Donatella goes her own way

DONATELLA VERSACE took the unprecedented step yesterday of hosting a press conference, to preview her second collection for the house since her brother's death last year. "I'm very nervous," she confessed. "I think I have more to prove ... It was easier when Gianni was here."

Dressed in a black trouser suit and spiky black patent leather boots, Donatella fingered the dark sunglasses bearing her family name, her petite fingers weighed down by huge diamond crustaceans. Her brother Santo, the business brains behind the company, watched her pensively from one side. "The collection is about today and what's going on in the world," she said. "It's very important to be in touch with reality."

Quite where the Versace take on reality meets everyone else's is unclear. For most women, a lilac chiffon ruffled evening dress, a metallic boucle trouser suit, a pair of combat boots with faux diamonds studded in the heels, a canary yellow fox-fur-collared cashmere coat, or a silver chain mail all-in-one pant suit, fly far into the realms of fantasy. But for Donatella, there is nothing impractical about these clothes: "Personally, I like pants for day and skirts for evening. The fabrics don't wrinkle, so it's easier to travel in them." On Concorde maybe, but try getting the chain mail all in one through the metal detector.

Donatella also put to rest rumours of who will design the next haute couture collection for the house. The British designers Antonio Berardi, Antony Price and Deborah Milner have all been mentioned in connection with the job. "I've been approached by people, and I'm flattered," she said. But for the forseeable future, the job remains in her hands, with the help of design assistants from Central St Martin's.

The collection itself is confident and assured. Models walk down a Swarovski crystal glittering catwalk, wearing the silhouette that Donatella has decreed will be the look of next autumn: long and lean. Skirts are almost floor length; jackets have narrow kimono sleeves. Colours range from purple to black, with silver and a splash of yellow.