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Versus Gets Real

Donatella Versace didn’t want the collection to look “fashion-y”. On paper, that adds an element of anarchy.  In actuality, the fashion element remained.
By
  • Tim Blanks
BoF PROFESSIONAL

LONDON, United Kingdom —  Relevance. It's a word to strike a chill into the heart of fashion's heritage businesses. You can count Versace as one of those businesses, but you also have to acknowledge Donatella Versace's curiosity, the way she can think outside the fashion box, the pleasure she gets from having all sorts of young people around her. She's a surprise. She makes her own kind of relevance.

Versus was always Donatella’s vehicle. Once, it reflected her fast, flash rock’n’roll persona. Now, it’s all about a different kind of engagement for her. Before her show on Sunday, she was talking about the Italian company Nativa, which has been consulting with Versace on sustainability issues. Thanks to Nativa, the run-off from their indigo denim dyeing process is clean water. People want to know these things, millennials especially.

Something else Donatella was musing over was the need for Versus to reach out to non-fashion people. Consider the new collection in that light and you’ll appreciate her challenge. She claimed she didn’t want it to look “fashion-y”. When it first arrived, she demanded it be pulled apart and stitched back together, rougher, frayed, more “real”. On paper, that adds an element of anarchy. In actuality, the fashion element remained intact. The Western detailing, the appliqued leather yokes and holsters, the leather jackets, in pistachio or crackled silver, the painted chain mail tops, the cowboy and car prints from the Versus archive…they were all the kind of distinctive, eccentric elements you’d expect to find in a fashion statement. So how do you make them count for the people who, as Donatella said, are “not necessarily fashion”?

Her model casting mixed professional catwalkers and street culture. There’s one entry point. Otherwise, let’s assume a work in progress. Like Donatella herself.

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