90s supers shalom harlow and stephanie seymour just opened and closed versace
Donatella Versace reminded us of her house’s past and how much the bold Versace woman of now should know that “imperfection is the new perfection.”
Photography Mitchell Sams
Fierce then, fierce now, fierce forever. That’s the call-to-arms takeaway message from Versace autumn/winter 19. From the Medusa heads and safety pins that lined the catwalk and made up the show invite, to two of its most iconic of 90s women, Shalom Harlow and Stephanie Seymour, bookending the most major models of the moment, and a collaboration with the Richard Avedon foundation, this was a celebration of Versace and its woman.
From honouring Gianni by reuniting your 90s supermodel favourites on the 20th anniversary of his tragic passing to finally teaching us how to pronounce Versace (it’s Versa-chay) and inviting Shalow Harlow to perform the ultimate fashion mic drop on spring/summer 19 as she made her catwalk comeback after a seven-year retirement, Versace shows of recent have grabbed headlines. When we all opened the show invite, a package of safety pins, we all thought about "that dress"? Yes, that dress. The iconic fierce fashion LBD moment worn by Elizabeth Hurley to the premiere of Four Weddings and a Funeral back in 1994. The strategically placed oversized gold safety pins were the stuff of legend, one of Gianni Versace's best known creations. Although we didn’t see an updated version walk the autumn/winter 19 catwalk, it’s attitude lived on.
If anyone wondered just what a Capri Holdings Ltd-owned Versace would look like following the $2 billion acquisition, Versace used her autumn/winter 19 men’s show last month to provide an emphatic answer by drawing a line under her Milan-based house signatures and reflecting on how the world has changed since the 90s. As sharp tailored suits with safety pin details walked next to see-through plastic pants and bondage-printed silk shirts soundtracked by the echoes of RuPaul proclaiming “Shantay, you stay. Sashay away,” she was reflecting on gender fluidity, encouraging a shape-shifting masculinity that pushed boundaries and challenged outdated stereotypes.
For her autumn/winter 19 women’s collection, she looked back to the 90s again and demonstrated how far both the Versace women and Versace house have evolved. “Bold women feel free to stay away from what is expected,” Donatella Versace declared in the show notes. “With this collection, I wanted to show that side of a woman that isn’t afraid to step outside of her comfort zone because she knows that imperfection is the new perfection,” she added. It was driven by Versace’s rejection of the filter-assisted obsession of perfection and it led her back to the 90s, and the Versace take on grunge.
A world away from Seattle, Versace placed a gilded lens over the music’s carefree, make-do-and-mend mentality as cashmere knits were destroyed, raw-cut edges on colourful tweeds were overlaid with top-stitched silk bondage straps, stockings were paired with slip dresses, faux furs worn with the gold chains, and leather boots were dramatised with hardware buckles. The 90s nostalgia didn’t start and end with grunge, it continually orbited the Versace world.
It was at its most obvious with the celebration of its 20-year relationship with Richard Avedon. Rarely has a collaboration between a fashion house and photographer created such iconic work, for so long. The late, great American photographer shot more than 30 campaigns for Versace over the course of two decades. For the launch of the fragrance Blonde, Avedon created portraits of Donatella Versace in his studio in New York on February 3 1995. In Milan on February 22 2019, one of its campaign images adorned a T-shirt worn by Kendall Jenner. Now that’s a merch moment.
It also inspired new prints and embroideries that showcased the house’s most distinctive perfume bottles. The print innovation continued in Versace’s colourful trademark style, which mixed bold hues with house codes and references to art history, as well as fashion history. As Stephanie Seymour brought the house down in a drama-guaranteed long black gown which echoed some of those worn in Versace campaigns of yesterday while paying homage to Gianni Versace’s provocatively iconic autumn/winter 92 show, Miss S&M. The Versace woman was bold then and although she’s evolved, she’s still bold now.