The summer of 1997 will go to the collective imaginary for two facts that made the usual protagonists of the fashion and heart press open the news worldwide: the death of Princess Diana and the murder of Gianni Versace. Today marks twenty years of the latter, that day we discovered that one of the greatest creative geniuses of the twentieth century had been killed in front of his mansion in Miami. We remember his life and his contribution to the world of fashion, which is still more alive than ever twenty years later.
A life at the service of fashion
You could say that fashion was part of his life since his birth. The classic Greco-Roman world and Andy Warhol have always been talked about as two of Versace's great influences throughout his career, but his real first influence was at home: his mother, Francesca, a dressmaker from the Italian region of Reggio Calabria, in whose workshop he learned a lot from what would later make him the most coveted designer of the 80s and 90s of the last century.
Gianni studied Architecture, until, at twenty-six, in 1973, he decided to move to Milan to work in the world of fashion. He designed collections for Byblos and Genny, before embarking on the adventure of creating his own label. It was in 1976, before he turned thirty, and with the invaluable help of his brother Santo. Versace had just been born.
Versace, the icon
It is difficult to summarize Versace's achievements in the fashion world. It is even difficult to believe that the brand was barely twenty years old when its creator was murdered, since in those few decades it became one of the essential names of the fashion business. In 1978, he opened his first store, on Via Della Spiga, in the heart of Milanese Quadrilatero d'Oro. His designs were soon synonymous with opulence, with a mixture of influences in which he always highlighted the classical tradition of Greece and Rome, as it represents his most recognizable symbol: the head of jellyfish.
The mixture of classical, baroque elements, the innovative use of metals, a constant alliance with the top models from the golden age of the catwalks and the adoration of the celebrities, which wore their designs on both sides of the Atlantic, made it a myth still alive. It is impossible to forget some of its most iconic moments. Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and Cindy Crawford closing their fall collection of 1991 to the beat of Freedom! '90 from George Michael. The stunning black dress with unmissable gold sides that Liz Hurley wore during the première London from Four Weddings and a Funeral in 1994. His creations dressing Madonna, Elton John, Michael Jackson or Princess Diana.
Gianni was an entrepreneur as well as a designer. Its brand, constantly expanding, innovated in the luxury perfume business, created low-cost lines (Instanted, for example, although it disappeared before its death), a young line (Versus), opted for haute couture ... All it it was worth hoarding more covers than anyone in the 90s, win all the most prestigious awards in the fashion industry and even a large retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris, as well as a posthumous in the New York Met.
The murder that made Diana cry
He July 15, 1997, the news that Gianni Versace had been killed in front of his Miami Beach mansion went around the world.
He was fifty years old and was probably at the height of his career. Andrew Cunanan, a serial killer that he had finished that same year with the lives of at least four other people, he hit two shots without, twenty years later, knowing if there was any cause added to his own criminal career. Eight days later, the murderer himself committed suicide in the same city of Miami.
The news of Versace's death shocked the fashion world, and his funerals in Milan became a parade of celebrities wanting to pay him one last goodbye. Few images are more iconic of the 90s than that of Princess Diana comforting a shattered Elton John, just a month before she died herself in the streets of Paris.
Two months after Gianni's murder, his sister Donatella presented his first collection. Or the last (and posthumous) of his brother, depending on how you look at it. They were not easy times for the Versace family, since the distribution of their goods awoke enmities that everyone already knew in previous decades. At the time of his death, it is estimated that his fortune amounted to more than 800 million dollars, with 130 stores worldwide.
Gianni's will left a life pension for his partner, Antonio D'Amico, an old model with whom he maintained a relationship of more than fifteen years (Versace was the first Italian designer to openly declare himself gay), as well as the right to live in any of the houses available to Gianni throughout the world. That fact led to an increase in disagreements with Donatella, who had never liked her brother's partner, and who prevented her from living in some of the houses that belonged to the brand.
Because Versace, as a brand, has never left the hands of those who bear that last name. In September 1997, Santo, his older brother, became C.E.O. of the company (together with Jorge Saud) and Donatella, creative director. Together, they have managed to maintain the prestige and quality standard that was always a hallmark for Gianni. Since 2004, in addition, 50% of the company belongs to Allegra, Donatella's daughter, who received that inheritance from his uncle when he turned eighteen.Allegra Versace, along with her father and her brother Daniel, during funerals for her uncle.
In the coming months, we will continue hearing a lot about Gianni Versace and his murder, since this fact will be the protagonist of the third season of the successful series American Crime Story, with Edgar Ramirez playing the designer, Penelope Cruz to Donatella and Ricky Martin to D'Amico. Twenty years have passed, but no one has forgotten the day of his death or the impact of his contribution to the fashion world.
Penelope Cruz as Donatella Versace for American Crime Story. pic.twitter.com/qRYKWbqyge- AmericanHorrorStory (@fyeahahs) May 16, 2017
In Jared | First images of Penelope Cruz characterized as Donatella Versace