POWER PLAY. If Italy is paradise for fine tailoring, this powerful lady is undeniably one of the reigning goddesses. The living fashion legend unveils her modern vision for menswear
With a troop of physically fit models marching down the runway, some sporting silken bandanas, Versace Men’s spring/summer 2016 show was evocative as ever. Bold colors, sharp silhouettes and eye-catching accessories, all played key roles to enhancing the presence of a Versace man: One who walks while exuding self-control and confidence and, at the same time, commanding attention. But deep down, the very core underneath those fine exterior layers is, and has always been about, power.
For Donatella Versace, the unflinching pillar of the famed Italian fashion house, the exercise of power is woven into everything she does: from her unabashed, characterful designs to her decisive control over the company’s direction. She is one who doesn’t take no for an answer; one whose thirst for life and fashion is unquenchable. For almost two decades after her beloved brother’s death, this irrepressible boss lady still stands strong and struts with an attitude that immediately puts past doubters to shame.
Along with her incessant creativity and forward-looking outlook is an evolving picture of modern men shown through the Versace Men’s collection season after season. To call a Versace man simply chic could be quite an understatement, for Donatella Versace doesn’t think the way other designers do. For this season alone, this ideal and powerful man is an adventurer in where he travels and what he wears—note the Middle Eastern influences on display—but, more than anything, he’s got the power.
DA MAN: In the spring/summer ’16 collection, there is a play of proportions that seems to defy the typical boldness of Versace and sends a subtler kind of manly sexiness instead. Can you elaborate on the inspiration for this collection?
Donatella Versace: There are so many different ways in which a man can express his sexuality. From the very beginning, Versace has celebrated the male body with our tailoring. I love the power of a man in a suit, and this season I wanted to take our strong silhouette and strip it of construction, to make a suit for the way men live their lives today. There is a new fluidity to the wide pants and draped layers that expresses a more dramatic and sensual side of masculinity. For me, one of the great pleasures of designing menswear is to explore the complexities of the Versace man, with all his different emotions and attitudes.
DA MAN: Scott Barnhill, one of the most iconic male models, opened the runway show. How important are the models and personalities to you?
Donatella Versace: It was so much fun having Scott back on the Versace catwalk. And not only him, also Ivan de Pineda. They are some of the true icons of Versace, and I loved how he still has the same presence and power on the runway today. In all of my models, I look for individuality and strength. As soon as they walk in the door of my studio, I know if they’ve got it. There’s some energy they emanate, a love of life and confidence on their own personality. Believe in yourself, and you are immediately a man of Versace.
DA MAN: Who are your male muses at the moment?
Donatella Versace: Right now, my muses are the men I see out on the street. I love how men dress today, mixing together smart with casual, and creating their own look. I love the Internet, because now I can see how men are dressing up all over the world, and how men love to define themselves with their own style. When I design my collections at Versace, I think about men from all different countries. To me, fashion is global, and it makes me so excited to push forward to create the new Versace world.
DA MAN: How do you put yourself in a man’s shoes when putting together the menswear collection?
Donatella Versace: I love men. I love to be surrounded by them, to get to know them and the way that they see the world. Designing menswear is so much fun for me, because I get to enter their lives and to think about what works for them right now and in the future. The differences between our men’s and women’s collections are clear, but no matter who we are designing for, everything that we do has to be pure Versace.
DA MAN: Versace is a house with a respected legacy, but at the same it continuously pushes the boundaries and redefines modernity. How do you balance “legacy” and “modernity” in your collections?
Donatella Versace: Being bold and brave is at the heart of the Versace DNA, which means it’s in our nature to always be challenging the way things are. For me, menswear is all about taking traditions and pushing them into the future. It’s in everything we do, whether it be the construction of our garments, making them lighter and easier to wear, or the attitude with which we put the looks together. It’s in the mix of formal and informal, or the way we can provoke men to be more daring with their style and look.
DA MAN: How do you see current developments in the menswear industry?
Donatella Versace: It’s amazing to see how men in the 21st century have become so passionate about fashion and style. For young men today, it’s natural to express themselves through their looks, and to explore their personality through clothing. To me, it feels just like the beginning of a new era in menswear, especially as these young men get older and define themselves in the decades to come. At Versace, what matters most is to give this man as many options as possible for him to find his own style, whether it’s a casual zip-up jacket, the perfect pair of jeans, a suit or an iconic Versace studded leather jacket. Men today want to experiment with their look, and we love that they can do it with Versace.
DA MAN: An ongoing menswear trend that has been echoed by various design houses for several seasons is genderless clothes. What is your take on this particular movement?
Donatella Versace: My passion in life is equality. Versace has always stood for freedom and the right to truly be yourself, no matter who you are. I love how so many elements of today’s wardrobe are shared between men and women, like the urban uniform of a zip-up bomber jacket, worn with a sweatshirt, jeans, sneakers and a backpack. For me, genderless clothes are not a trend, but a change in the way young people live their lives, and I find it so exciting to see happen.
DA MAN: Versace produces more than five collections per year, and that doesn’t even include your other line, Versus Versace. How do you manage your time working on all of the collections?
Donatella Versace: I would be so bored if I did any less! I love fashion, and am at my happiest in my design studio, working with my incredible team. Young people come from all over the world to work at Versace, and it’s my privilege to spend time with them and share our creativity. I actually get bored very quickly, and as soon as one show is finished, I can’t wait to get started on another. I can’t understand why anyone complains about the amount of work in fashion—to me, it’s all such a pleasure.
DA MAN: Can you describe what happens in your typical working day?
Donatella Versace: There is no such thing as a typical day! I try to get business done first thing in the morning so that my mind can be free to create. My schedule is always super-busy, and I am very decisive. Once I have made a decision, that’s it. I like to finish the day with everything well done, so the next day can start anew. Those are the things that are typical to my days. So, in essence, what I’m actually doing is always different and always exciting.
DA MAN: Lastly, what is in the pipeline for both you and Versace at the moment?
Donatella Versace: We have so many exciting projects and developments happening right now at Versace! Do you know the best place to find out about them all? Follow us on Instagram: @donatella_versace and @versace_official.
This article first appeared in DA MAN Style spring/summer 2016. Get a copy here.