Focus: The label that will survive

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The Independent Online
Gianni Versace is dead, but there is still plenty of life left in Versace. His past work is already designated as a collectable, and the impact of his murder on its value is to be tested at Christie's on 4 September. The item in question is a grey and black linen Versace jacket, worn by Eric Clapton on the cover of his 1986 album August.

"It is very difficult to predict how much Versace will increase in value," says Giles Moon, Christie's rock and pop specialist. Although the auction house does not intend to alter the pounds 1,200 guide price, Mr Moon says modestly that he expects far more interest than usual. He could multiply the guide price by 10 and no one would raise an eyebrow.

It will not only be the ladies who lunch who will be keen to buy an item from the final Gianni Versace collection. Costume museums will also be watching with interest. The Victoria and Albert Museum already holds several Versace items from the 1980s, after the designer held a day of seminars there in 1988 and donated several items from his collection.

And there is more, because we have not seen the last of Versace yet. Fashion designers usually work up to three seasons - one-and-a-half years - in advance. Versace had made the final touches to this year's autumn and winter couture collection, which will be on sale shortly. His spring and summer collection for 1998 has been paraded on the catwalk, but it will not appear in the shops until next February.

Whatever price Eric Clapton's jacket fetches at Christie's, the real test comes in the shops. Can the name survive Gianni Versace's death? Experience suggests it will linger on, but, without his flamboyant presence in the cutting room, it will lose its lustre.

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