In September 2018, Capri Holdings — formerly Michael Kors Holdings — acquired Versace for $2.1 billion. So for her Spring/Summer 2020 collection creative director Donatella Versace could have gone all out, throwing a Chanel-like show spectacle.
Instead, she opted to look inwards taking a more personal approach by paying tribute to her late friend and The Prodigy frontman Keith Flint, who passed away in March and who, according to Donatella, “was disruption.”
Flint’s over-the-top performance once graced the runway during a pre-show in 2004 for Versace during which is licked the faces of audience members and simulated oral sex on others.
Despite the frontman’s passing, he was there in spirit. The Prodigy’s famed track “Firestarter” opened the show with green, orange, yellow and pink-haired models fiercely stomping down the runway dressed in leopard, bleached tie-dye, racing classes and leather-everything, resembling the dress codes of Flint himself.
Flint embodied rebellion and pure, stereotyped, masculinity, which is what Donatella wanted to bring to her latest collection. It was about the personal journey of a young man, who was coming of age and finding his confidence.
“For this collection, I wanted to explore the elements that empower a man. It’s definitely the confidence, freedom and desire to express himself without hesitation,” Donatella explained.
Through status symbols like race cars and intentionally oversized silhouettes she evoked the spirit of adolescence. In the middle of the runway there was a real-sized black rotating sports car covered in pink, purple and white flowers. It was created by artist and friend of the house, Andy Dixon, whose popular vases and race car motifs could also be found on silk shirts, knitwear and light metallic separates. After all, “when a man becomes a man the first thing he wants is a car,” she said.
Traditional masculinity was also present in the form of power suits which were revisited through innovative silhouettes, fabrics and playful hardware accents that boasted empowering messages. Double-breasted jackets mixed and matched in fabrics paid tribute to the brand’s DNA. Animal laminated textures and lurex two-pieces juxtaposed the formalwear and imposed a new energy. Then there was Biggie Medusa eyewear depicted in pop-art motifs and placed on silk shirts and sweatpants, while vintage Versace fragrance ads of mythological character Narcissus featured on denim.
When it comes to men, Dontella’s main reference will always be her late brother Gianni, who founded the house in 1978 and was murdered in 1997. So naturally he, too, was present throughout the show. His signature could be found on ties, trousers and sneakers. The latter were designed by Yeezy alumna Salehe Bembury, the man responsible for Versace’s hit “Chain Reaction” sneaker — worn by at least a dozen of the show’s attendees.
When Versace was sold, in its presentation released to investors it outlined that it would increase its global retail footprint from 200 to 300 stores, while building out e-commerce and expanding its men’s and women’s accessories and footwear businesses (from currently 35 percent to 60 percent).
It’s latest collection showed that this goal is attainable. There is certainly a specific clientele that gravitates towards the maximalist style that has become synonymous with the Italian brand. There were items today that have a good chance of transcending beyond that demographic alone, to Versace’s advantage.