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12 October 2009

Gianni Versace, S.p.A.

"I've always said that I would like to mix rock and simplicity because this is fashion, they're the extremes, chic and shock. That's why Lady Diana and Madonna--two of the most important women of the moment--wear Versace and I think I'm satisfied by this. Even if it took me twenty years, I've got to where I wanted to go."
-- Gianni Versace --

On December 2, 1946, Gianni Versace was born in Reggio Calabria, Italy.  Gianni began working as a freelance designer after an apprenticeship at his mother's, Francesca, dressmaking business.  His mother fashioned gowns for the region's elite.  Gianni was sent out for precious stones and materials for these gowns.   Right before entering the work in fashion design, Gianni moved to Milano to study architecture. 

Ezio Nicosia, owner of Florentine Flowers of Lucca, invited Gianni in 1972 to his first fashion design opportunity (outside the family businesses), designing a knitwear collection for the fall and winter, in Milano.  He was so successful that he even earned a Volkswagen convertible as a bonus to his regular fee.  By 25, Gianni was creating prêt-à-porter collections for the top fashion houses of the time.  Those include: Genny, Complice, Alma, De Parisini of Santa Margherita, and Callaghan.

With the help of Gianni's older brother, Santo, the Gianni Versace company was founded in 1978.  Santo was an accountant and became the managing director and chairman of Gianni Versace SpA.  Younger sister, Donatella, began coordinating accessories with Gianni's designs and moved quickly into promotional work and advertising.  Gianni used to call her his "inspiring muse."

Santo, Donatella, e Gianni Versace

That same year, the first Gianni Versace women's collection was shown in Milano, Italy at the Palazzo della Permanente Museo del'Arte.  Later that same year, Gianni's first menswear collection followed.  Gianni also began to work with Jorge Saud, who later would become partners with Giorgio Armani.

In 1978, the first official Versace boutique opened in Milano's Via della Spiga.

Gianni e Donatella

Gianni consistently challenged the boundaries of the fashion industry with his bold, creative genius.  Gianni is known for his distinctive cuts, vibrant prints, and unconventional materials.  He united high-art and contemporary culture.  Gianni was most influenced by Andy Warhol, Ancient Roman and Greek art, as well as modern abstract art.  It was not long before he earned international praise. 

Gianni won the Cutty Sark and Golden Eye ("L'Occhio d'Oro") awards in 1982, for his 1982-1983 Fall/Winter women's collection.  In this collection, Gianni introduced his famous metal chain-mail dress.  The L'Occhio d'Oro was also awarded to Gianni Versace in 1984, 1990, and 1991.

In 1982, Gianni began working for the Teatro della Scala (Milano), designing costumes.  He continued designing costumes for this theatre until 1989.  Gianni was awarded the "Maschera d'Argento" (Silver Mask) award in 1985, for his contribution to this theatre.  Gianni continued to design costumes for various films and TV series, such as: Miami Vice (1989, TV series) and Judge Dredd, among others, between 1989 and 1997.

Openly gay, Versace and his partner, Antonio D'Amico (whom he met in 1982), were regulars on the international party scene.  Antonio was a model.  D'Amico eventually worked as a designer for the company, becoming head designer for Istante and Versus Sport.
D'Amico e Versace

The Jury of the Cutty Sark Award named Gianni "the most innovative and creative designer in the world," in 1988.  The Council of Fashion Designers of America awarded Gianni, in 1993, the American Fashion Oscar.  He was also honored by both the Italian and French presidents.

The Versace flagship was first opened in 1994, in Kurfürstendamm, Berlin.  That same year, the "Versace Signatures" exhibition first opened at the Kunstgewerbemuseum.

Between 1994 - 1996, Gianni published four books (in both English and Italian).  These books were: "Designs," "Men Without Ties," "Do Not Disturb," and "Rock and Royalty."

The first Versus fashion show was held in New York in 1995.  Within the same year, Gianni sponsored the Haute Couture exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

On 15 July 1997, Gianni Versace was shot twice, point-blank, in the head and killed by Andrew Cunanan in front of his South Beach, Miami, Florida beach-front property, while getting the mail after his usual morning stroll.  Cunanan used the same gun that he used to kill Versace upon himself on a boat, several days later.

Versace "was killed at his peak, a time when his continual retooling of his inventions had produced his best work ever." Trade magazine Daily News Record asserted that "fashion has lost one of its brightest superstars at the height of his career." Time magazine's John Greenwald concurred that "at his death, the designer was at the height of his powers." Gianni was lost to us barely a month before he had introduced what the Daily News Record called "one of the strongest collections in years."  A statement released by the family shortly after Versace's death asserted that "the indomitable spirit, the amazing vitality and the faith in creativity that makes Gianni Versace so important to everyone is something that we are completely committed to and most capable of continuing."

It was announces in September 1997 that Gianni's brother, Santo, and Jorge Saud would serve as the new CEOs of Gianni Versace S.P.A.  Gianni's younger sister, Donatella, became the new head of design.  The company went public in 1998.  Gianni left de facto control of his global enterprise to his sister Donatella by bequeathing his stake in the company to her, at the time, 11-year-old daughter, Allegra Beck.
Allegra Beck (Top, now)
Gianni Versace e Allegra (Bottom, in Miami Villa)

To this day, the Versace line continues to include the various items, including: men's/women's attire, lingerie, umbrellas, make-up, hosiery, shoes, watches, jewelry, fragrances, home furnishing, tableware, bed and bath, linens, lamps, carpets, jeans, sports-attire, children's attire, and more!  Versace maintains it's second place status among fashion designers in Italy, to the rival house of Giorgio Armani.

Here's to you, Gianni! Sarai mancato!


Versace Official Website


Wikipedia - Gianni Versace 

Funding Universe - Gianni Versace SpA Company History 

Google - Versace Timeline

Official Style Website

Gay TV Official Website

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