Gianni Versace wrote in Men Without Ties, ‘I admire men who have the courage to become heroes’. Donatello – as always – stayed true to her late brother’s ethos, opening her S/S show with an arrowhead formation of seven buffed, bronzed near-nude Herculean warriors (they were launching Versace’s new underwear and swimwear collections). These poor models certainly had Gianni’s aforementioned pluck – walking a catwalk to the sound of Queen’s We Will Rock You in fishnet white pants or a jock strap and roman sandals with a straight face is no mean feat.
Gianna’s love of all things Greek and Roman underpinned much of Donatella’s offering. Classical references were rife – from the toga-like shapes to the harness-style leather accessories (housing the modern mans’ weapon, an iPad, rather than a Roman sword). Running alongside the gladiator team was an eighties vibe – apt perhaps give the in-it-to-win-it machismo of that decade’s power dressing. Suits had slim hips and broad, constructed shoulders, offering a cartoonistic Jonny Bravo V-shaped figure.
As ever, Donatello had just as much fun with the surface as the silhouette. Alongside the usual scattering of gold hardware there were bold floral prints taken from the Versace archive. There was also a heavy portion of metallic leather (also seen at Burberry and Neil Barrett – it’s officially, and unfortunately, a trend).
This could have been one of the classic Versace shows, all the elements were present: the celebrity contingent - in the form of a selection of generic teen stars - the Mr T golden hardware and peacock accessories, and, of course, the nudity – at points said poor unexpecting VIP invitees didn’t know where to look. This tribute to the Gianni heydays of the early nineties can be read in multiple ways. I’d like to see it as two fingers up to the cautious, financially-shrewd safe-plays other designers are making with their plain suiting and simple leather accessories. Just as Gianni always charged on with his sequins, sparkle and shine come hell or high-water, Donatella is also laughing her way through the recession one gold stud at a time.
So what’s the verdict? It was crass, it was vulgar, it was tacky – it was Versace at its best. I don’t know who will buy the stuff, but at least Donatella is still having fun. That’s more than can be said for a lot of designers. Kudos to her for that.