Following her Los Angeles runway show, Donatella Versace comes to Dubai this month to unveil a new chapter of the Icons collection.
It was Oscars week, but the talk of the town was not the golden statuette. Instead, it was another figure with golden hair who was causing a commotion in the City of Stars. In March, Donatella Versace took over Los Angeles, hosting Versace’s show under the eyes of megastars such as Cher, Elton John, Anne Hathaway, and Dua Lipa. And in true Versace fashion, the city was – literally – at her feet, with the runway up in the clouds, on top of the Pacific Design Center.
As part of the Fall 2023 show, Versace released the Icons collection – a selection of timeless pieces informed by the Milanese house’s tailoring know-how, with some items inspired by its archives or by the personal wardrobe of Donatella Versace herself, such as the black fitted Grain de Poudre “DV” pantsuit. Other looks, worn by Hathaway in the campaign lensed by photographers Mert & Marcus, included a cut black jersey dress with Medusa 95 medallion detailing on the straps, and a sculpted bustier corset, worn with jeans or under tailoring. “It is the new tank top,” states Versace. In a global tour that includes New York and Shanghai, Donatella will land this month in Dubai for a cocktail event where the brand will reveal an extension of the Icons collection, engaging Arab talents. The location? It’s still top secret, but one thing is certain: it will be fabulous.
The last time we met we were in LA for the show in March. Why did you choose the city to present your FW23 collection?
What an amazing moment that was for Versace – I loved showing in Los Angeles just before the Oscars – even if we did have to move the show one day earlier because of the rain! The energy and power of LA have always appealed to me – it is such an amazing global platform for the film industry y and Hollywood has always loved fashion and loved Versace. For me there was something filmic about the collection itself – strong silhouettes, dramatic gowns – perfect for LA, don’t you think?
The show began with a more austere style compared to other Versace collections; still sexy but less logo-centric and less bling – what was the idea behind this design choice?
The idea for the tailoring started in our atelier – the beautiful way that our clothes are made with couture techniques – but I wanted to translate that into ready-to-wear. You know I spend so much of my time in a black jacket and pants that I wanted to make the very best ones. Those jackets are based on silhouettes that we first explored in the 90s, so for me the collection was still very much in the DNA of Versace. It was a moment to remind everyone of the skill of the house of Versace and how extraordinary our tailoring is. Then, you don’t need to cover that tailoring in print – you need to let it speak for itself.
Which were your favorite looks from the show?
I absolutely love Look One on Gigi – for me that sums up exactly what the show was about – a strict suit made with the incredible technique of our atelier but done for ready-to-wear, the perfect shoes, and the amazing top handle bag. I also love the black evening dress that Gigi wore at the end of the show. Lady Gaga called me the second she saw that dress and asked if she could wear it for the Oscars a few days later – and Gaga made it look incredible. It is so inspiring to see a design go from the catwalk to an amazing woman like Lady Gaga in just a few days.
How important is celebrity culture for Versace?
For me, the most important thing in the Versace family is to bring together super talented people who are confident and know their own strengths, across the worlds of film, the arts, and music. Gianni used to say that when a star wears a dress, a little of their stardust rubs off on us – and I would go out into the world to find amazing people to bring into our family. For me this is less about celebrity culture – which sounds kind of superficial – and more about connecting to people who are the best at what they do. It could be a great film star, an iconic musician, a major businesswoman or man. For me, what unites them all as Versace is their intelligence, kindness, and brilliance in their fields.
Which celebrities do you enjoy dressing the most?
I am super excited to be working with Anne Hathaway and Chris Lee on our Icons collection. I loved collaborating with Dua Lipa on our La Vacanza collection this past summer, and I love Dwyane Wade who is the star of our eyewear campaign. They are all such unique talents from music, film, and sports and all of them represent Versace so well. I was also honored to dress Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Adèle recently for their performances. I love to see Versace on stage on these incredible performers and then see them wearing Versace in everyday life with just as much power.
The Middle East loves Versace. What are your plans for the region?
I love the Middle East and the richness and hospitality of the culture. I always have. I love the great style of the women and men and I really appreciate seeing how Versace is worn and the great support the region has always shown us. I love to come on holiday in the Middle East and stay in the beautiful hotels. As a business, the region is so important to us, and we hope to continue to grow our presence here over the coming years. I am so excited to be back in Dubai for our Icons dinner to celebrate the amazing women of the region and I am really looking forward to meeting so many of our guests when I come.
What are your views on the transformation and empowerment of Arab women?
I am a great advocate for global inclusivity and equity, and I believe that through female empowerment the world will be a better place. I mean, I am a woman who has been leading her business for decades and I have so many women who have senior roles at Versace. I learn so much from them in our business and I find the same around the world. I see women across the region making their mark in various industries, whether fashion, sports, film, or entrepreneurship, and it really inspires me.
How are you planning to present the Versace Icons collection in Dubai?
We are hosting a beautiful dinner with great music and food and bringing together some of the real female power players across the region – fashionistas, businesswomen, entrepreneurs, and stars. Icons is about great Versace wardrobe essentials for every day – these are the clothes I live in, and I was honored that Anne Hathaway and Chris Lee became our ambassadors for the collection. We will have these amazing clothes in our stores and will showcase how to build your perfect Versace wardrobe – from the great black suit to the perfect black dress.
How did you come up with the concept of a Versace Icons collection?
These are the pieces I wear every day – I live in black pants and a great black jacket. I worked to create a collection that works hard for women every day – clothes that work from the office to a night out, from dropping the kids at school to the boardroom. These are the go-to pieces for any woman building her perfect Versace wardrobe.
Who are your personal icons?
Great question – my icons are women and men anywhere in the world who stand up for what they believe in, trust their instincts, and have great kindness. From the past, my greatest icon was the musician Prince – for me he was a true genius and a global superstar. My brother Gianni of course was also iconic and a huge inspiration to me. I learned so much from him and he is always in my heart.
And your favorite film?
The latest movies are my favorites – I love the new; what is coming out tomorrow that I haven’t seen yet – what can I see earlier than anyone else? I am super excited about the new documentary on Apple about the supermodels; it was such an amazing time, and I was honored to be interviewed about them.
Speaking of movies, if there ever was a movie about your life, who is the actor you would love to play you?
Wow, you would have to choose for me – there are so many incredibly talented actors in the world, but only one Donatella Versace! Let’s see. For the moment I am focused on my collections and my work. I am not sure anyone would want to watch a movie about me. But if it did happen, she would have to be fierce, loyal, and really great fun!
Originally published in the October 2023 issue of Vogue Arabia