Donatella Versace, speaking exclusively to WWD in Milan ahead of the event, said she chose Los Angeles to unveil the brand’s coed fall 2023 collection because the city made her feel closer to nature and allowed her to feel “a sense of freedom.”
Although details of the location are being kept under wraps for security reasons, the show on Thursday is planned to be staged outdoors with a view of the ocean and the city skyline — hence the nature and the freedom the designer was referring to. The date was shifted from Friday, when the show was originally scheduled, because rain is forecast that day.
No matter — Versace is sure to take things in stride, as the designer was clearly in an upbeat mood and excited about her first show in Los Angeles, decamping from her usual home base of Milan.
“I generally never leave Milan [to show] but this season I wanted to do something different, to challenge myself out of my comfort zone, to see how it works in another surrounding. I like changes. Last year, I often traveled to the U.S., and in Los Angeles I feel freer, I don’t know, maybe it’s the ocean…” mused Versace smiling.
The show will take place ahead of Oscars weekend, and there is no doubt that the designer has had long-lasting, friendly relationships with Hollywood A-listers, from Jennifer Lopez and Madonna to Lady Gaga and Catherine Zeta-Jones, to name a few.
“Cinema and fashion are very much connected, and require the same kind of commitment. I have met so many beautiful, strong, intelligent and confident actresses over the years, and getting to know them personally, you realize they are shy and insecure as anybody else — they don’t see themselves as so fabulous. They are so worried before the Oscars or any red carpet because they expose themselves to the world and to critiques, just as designers do in fashion before a show, wondering what people will think, have I done a good job or not?” Versace said.
“So this is what I try to do with my fashion, to give confidence, offer something of an armor as a protection, that will make you feel strong and safe. And especially so with this collection.”
Los Angeles, however, is not only about fame and celebrity, she continued.
“In L.A., there are so many interesting people, also unknown, so many writers, musicians, new clubs, things to discover and so much creativity, it’s a different way to approach life. New York is beautiful, but always on the go. I associate it more with work, it never stops, but to stop and think is important.”
Decamping to Los Angeles is especially significant for Versace now because the designer feels “the need to escape.” She acknowledged the increasing weight of the responsibility of her role, which is part of “a mechanism that does not allow you to make mistakes” to protect the company and its employees. That demands a continuous flow of collections to satisfy the market.
“It can become suffocating, so I like this kind of L.A. culture in this moment because it’s more relaxing and more interesting. It makes me feel free, I can be in contact with nature, and it fuels my curiosity — always key in my job.”
Versace acknowledged she shares the responsibility with the management (the company is controlled by Capri Holdings). “I have my own vision, but I listen to others, to the CEO, he’s bravissimo [very good]. I am very happy and he’s even more fashionable than I am,” she said laughing, referring to Emmanuel Gintzburger, who left Alexander McQueen for Versace in March last year. “He gives me security.”
The fall collection, however, is not inspired or dedicated to Los Angeles per se, but veers toward a more sartorial look, “quality over quantity. I adore streetwear but this is the moment to say we are a luxury company,” Versace said.
So much so that the designer was inspired by an Atelier collection from 1995, and she will include five new couture designs in the lineup. “This is the first time couture looks will be part of a ready-to-wear show at Versace, and the constructions inspire the ready-to-wear,” the designer said.
Pointing at archival photos on a mood board of Kristen McMenamy, Kate Moss, Nadja Auermann, Shalom Harlow and Linda Evangelista — whom Donatella and her brother Gianni turned into international supermodels — Versace reminisced that the 1995 Atelier collection was “essential, without too many decorations,” and this is something she is aiming to reproduce, “together with the Atelier constructions and savoir faire.”
Examples are the hourglass shapes, enhancing the breast and the hips. The menswear will be inspired by the same period, with a larger fit on pants and more body-conscious tailoring, jacquard, tweeds and chandelier tops. There will also be a crocodile motif from the archive as a texture, knitted or embossed.
There will be only two prints — a Dalmatian pattern and a floral, stylized one.
Versace is not planning to attend the Oscars ceremony, but will go to the yearly Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party. “It’s for charity,” she pointed out as a reason, adding, however, “it’s so much fun — I’ve been there once already.”
Versace has been in Los Angeles for a few days now. As reported, the Council of Fashion Designers of America and Versace have partnered on an educational initiative focused on an LGBTQ program, which launched with a masterclass featuring the designer at the Los Angeles LGBT Center earlier this month.
The CFDA and Versace are also partnering on a new scholarship for LGBTQ fashion design students, to launch later this year.
Working with the city’s Otis College of Art and Design, the CFDA has arranged for 10 students to attend the Versace show.
Asked about any future projects or goal, the designer was quick to respond: “The future for me is right now, this moment is the most important.”