Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week: ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Fun has always been the watchword of the Versus line – the lower-priced, younger-aimed line helmed by Donatella when her brother, the label’s founder Gianni, was still alive

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There are fashion shows, then there are Versace shows. The latter are singled out from the former by the high celebrity count, the higher heels and the climbing-ever-higher hemlines. They’re usually at home in Milan, staged with the swaggering bravado of rock concerts, but for spring/summer 2015 Versace has been exported across the Atlantic to give New York a much-needed boost, like a shot of Vitamin D right into the fleshy flanks.

Vitamin D is, of course, Donatella Versace – fashion’s Dr Feelgood. If the Versace label were a prescription drug, it would alleviate fatigue and probably a flagging libido. Although maybe it would turn your hair platinum blonde in the process. “Fashion has to be fun,” said Donatella in a preview the day before her Sunday night show. “It’s a big business, sure. But it’s not a cure for cancer.”

Fun has always been the watchword of the Versus line – the lower-priced, younger-aimed line helmed by Donatella when her brother, the label’s founder Gianni, was still alive. With the razzle-dazzle Versace mainline and its Oscar roster of beaded gowns scheduled for Milan fashion week later this month, Versus was the one she transplanted to New York.

And having previously enlisted London leaders JW Anderson and Christopher Kane to give a fresh slant to the brand, this time it was the turn of Paris-based Anthony Vaccarello, a 32-year old half-Italian, half-Belgian designer with a propensity for souped-up, super-short frocks that reveal more than they conceal.

 

That’s probably why Vaccarello’s Versus Versace doesn’t just work as a natty piece of tongue-twisting alliteration (try saying it three times fast). This show, his first in collaboration with Donatella, was breathtakingly racy and pacy. Bar a monochrome baroque print of snarling lion’s heads and Greco-Roman columns, it was all black, punctuated with glistening touched of gilt.

Plexiglass discs sparkling with medallions circled the slender hips of cling-film tight skirts and asymmetric dresses. Others were scissored open, fastened together with staples and studs of gold in homage to that dress – Liz Hurley’s show-stopping, scene stealing 1994 Versace gown. Her stylistic spirit was riding high.

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‘Dr Feelgood’ Donatella Versace at her show

It could all have easily fallen into a brassy, trashy, Dorian from Birds of a Feather trap of too-short, too-tight and too tarty. But, gloriously, it walked that tightrope with ease. This collection had conviction: Versace and Vaccarello sold it to you. That’s literal, as well as metaphorical: the whole collection was offered for sale immediately online.

Just as Donatella said, fashion is a big business. New York reinforces that show after show. For all the anti-establishment “rock chic” of the Tommy Hilfiger backdrop, with live drummers beating out a rock beat and an AstroTurf catwalk strewn with flower child gerbera daisies for his haute Haight Ashbury hippy chicks to wander on, you never forgot it was about shifting product. It was difficult to forget when it all seemed so anodyne and accessible.

The Mr Freedom-inspired striped suiting, hodgepodge patchwork denim and billowing chiffon was inoffensive enough but it felt somewhat disingenuous to ally raiments of sixties anti-capitalism with one of the biggest corporations on the New York calendar.

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