The Things That Shaped Our Year: Gianni Versace

From the death of Diana to the birth of Dolly, and from the rise of Bridget Jones to the fall of the Spice Girls - our writers choose the 10 people and events which made 1997 so special

You Would think that since black clothes and dark glasses are practically its official uniform, the fashion industry might handle death in a relatively stoic manner. Yet the violent murder of Gianni Versace - shot twice in the back of the head, at point-blank range, on 15 July this year - traumatised devotees, celebrities, peers and rivals alike.

How they grieved over the gravy-skinned god of all things gaudy! Naomi, Elton, Liz and George - red-eyed and deeply, deeply shocked. Kate, Claudia, Giorgio and pout- rocker Jon Bon Jovi - who had recently figured in a Versace poster campaign - thumbed the lexicon of loss to pronounce themselves stunned, distraught, devastated. They just couldn't believe it.

Why? Partly because the murder was so brutally efficient - shot dead on the steps of his own house - but mainly because it was too damn close to home. Darling Gianni, after all, had been one of them. If not a star, at least a household name, an international media personality, who had built his pounds 400m fortune by marketing narcissism as a lifestyle choice.

This, in fact, was the key to his success: Versace understood the anxieties of the nouveaux riches, and taught them to relax, to luxuriate in their aesthetic shortcomings. He took nightclub drag upmarket and gave it a trademark, inventing a sartorial shorthand for the garish display of wealth; flashy, colourful, cartoon clothes that railed against fashion's minimalism and intellectual snobbery. Versace's top-dollar glad-rags proclaimed defiantly: "I'm gonna wear my dough on my sleeve. And my hips. And my shoulders. And my arse. And ..." He also purchased magazine advertising by the kilometre and threw lavish parties for the media's upper echelons. Unsurprisingly, the fashion press acclaimed his genius.

In a way, they were right. Versace clothes effect a strange alchemy, conferring a golden glow upon the dowdiest showbiz dross. Their power lies in sardonic caricature. In Versace's universe, gender is exaggerated beyond parody: women look like rich hookers and men look like queer pimps and closeted gangsters - except for gay men, of course, who look like Miami Beach gigolos.

As for Versace as the champion of liberated sexuality, this is tugging the tassels a bit. Sure, his clothes are about sex, but not in the way that Hello! readers imagine. As fashion statements go, wearing Versace is more a cry for help than a seductive growl, rather like thrusting one's hips a little too frantically to "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" at the office party. (Rod Stewart, incidentally, is a noted Versace wearer.)

Always looking to grab headlines, Versace courted celebrity in all its ludicrous shapes and sizes, fuelling the supermodel phenomenon and kissing up to Demi, Sly, Tina and, er, David Copperfield. It was a mutually beneficial situation; celebs believed they seemed more cosmopolitan and sophisticated hanging out with a gay Italian designer, while Versace got a touch of that Hollywood glitz.

In this era of image saturation, any brand that transcends fashion's boundaries is priceless. Versace created just such a brand. Whether he did this with innovative, challenging clothes, or by knocking out sensational tack and manipulating a star-hungry media is a matter of opinion.

Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform