lens. Skirt suits in tailoring fabrics juxtaposed a skimpy hemline with big, boxy blazers cut at the same length, while skirt suits in tweeds unravelled at the hems in a polished punk way. Throughout, she stuck to her magic body grammar, accentuating shoulders, waist and hips. Then, nearly every look was based on a corset: as minimal bustiers worn on their own; embedded in mini and ankle dresses; as bustiers in tailoring fabric that matched sartorial trousers; built into wool and rubber coats; evoked within long-sleeved dresses as if a waspie had been styled over them; and – most ingeniously – structured into the waist of a puffer jacket that ballooned over it. If the silhouette those corsets created didn’t already make Versace’s models pose up a storm, Donatella underpinned her looks with skin-tight rubber tops and polished latex leggings, cementing the boudoir mood of the collection.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Thriving. Versace SS22

Versace is thriving. The confluence of Dua Lipa, Naomi Campbell and Lourdes Leon on the spring 2022 runway almost broke the internet. It definitely crashed Versace’s website momentarily, so heavy was the traffic to its livestream. The scene outside the Milan venue was just as frenetic, with young people lining up for in-person sightings. Donatella Versace knows how to capture the world’s attention. The collection was a bright, shiny revival of Versace’s many hits, aimed straight at the heart of the TikTok generation — young people for whom Dua and Lil Nas are household names, but who may be less familiar with the supermodels who helped propel the brand to fame 30 years ago. Naomi Campbell, though, was in the house to help show the new-gen models how it’s done. Dua opened the show in a cut-out jacket and slashed skirt tricked out in multicolor versions of the house-famous safety pins, and closed it in the even more iconic chain mail, dipped hot pink for the occasion. In between, Versace kept things young and playful, showing basketball silks and pajama sets in the archival Medusa print and the new La Greca print, and using the patterns for accents: a handkerchief top here, a bikini top there, and as patchwork on baggy faded blue jeans. The color palette was pure pop: a long run of Miami neons was bookended by sections of black, with a brief segue into collegiate red that featured what might be Versace’s first varsity letterman’s jacket. These clothes would be right at home in Miami, not least of all Imaan Hammam and Kiki Willems’s vinyl bustier dresses. In addition to Donatella’s Milano triumph, yesterday evening, the rumors materialised into an IRL collaboration with Fendi’s Kim Jones and Silvia Venturini Fendi. And oh my, this was the moment we’ve all waited for this fashion month.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Retro-Futuristic. Versace AW21

Versace is launching a new monogram this season. Named La Greca, it’s a take on the brand’s heritage Greek Key pattern turned trompe l’oeil in the genre of Goyard’s Chevrons or Moynat’s infinite Ms. In the film Versace released, in the middle of digital Paris Fashion Week, La Greca had been blown up into a massive wooden structure that framed a runway-style show. Here, models walked through monograms wearing monogram clothes, carrying monogram bags, and accessorizing with monogram jewelry. Monogram, everything! But somehow, it didn’t suffocate the actual clothes. Donatella Versace came up with a convincing proposal for a post-lockdown wardrobe: easy, smart, and real. Sci-fi fabric treatments and styling stuff like harnesses fused with 1970s silhouettes in a slightly retro-futuristic expression were backed up by sculptural streetwear shapes and little bionic dresses (Bella Hadid, Rianne Van Rompaey and Mica Arganaraz looked gorgeous wearing them). Donatella thrives creatively lately, delivering collections that are super-Versace, but as well true to herself.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Aquatic Wonderland. Versace SS21

As we are somewhere in the middle of the fashion month, two camps of designers can be noticed: the ones that take the realistic, pragmatic approach, and the ones that prefer escapism in midst of a crisis. Donatella Versace is in the latter group, as she takes us to her aquatic wonderland for spring-summer 2021. The Versace line-up was really good this season (and you know I’m not the biggest fan of the brand), but it was the model casting that truly stole the spotlight. Seeing the gorgeous, body-positive models – Jill Kortleve, Precious Lee and Alva Clair – in the Versace fantasy-land was a inclusivity moment that sadly isn’t a usual sight in Milan (except for Fendi and Marni, which invite different models to their fashion shows for a couple of seasons now). Hopefully, Donatella will keep it up. What about the clothes? In the imagined ruins of Atlantis and water currents streaming down its projected walls. Versace goddesses and gods wore starfish, coral, and seashell motifs from Gianni Versace’s ‘trésors de la mer’ collection for spring-summer 1992. They were ready to take on a new reality like the Rebirth of Venus herself (starring Adut Akech in the title role, of course). Versace, who described the collection as having “an upbeat soul,” said her challenge was to give fashion meaning in a historical moment like this. “I wanted to do something disruptive and to break the rules because I think that, what worked a few months ago, does not make any sense today. Creatively, that meant finding a way to bring the DNA of Versace to a new reality and to people who have undergone a deep change.” Clothes-wise, it’s a fun, high summer venture: it was, on the women’s as well as the men’s side, high-octane sporty cocktail-wear for an optimistic future. In all its sea-centric detailing, it also had its moments of ingenuity: micro-pleated dresses trimmed with twirly ruffles, which bounced like jellyfish in the waves walking down the runway; crazy cascading skirts layered like the lips of shells; and a bag constructed like a big fortune cookie.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.