'That' Iconic Dress Is Back As Versace Goes For Gloss & Glam
The Italian label has long led the cult of celebrity ‘It’ dress moments. For her first show in the Big Apple, Donatella is hoping she can do it all again
When Elizabeth Hurley wore a black dress held together with gold safety pins for the 1994 premiere of Four Weddings and a Funeral she set a sartorial fashion promotion tone that has been mined ever since. Who knew walking into a cinema could be such a career coup?
In a 2008 poll, the dress was voted the most “iconic celebrity dress moment” of all time, overruling Audrey Hepburn’s Oscar-winning Givenchy and Cher’s 1987 Bob Mackie splash. Hurley’s hastily borrowed sample was sold at Harrods for $19,797 in 2007.
This isn’t the first time “That” dress has been revisited by the brand. For its 20-year anniversary in 2014, the now-defunct Versus “little sister” line showed a version of it, again in New York. But since winding down her second line, Donatella has reclaimed the safety pin fastening back to its original mainline home.
Versace the brand is enjoying something of an “It” moment. Last year she reunited Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, Carla Bruni and Helena Christensen in a show commemorating 20 years since her brother Gianni was killed on the steps of his home in Miami. The collection was a tribute and reimagining of the brash baroque prints he pioneered, as well as the pure electric brand power generated by the glamorous personalities wearing it.
The show sparked renewed interest in her brother’s early work, sending the prices for his vintage pieces sky high. It’s also led to a new adoption of the logo, seen in the popularity of its T-shirts emblazoned with the name and chunky stylised trainers among a burgeoning millennial audience.
To add a little more myth, mystique and cross-cultural appeal (as well as hefty brand recognition), throw in one of the best television series of the past year, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (not affiliated with the house and described by its matriarch as a “fiction”), and you have the recipe for a reignition of something that Versace hasn’t been for a while — relevant.
“Sexy now is not about being revealing,” the 63-year-old designer said before the show. “It’s about how things hang on your body, how it makes you feel. You can wear a short dress with sneakers. It’s not sexy any more, it’s just cool.”
At Sunday night’s Pre-Fall 19 show in New York the front row would certainly point that way. In glammed-up attendance were Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, Lupita Nyong’o, Tracee Ellis Ross, Uma Thurman, Paris Jackson, Blake Lively, Diane Kruger, Bradley Cooper and Mary J Blige. The audience was populated with diehard fans of the label, who had pitched up in full head-to-toe printed looks. It was quite the scene.
The collection itself had a gloss of that old-school Versace glam — souped-up glossy hair, glossy girls (Gigi Hadid, Lineisy Montero, Adut Akech, Amber Valletta, Binx Walton, Kaia Gerber, Hailey Bieber, Irina Shayk) in flashy looks. As well as holding together slithers of fabric, the gold safety pin was worn as an earring and hair accessory, and cleverly used to splice the back of very successful longline black tailored jackets. There were striking zebra prints, faux “ecological” fur, printed Swarovski crystal mesh, as well as plenty of printed scarves, layered gold-tone jewellery, branded tote bags and pull-along suitcases.
Donatella described it as a meeting of the two tenets of Versace — ie her and Gianni. He was there in the safety pins, she took the finale — a re-issue of the green palm print dress worn by Jennifer Lopez in 2000 to such commotion that Google invented its image search function off the back of it. It returned on Amber Valletta, the same model who wore the original version in the turn-of-the-century show. Here it came in a Jim Dine heart print — the artist commissioned by Gianni for many pieces that decorated his New York home (everything is linked). It was for her “an emotional night” because of being in the city where she spent so much time with her brother, because it was also his birthday (he would have been 72).
In the background to all of this is September’s news that the Versace family are in the process of selling the company to Michael Kors Holdings — now renamed Capri Holdings -—which last year acquired Jimmy Choo, as it moves to position itself as a glossy luxury conglomerate to take on the industry-dominating LVMH and Kering groups. For its sale, the label was valued at $2.9 billion -— impressive, but relative small fry for a house with the fame and notoriety of Versace.
The plan is to capitalise on this and turn it into much more of a global powerhouse. There will be new stores around the world, a focus on expanding its accessories business, and, as is the way to market these items for the social media influenced consumers, more fashion shows. From now on, the label will put on two more a year, for these lucrative so-called pre-collections. The next will be in May (after menswear in January and women’s autumn/winter 19 in February). In short, plenty of added heat.
Whether it will be hot enough to ignite the house for a new generation and for its own posterity will be something to see.
— The Daily Telegraph