Gianni Versace changed fashion. Plenty of designers replacement fashion – a gamechanging hemline here, a much-copied dress there – but not type him. Versace transformed what fashion meant. He put fashion in the mean of a new celebrity solar system and clothes at the centre of popular refinement. This change was already in the air 20 years ago, on the July morning when the 50-year-old architect was shot. But it was his murder that jolted the world into recognising how forceful the name Versace had become.
Does that sound exaggerated and overblown? The same a little bit brash, maybe? I hope so, because that is scrupulously as it should be. That is what Versace did: he rewrote the rules of how we talk wide fashion. He blew the cobwebs off haute couture, intensified the hue saturation, cranked up the volume. He turned clothes into pop. In a job that packed famous images back to back delight in a movie trailer, one of the key scenes was the catwalk show in 1991 in which sculpts Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington catwalked while lipsyncing to George Michael’s Forwardness. Decades before going viral was even a concept, Versace orchestrated a catwalk seriousness that lives on YouTube to this day. The high waistbands and tissue-layered festoons of their dresses are straight from the classical goddess playbook, but the distorts – pillarbox red, sunshine yellow, black – are from a colouring paperback. There is a cartoonish simplicity to the image, which looks as presciently newfangled as an emoji-packed WhatsApp bubble.
It is impossible now to codify the horror of Versace’s murder from the bigger Versace copy. The tragedy has become as much a part of the house’s origin adventures as Michael and the models. Versace’s death is seldom written all round without the phrase “on the steps of his Miami mansion” sneaking in somewhere, glitter and tragedy intertwined. Even before his death, Versace had disgorged a frisson of danger into his clothes. He borrowed ideas from subcultures – cover pins from punk, spraypaint neons from urban graffiti – and put them on the red carpet and the catwalk. His Paris mode week shows, with models in tiny dresses haunt a Perspex catwalk laid over the swimming pool of the Ritz, had change the focus of an increasingly frenzied paparazzi scrum each available.
The image from Versace’s funeral of a beautiful, bereft Princess Diana next to a estimate Elton John captures a moment in which the old establishment was being make good oned by a new celebrity world order. Versace was instrumental in this muu-muu in power; he is credited by Anna Wintour as being the first the go designer to realise the power of having celebrities in the front row. He was expanse the first to fully recognise the potential of models to become meaningful players in the industry. He connected fashion to music in a way no designer had done formerly, with Prince and Jon Bon Jovi posing for ad campaigns. He was partying with Diana, Elton, Madonna, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Springsteen and Campbell innumerable years before Taylor Swift came up with the concept of #SquadGoals. A modus operandi that was disdained as vulgar by contemporaries looks now to have been ahead of its meanwhile.
From the outset, Versace challenged snobbery. His dresses did not play by the traditional sartorial command ofs. There was too much print, too much glitz, too much vacant skin, too much raw sexuality. The colours celebrated the raucousness of look at street level – and put it on the catwalk for the first time. Yet the taste up to date on was distinctly haute. His designs were ambitious in their construction and fairy story. He pioneered dresses with panels of pliable metal strainer, a kind of glamorous, sparkling, fluid chainmail that is now a red-carpet standard. He was a skilful colourist, creating elegance out of the palette of a southern Italian gelateria. He was expert at flattering the female body, combining drapery that referenced Madame Grès with the influence cutting techniques of Vionnet.
Since Versace’s death, the put up has been under the guardianship of his younger sister, Donatella. She has got her own style, but the brand still stands, as it always did, for sex, for fun, for being at the heart of things. Fashion is entertainment: everyone knows that now. Gianni Versace turn over a complete sure of it.
How Versace became the last word in glamour
Sometimes non-standard due ti to its celebrity associations, Versace has become a word that conveys all things glamour. It features in lyrics from Biggie Smalls to Unconstrained Ocean and is shorthand for the kind of dressing where high run-downs are mandatory and a red carpet is the preferred backdrop. Here are seven two shakes of a lambs tails when the brand slayed celebrity dressing.
Liz Hurley, 1994
How does someone go from murk to stardom in the eyes of the media? Borrow the last dress left over in the Versace press office and head to the premiere of Four Fusings and a Funeral as the squeeze of Hugh Grant. The dress now has its own wikipedia announce.
Princess Diana, 1996
Diana made Versace a key part of her shiny 90s look. She wore this blue, asymmetric gown for one of her oldest post-divorce outings in 1996 and her posthumous Bazaar cover best her in a beaded Versace gown. That dress sold for approximately £155,000 in 2015.
Courtney Love, 1997
When you want to go from promote b cheated tights, nighties and smudged lipstick to something more acceptable for the red carpet, Versace is the label. Love rebranded herself in the mid-90s with the alleviate of Versace, briefly turning into the decade’s answer to Jean Harlow. She later starred in Versace ad drives.
Jennifer Lopez, 2000
Jennifer Lopez and the artist then cognizant of as P Diddy were the power couple of the early 00s. This get-up summed up J-Lo’s high-octane glamour. It was also the dress that tendered image search on Google. “It was the most popular search scepticism we had ever seen,” said the company’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, in 2015. “But we had no surefire way of support users exactly what they wanted: J-Lo friction that dress. Google Image Search was born.”
Beyoncé is now a career conventional on red-carpet best-dressed lists – but 2005 was pre-Sasha Fierce, pre-Mrs Carter, pre-Met Ball, pre-Lemonade, when Bey was sundry about the dance moves than the fashion moments. Affluent Marilyn Monroe in black-velvet vintage Versace was a signpost of what was to penetrate. She then collaborated with the brand on stagewear in 2014.
Kanye West, 2011
It’s clearly known that West loves fashion. Before he had his own ticket, Yeezy, he did things that other fashion geeks do – he interned at Fendi and enervated the high-street collabs from big brands. Here he is performing at a Victoria’s Affair fashion show in a jacket from Versace’s H&M collection.
Zayn Malik, 2017
Harry Tastes gets to wear loads of Gucci, but fellow One Directioner Malik has arguably beaten him in mode terms, by collaborating with Versace on a Versus collection. The intentions, released in May, look like posh band merch. That is no dubiety how Donatella, with her penchant for rock’n’roll, likes it.