Five things to know about Versace

Photo: AFP

Italian fashion giant Versace, known for its Medusa head logo and being one of the few remaining family-controlled businesses in the industry, is reportedly being sold to US fashion group Michael Kors.

The deal, worth around $2 billion, provides for the Versace family to continue to play a role, according to media reports.

Here are five things to know about the Milan-based luxury brand:

Gianni Versace, stylist of stars

Born in Calabria to a dressmaker mother, Gianni Versace began designing clothes at a young age and moved to fashion capital Milan when he was 25. In 1978, he presented his first signature collection, with his brother Santo taking care of the label’s business arm.

Photo: AFP

“He was a 360-degree creator, a real artist, he had a pure creative vision on colours and materials,” Stefania Saviolo, director of the luxury and fashion centre at Bocconi University, told AFP.

He wowed the showbiz world, dressing ‘A’-listers from Madonna to Elton John, and getting supermodels like Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell to strut their stuff down the catwalk for him.

THAT Dress

Gianni Versace’s collections were colourful, sexy and luxurious. His designs mixed baroque prints, animal skin motifs, bondage-style leather, slits and, especially, ultra-tight fits.

At the 1994 premiere of Four Weddings and a Funeral, he dressed actress Liz Hurley in a famously suggestive black dress.

Made from silk and lycra, with a sharply plunging neckline and a long slit up the side, the dress was held together by several oversized golden safety pins.

The dress catapulted Hurley, then romantically involved with Hugh Grant, to fame and became simply known as “THAT dress”.

Death and fall

On July 15, 1997, Gianni Versace was shot dead by luxury-obsessed male prostitute Andrew Cunanan as he returned to his luxury villa in Miami after buying the morning papers.

The killing shocked the worlds of fashion and show business, at a time when Versace the brand was “at its apex”, said consultant David Pambianco.

Gianni’s sister Donatella, then in charge of the Versus line, took over as artistic director, while Santo kept control of the money side of the business.

But the Versace brand’s power shrank as management teams succeeded one after the other, employees were laid off and boutiques closed.


Gianni’s emblematic sister Donatella, 63, eternally tanned with dyed blonde hair and a face distinguished by multiple plastic surgery operations, has been in charge since 1997.

Photo: AFP

She was her brother’s muse and confidante, worked at his side for 14 years and went into depression after his death. In 2005 she was treated for cocaine addiction.

After a shaky start, Donatella has risen to the challenge of running a highly successful fashion titan.

Versace 2.0

In recent years, “Versace has found ‘the red carpet DNA’ again after losing it as well as its very audacious, strong style,” said Bocconi University’s Saviolo.

Financially, the company has gone from strength to strength, from a turnover of 268 million euros in 2009 to 668 million euros in 2017. The company lost 7.4 million euros in 2016 but made a profit of 15 million euros in 2017.



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