Stars and Stripes

WWD Digital Daily - - Front Page - PHO­TO­GRAPH BY AN­DREW H. WALKER

“Free­dom.” It’s the rea­son Donatella Ver­sace loves New York, and why she chose the city as the site of her very first Ver­sace pre-fall show, an archive-rich cel­e­bra­tion of strong, sexy, glam­orous women and men.

Donatella Ver­sace loves New York. She’ll tell you her­self, but now there’s a Ver­sace T-shirt that spells it out, too, com­bin­ing the Me­dusa logo and Mil­ton Glaser’s iconic “I Love NY” state logo on a see-now-buy-now sou­venir from the house’s in­au­gu­ral pre-fall show, staged where else but Man­hat­tan.

Years ago, Ver­sace held a Ver­sus show in New York, and in 2011, the Ver­sace x H&M show at which Prince per­formed was also held in town. But she pointed out that Sun­day night’s show was the first time there was a real deal Ver­sace show in New York. She said there was sym­bol­ism to the date — Dec. 2, Gianni Ver­sace’s birth­day — but not the venue — the Amer­i­can Stock Ex­change. “It’s not a ref­er­ence to Capri Hold­ings,” Ver­sace said dur­ing a pre­view at the com­pany’s Colum­bus Cir­cle of­fices a few days be­fore the show, al­lud­ing to Septem­ber’s $2.1 bil­lion ac­qui­si­tion of Ver­sace by Michael Kors Hold­ings, which re­sulted in a new name for the par­ent com­pany — Capri Hold­ings Ltd.

The show and col­lec­tion had noth­ing to do with the deal, but they did have a lot to do with their host city. Ver­sace likes the en­ergy. “There’s free­dom here. There’s a clash of cul­tures. There’s cre­ativ­ity,” she said. There are also a lot of fond mem­o­ries of time spent with her late brother Gianni in the town house at 5 East 64th Street he bought and lav­ishly ren­o­vated in 1995. “We had the house so New York was con­nected to me,” Ver­sace said. “I never sleep here. I’m never tired. I re­mem­ber go­ing to the clubs at five in the morn­ing and walk­ing in the snow in my high heels. I’m ex­treme. I like ex­tremes.”

That’s how Ver­sace ap­proached the show, a col­li­sion of the many dif­fer­ent walks of life — women and men; the show in­cluded a small men’s cap­sule — one en­coun­ters in New York. They walked around a slick black set at the cen­ter of which was a gi­gan­tic gold replica of the Statue of Lib­erty’s raised hand and torch. Work­ing in archetypes — the glam girl, the party girl, the Bri­tish girl, wi­d­ows with pass­ports — al­lowed Ver­sace to touch on a range of ideas, re­work­ing her­itage pieces while broach­ing new ter­ri­tory for younger gen­er­a­tions. Ty­ing it all to­gether was Ver­sace’s com­mit­ment to high gloss, high glam­our ex­tremes.

Kaia Ger­ber, in a shiny brown work­wear jacket over a tawny knit crop top and liq­uid silk draped skirt, opened a se­ries of slick, sen­sual yet pol­ished neu­trals. They were fol­lowed by black, yel­low and gold iconic house prints re­freshed with star pat­terns on scarf dresses, skirts, tops and leg­gings ►

lay­ered to cover the mod­els in head-to­toe body­con pat­tern. There were re­duxes of the fa­mous spring 1994 safety-pin dress col­lec­tion, and the candy- col­ored PVC Mod dresses of fall 1994, here, shown with clunky sneak­ers. A few ul­tra- glam girls came out un­der a moun­tain of car­toon­ish Bar­barella hair. The wi­d­ows, in their head­scarves and sun­glasses, draped in body-skim­ming jersey dresses slit to the hip, were ready to catch a flight with their logo lug­gage. More streetin­spired looks mixed a bit of ev­ery­thing and ac­ces­sorized it with T- shirts, logo fanny packs and sneak­ers. To close the show, there was Am­ber Val­letta in the dress she orig­i­nally wore in the spring 2000 show, and that Jen­nifer Lopez made ex­tremely fa­mous the next year at the Gram­mys. In­stead of the orig­i­nal fa­mous green trop­i­cal print, Ver­sace re­did the plung­ing scarf sil­hou­ette in hearts in­spired by the Jim Dine art Gianni Ver­sace com­mis­sioned for his town house. He used prints based on the paint­ings in his spring 1996 col­lec­tion.

Nearly 20 years later, Val­letta looked as god­dess-like as she did the first time around. The dress, too, hasn’t aged. For what­ever rea­son, Ver­sace’s gen­er­ous helping of archival looks — 1994, 1996, 2000 — while fa­mil­iar, didn’t feel dated. Maybe it’s be­cause the high-pol­ish, did-not-wake-up-like-this look stands in re­fresh­ing con­trast to the mass ca­su­al­iza­tion and ex­al­ta­tion of streetwear we’re all used to. Maybe it’s be­cause the time is right for Nineties de­signer nos­tal­gia. Maybe it’s just be­cause Ver­sace knows what she’s do­ing. It worked.

A bit late to the itin­er­ant mega-show party, this was Ver­sace’s first des­ti­na­tion pre-sea­son show. It won’t be the last. She’s think­ing of do­ing re­sort in China, and maybe New York again next pre-fall. Asked why she thinks stag­ing a big show abroad is im­por­tant for the pre­c­ol­lec­tions, Ver­sace said, “Ev­ery­thing is an im­age to­day. You learn from an im­age. You buy from an im­age on your phone. You need to make the im­age.” As for her thoughts on so­cial me­dia — Ver­sace has 3.7 mil­lion In­sta­gram fol­low­ers on her per­sonal ac­count — she said, “It’s the present and the fu­ture whether I like it or not. I still like to read books. You can do both. You can’t for­get that part of the cul­ture. I think to suc­ceed in the fu­ture, you have to know very well the past.”

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Donatella Ver­sace

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