With her autumn/winter 14 collection, Donatella Versace gave back to a new generation of men, beefed up, tanned and ready to devote their wardrobes to the hallowed Medusa head. We spoke to the designer about her new fans, the end of minimalism, and those leather chaps.
It’s like the Migos and Drake song says, “Versace my clothes while I’m sellin' them bows, Versace take over, it took out my soul.” For those who dedicate their wardrobes to Versace, it’s more than a look. It’s a lifestyle, and Donatella Versace knows it. Like fashion’s equivalent to a blinged-out mafiosa, at her last women’s show she took her bow to the tones of the song in question, walking down the runway to the rappers’ endless reiteration of her celebrated surname with a face that said, “Yeah, I got my own song. So what? Who cares?” It was a moment in a string of instalments over the past seasons, which have taken Versace from phenomenon to marvel, and the awesome kind at that. And while Versace’s female fan base always remained devoted to the Medusa head, it’s Donatella’s new group of male admirers, who have cemented her status as living legend all over again. “It’s like a new Versace movement happening all around the world. It’s so exciting for me, because Versace is my family; it’s in my blood. It’s like we are just at the beginning of an exciting new journey,” Donatella says.
For her autumn/winter 14 men’s collection, the Versace matriarch hit up the countless blogs and Tumblrs of cyberspace dedicated to her late brother’s swirly baroque shirts, animal prints and general swag, to reinvent the vintage Versace look for a new era, and, in essence, give the kids what they want. As she says, “It’s actually young men who are telling me themselves that they want more Versace. There’s a whole new generation of young men who weren’t even born for many of Versace’s classic moments, who now want to wear our print, colour, embellishment, and wear it in their own way.” And don’t think it’s just for the bejewelled rappers of the world. If the mile-long queues of skinny white boys waiting to raid H&M for Versace’s collaboration with the high-street giant two years ago were anything to go by, Versace makes the man and not the other way around. While the house’s change in menswear directions – circa spring/summer 12 – played a significant part in the renewed celebration of the Versace man, the opulent winds of change in the fashion climate certainly haven’t hurt their case, either.
From one season to the next, it seemed the minimalism and restraint, which ruled the minds of fashion consumers for so long, were suddenly long gone. It was a spirit manifested throughout the autumn/winter 14 men’s shows, and one that Versace set the mood for on the first day of Milan. “While we were making the collection, if someone said, ‘Do you think it’s too much?’ we knew that the question really should be, ‘Is it enough?’ This new Versace movement doesn’t want us to be cautious. They want us to give them the loudest print and the most intricate embellishment,” Donatella says. “They also want it to be relevant to life today. That’s why I love the t-shirts in the collection with an oversized hand-drawn Medusa’s head. It’s a look that’s ready for the street, and it’s always ‘more is more’.” What culture better to sum up that very philosophy than prairie Americana, with its rodeo bling, patched denim trousers and homoerotic chaps? The Versace collection had all of those things, albeit by way of American biker culture, motor helmets and gold chains in tow.
“I love rebels. I always have done. I started thinking about cowboys, the true outlaws, but then I didn’t want to just be looking at the past. I was thinking about outlaws today, and for me that is the biker. And so I wanted to bring these two worlds together. There’s a lot in these worlds that’s also part of the Versace DNA, such as leather and denim. And then we added everything else: embellishment, chinchilla, beading,” Donatella explains. “Things are never minimal at Versace.” It’s a fact that doesn’t just go for her streetwear, but for her tailoring, too. After all, what would the Versace man be without his power suit? “I love a man in a classic one button Versace suit, making a strong V silhouette, with a silk shirt and roll-neck beneath. There are so many different sides of the Versace man that I adore,” Donatella says, noting that her favourite elements in the collection also count “the denim that looks as if it has been greased and the leather blouson with the Vanitas quilt. The camel coat is amazing, and also the boucle tuxedo with real gold thread. And of course the chaps…”
The most instagrammed, tweeted and facebooked component of the Versace collection, the autumn/winter 14 chaps became a kind of myth at the men’s shows, with editors comparing their ultimate snapshots of the crowning attributes for days on end: that hard-as-steel male derriere, clad in Versace underwear. “They’re part of the cowboy uniform, so we had to do them. I mean, it wouldn’t be cowboy without chaps,” Donatella says. And while the legwear in question would perhaps be too much of a mouthful for Versace’s tailoring clientele – and Migos and Drake, for that matter – they signified the entire idea of Versace: the red-blooded masculinity, the unapologetic sex appeal, the twinkle in the eye, and the unparalleled fabulousness, which are waving the flag for a new era of Versace menswear. And come autumn, if you’re wondering how to wear your new Versace chaps, Donatella’s got that covered, too. “They are best worn with Versace underwear, obviously, especially our new bandana prints. And also, maybe they’re best worn by a man who’s a regular at the gym.”