It’s hard to write an introduction that would do the house of Versace any true justice; universally understood as the label that embodied the outrageous glamour and decadence of the fashion world in the closing decades of the 20th century, we knew we were in the presence of a legend that evening. As someone initially indifferent to the label and to Donatella herself, I walked out of the talk elated and stunned at her utterly transparent honesty, warmth and humility. No better choice for drawing the weekend to a close, the ‘Woman of our time’ (as the talk was aptly named), captivated us all as she recounted tales of her childhood, career and personal struggles with humour and dignity.
Entering the stage to the biggest round of applause and cheers I’d heard all weekend, it was obvious that this was what people had been waiting for all weekend. The talk tackled some pretty heavy topics including of course, the death of her brother and founder of the house, Gianni. Whilst there are few who don’t know the story, what a lot of us didn’t know was that she’d been on the phone to him just four minutes before he was tragically shot. Having taken on the enormous responsibility of creative director immediately following his death, Donatella-The-Person, who is often overlooked in favour of Donatella-Hair-Bleach-and-Leather, seemed to really resonate with the audience as a strong willed, determined and inspirational individual.
Her charming husky Italian accent simply added to the fantasy of her famously decadent persona, clad in embarrassingly large diamonds and leather so tight I could hear her squeak as she adjusted every so often. Despite this, she gave off a genuine air of humility; speaking fondly of Christopher Kane and JW Anderson, the two most recent collaborators for Versace’s Versus collection, it’s clear she devotes an enormous amount of her time and efforts towards nurturing young talent. Explaining she loves to work with designers who share a completely different vision to her own (she counts Miuccia Prada as a close friend), she shared with us an openness that would be unexpected of someone at the helm of a power house with such firmly established roots and aesthetics.
Closing to questions from some frighteningly hysterical fans, when asked what her proudest moment was she simply stated, ‘talking to you kids here today’. The thing is I don’t think anyone doubted her for a second, including me. Played out to ‘Versace’, an acapella song dedicated to her and sung by a fabulously eccentric indie trio of fans fitted the bizarre yet pleasant informality of the evening. The weekend ended with a wonderful optimism and on my way out, I overheard Alexandra Shulman explaining that despite that it had been a manic two days, she was sad that it was finally over. Well so are we, and if this year is anything to go by, we can’t wait until Vogue Festival 2014 hits us.