versace for president
On Friday evening in Milan, Donatella Versace dedicated her show to a new age of female empowerment, reminding us of the monumental decision America could be about to make.
What with the lack of pantsuits and tailored separates, Hillary Clinton perhaps isn't your natural Versace girl. But if Madam Secretary needed a pep talk before the first presidential debate between her and Donald Trump on Monday, Donatella served it up for her in her spring/summer 17 show. It continued last season's female empowerment theme in a Ladytron-esque spoken soundtrack by Violet + Photonz, calling for women to "take the leap — our past is behind us." Versace's clothes are empowering by default, in that glamour sexpot way Gianni distilled from the Italian power women he and Donatella grew up with, a femininity Donatella both embodies and draws on in her own work for Versace. This collection was decidedly sporty — perfect for Serena Williams, who attended the show in a sports-striped crop top and tight trouser, much to the delight of tennis queen Anna Wintour backstage — and echoed Donatella's parachute-y menswear moment this summer in sweeping coats and skirts. In this moment in time, however, it doesn't seem as if Donatella is too concerned with that side of things. To her, this era of Versace is about making a difference in a world that could soon have its first female president, as she said backstage.
Throughout the salacious election between Clinton and Trump, it's something America and its surrounding world seem to have forgotten. Voters are slowly but surely eating up Trump's propaganda against Clinton, shifting focus from the crucial moment in history her presidency will represent to character assassinations fueled by her email and health debacles, and the sad willingness for people to make Clinton out to be a crook. On a perhaps different level, several women in and around the Versace show served as a reminder that female faces and voices, who dare to aim for power in and outside their fields often have to defend their characters and causes. Naomi Campbell walked the show — a woman who could easily have spent a life sitting back and enjoying the good fortunes of her looks, but chose to get involved with charities such as Nelson Mandela's foundation. In the media, she has often been painted as a dragon lady rather than a humanitarian. More recently, Gigi Hadid, who closed the show, had to defend her so-called curvaceous looks (she is stick thin) and trademark runway prance to an Instagram following, who attacked her for it.
The fresh breath of air she's brought to the modeling scene has often been overshadowed by accusations of nepotism — that she is simply the fortunate daughter of a multi-millionaire, Mohammed Hadid, and his Real ex-Housewife, Yolanda, and somehow doesn't deserve it. And backstage, Wintour made a rare post-show appearance to look after Serena. The American Vogue editrice was the indirect subject of The Devil Wears Prada, the book and eventual film in which she was portrayed as a control freak boss lady, who'd do anything to stay in power. Women historically associated with Versace, who weren't present, only go to show that this brand has always been a defender of the unapologetic female ambition in the world — just look at occasional Versace campaign girl Madonna, who, quite literally, continues to put her ass on the line for a society where women won't get judged by their gender, looks, age or sex appeal. No, Hillary Clinton wouldn't wear a skin-tight body suit with purple and green swirls on it, the way Edie Campbell did when she opened the Versace show last night. But in spirit, Madam Secretary is every bit the Versace woman.
Text Anders Christian Madsen
Photography Mitchell Sams