‘For me, the summer will be pure gray — mother-of-pearl gray, very pale gray. To me, this is the big statement for summer. Then we have light blue, light turquoise, lots of pink.’ –Gianni Versace


Donatella Versace, tiny, sculpted and forever blonde, was standing backstage after her menswear show at the Teatro Versace in Milan in June, receiving polite congratulations from a handful of editors and friends. The scene was positively dead compared with Versace shows a decade ago: no celebrities posing with Donatella for paparazzi, no bodyguards holding back the throngs, and no pals swilling champagne. Donatella’s brother Santo, in his usual charcoal suit with black turtleneck, came back for a few minutes to shake some hands. Her husband, American-born Paul Beck, tall and tan, stood alone in the corner; no one even noticed him. It all felt feeble, pathetic—a sad, soulless charade to promote something that no longer exists.

The nonscene is a reflection of how far the Italian fashion house has fallen since its founder’s death. When Gianni Versace was murdered on the front steps of his Miami mansion in 1997, the company immediately announced that his strong-minded sister, Donatella, would take over as creative director and his brother, Santo, would be CEO. The decision made sense at the time. The luxury fashion business was soaring, thanks to the new wealth of the Internet boom, and Gianni Versace was a favorite of the bling set, with his flashy designs, celebrity friends, and lavish lifestyle. The company was poised to become a luxury megabrand like Gucci, Giorgio Armani, and Louis Vuitton.

Instead, Donatella plunged into profound drug addiction and made erratic business and creative decisions. While competing fashion brands turned into global powers, Versace has watched its sales plummet from $1 billion in 1996 to less than half that today. Major retailers such as Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman have dropped the line. The company has lost both its prestige and design influence.

Starting in 2003, after what Santo described as “seven years of woes,” the Versace siblings acknowledged they couldn’t run the company by themselves and hired a string of outside managers to straighten out the mess. But the outsiders failed too—in large part, Versace sources say, due to Donatella’s and Santo’s resistance to change.

{ Newsweek | Continue reading }

photo { Jessica Craig-Martin }