Donatella Versace on fashion and celebrity
With Christopher Kane, who interviews her here, the doyenne of rock n roll style is half of a new fashion power pairing
What was the fashion scene like when you started out? Was it very different from today?
When I started to work in fashion, it was a more creative world, or rather a place where creativity could be freely expressed, without giving a thought to the marketing and business considerations that now dominate this world.
How do you rate the young designers of today: are they more or less creative?
Of course, designers today are much better trained. They have so much material to learn from and have access to the work of the great names who have created fashion. In one sense this makes them more confident. As for their creativity ... well, I think that so much has already been tried out, that young designers need to be more creative, while at the same time they need to be more alert and keep their feet firmly on the ground, because creativity for its own sake achieves nothing.
What qualities do British designers have that sets them apart?
Insatiable curiosity and a love of experimentation.
How vital is experimentation in a brand like Versace?
It has always been extremely important and it is even more so today, when we find ourselves in such difficult economic circumstances. It is at times like these that it is essential to be more creative than ever, trying out radical new ideas but never losing sight of our own DNA. It is vital to attract the consumer’s attention with something special — one reason we decided to relaunch Versus.
What do you like most about fashion?
Expressing myself creatively by mixing different artistic worlds, for instance music, art, theatre and cinema.
What do you find most boring about fashion?
Probably the excessive emphasis on finance that has infiltrated this world, sometimes limiting the creative process itself.
What causes you the most stress during the creation of a garment? And what gives you the most pleasure?
I have to say that presenting a collection to the public has always and still does cause me a certain amount of anxiety, but the show itself is the moment of truth, the moment when you discover whether or not your work is good. When you have done a good job and the public appreciates it, the satisfaction you feel is utterly unique!
How did your brother Gianni influence the way you approach fashion?
Gianni taught me many things; above all that art knows no boundaries and that different forms of art can combine to great effect. A factor that is a constant in my collections, and that has always been a characteristic of Versace, is the glamour that identifies our evening gowns and cocktail dresses. He also taught me to concentrate on maximising a woman’s femininity, making her feel special and unique.
While I was creating the clothes and accessories for Versus, I listened to a lot of rock. How important is music to you?
Music is very important — it stimulates me, gives me energy and provides continuous inspiration for my collections. I have always been passionate about music, especially rock.
You have always had a close relationship with bands and musicians. Why do you think that is?
Musicians and singers have invariably had a special rapport with Maison Versace. They often attend our shows and many have become true friends, such as Prince and Elton John. My passion for music has always attracted me to this world.
Do you enjoy the social and celebrity-driven aspect of the fashion scene, or do you just endure it?
It’s a love-hate relationship. I would definitely prefer not to be obliged to attend certain events and parties, but I must ... On the other hand, I have to admit that I do actually enjoy acting up to the “diva” role that I have been allotted: after all, I am a bit of a diva, aren’t I?
Christopher Kane has designed an autumn/winter capsule collection of accessories for the relaunch of the Versace label VERSUS.