In recent years, Versace have owned the “you had to be there” fashion show. See a surprise appearance by Jennifer Lopez in 2019, and a surfeit of original supermodels in 2017. But, in the midst of a pandemic, even Donatella Versace – that icon of party-ready glamour – has had to settle for an at-home audience, possibly in sweatpants, and a digital show.
The brand’s autumn collection was shown as part of a digital Milan Fashion Week, via a film starring Bella and Gigi Hadid and Irina Shayk. It featured shiny minidresses, crop tops and va-va-voom LBDs for women, and flowing silk shorts and shiny vinyl textures for men. Also included were a new print and a version of the Medusa logo with a smiley face, which the press release called “a symbol of celebration, freedom and dancefloor communities”. Versace’s collection is ready when – and if – nightclubs open on 21 June.
Donatella Versace said the current situation – poised between life under lockdown and the hope of a post-vaccine future – influenced her designs. “The collection includes many versatile pieces deriving from the way our daily life has changed,” she said, “but it also offers some very glamorous pieces as we all miss dressing up and, I am sure, some of us can’t wait to squeeze ourselves into a metal mesh dress as soon as given a chance!”
The designer – like most people during this past year – has had to adjust to a new way of working. She says Zoom calls can be “alienating” and she was challenged by working with her team remotely, designing clothes that would look good to consumers shopping only online.
“To be honest, and looking at the market, I felt that we had more chances of making mistakes than to succeed,” she says. “Together with my team, we tried to step out of our comfort zone for a second and think differently.”
Initially “not a big fan” of digital shows, she now describes them as “the way forward.” “Normally a fashion show would be over in about 10 minutes,” she says.
“With this show, we spent a whole day filming and taking pictures. Models were walking in their outfits for hours and I realised how progressively they were getting more and more into their ‘character’.”
With those characters falling more on the dressed-up side of style, does she predict a return of glamour? “Yes, I have no doubt,” she says.
“Glamour has had different characteristics according to the times. So, if everything has changed or is changing, then also the definition of glamour will evolve into something else.”
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The new print, dubbed the Greca, is designed to rival the monograms of competitors like Gucci and Louis Vuitton, and to emphasise the luxury of the brand. While Gen Z have taken to Versace, thanks to endorsement from the likes of the Hadids and – relatively – accessible items like £240 sliders, this could be seen as a bid for consumers to invest in handbags, traditionally a more expensive part of a luxury brand’s business, with prices starting at £610.
The Versace brand has been owned by Capri Holdings since 2018. While the pandemic has halted growth, it reported sales of $696m in the year ending in November 2020, and online sales more than doubled last year.